Atlantic Slave Trade to Savannah
Over the course of forty-eight years, Savannah played an integral role in the Atlantic slave trade. Although Savannah's participation in the slave trade was initially miniscule,
The repeal of the ban on African slavery marked the beginning of Savannah's involvement in the Atlantic slave trade. Savannah's propitious location near the Atlantic Ocean and the coastal region's navigable rivers and waterways allowed commercial vessels to enter and leave the area easily. Merchants, planters, and politicians actively directed the city's involvement in the trade until 1798, when the Georgia legislature banned the slave trade from Africa.
Throughout their involvement in the Atlantic slave trade, merchants and planters in Savannah imported slaves from St. James and Goree Island, two of Britain's significant slave supply zones. Other supply zones for the Savannah market included the British colony Sierra Leone, located along the Windward Coast of West Africa. After the Revolutionary War the slave trade to Savannah resumed. Between 1784 and 1798, West African slaves accounted for 78 percent of slaves imported to Savannah.
The Liverpool Trade and Lazaretto
Merchants and ship owners in Liverpool, England, maintained intercontinental communication with merchants and plantation owners in Savannah. The Liverpool trade replaced the defunct Royal African Company, which operated from the port of London from 1672 to 1752. The earliest direct shipment of West Africans to Savannah occurred via the Liverpool trade in 1766 when the Liverpool sloop Maryborow arrived in Savannah from Senegal with seventy-eight slaves. The Liverpool merchants John and Matthew Strong, the owners of the Maryborow, instructed the ship's captain, David Morton, to consign the slaves to the mercantile firm of Broughton and Smith in Savannah.
The voyage across the Atlantic Ocean from West Africa to Savannah lasted between four and six months. The duration of the voyage combined with the prolonged confinement of slaves increased the occurrence of infectious diseases. To prevent the spread of disease in Savannah, city officials in 1767 authorized the construction of a nine-story quarantine facility, a lazaretto (Italian for "pest house"),
In the last years of the century Georgia officials enacted laws restricting Savannah's involvement in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1798 the state legislature banned the direct importation of Africans. This measure preceded by ten years the national ban on the slave trade from Africa, which led to an illegal slave trade that persisted for many decades. The deep waterways of coastal Georgia offered good harbor for this trade, which continued as late as 1858, when the slave ship Wanderer landed near St. Simons Island with more than 400 slaves.
W. E. B. Du Bois, The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870 (1896; reprint, Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 1999).
David Eltis, Stephen D. Behrendt, David Richardson, and Herbert S. Klein, The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: A Database on CD-ROM (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
Richard McMillan, "Savannah's Coastal Slave Trade: A Quantitative Analysis of Ship Manifests, 1840-1850," Georgia Historical Quarterly 78 (summer 1994).
David Northrup, ed., The Atlantic Slave Trade (Lexington, Mass.: D. C. Heath, 1994).
Julia Floyd Smith, Slavery and Rice Culture in Low Country Georgia, 1750-1860 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985).
Betty Wood, Slavery in Colonial Georgia, 1730-1775 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984).
Karen Bell, Howard University
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