[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-SC]: Johnson on Kelley, 'The Voyage of the Slave Ship Hare: A Journey into Captivity from Sierra Leone to South Carolina'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Mon Oct 3 19:04:00 MDT 2016

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
Date: Mon, Oct 3, 2016 at 11:22 AM
Subject: H-Net Review [H-SC]: Johnson on Kelley, 'The Voyage of the Slave
Ship Hare: A Journey into Captivity from Sierra Leone to South Carolina'
To: H-REVIEW at h-net.msu.edu

Sean M. Kelley.  The Voyage of the Slave Ship Hare: A Journey into
Captivity from Sierra Leone to South Carolina.  Chapel Hill
University of North Carolina Press, 2016.  304 pp.  $30.00 (cloth),
ISBN 978-1-4696-2768-7.

Reviewed by D. Andrew Johnson
Published on H-SC (October, 2016)
Commissioned by David W. Dangerfield

Sean M. Kelley's new monograph, _The Voyage of the Slave Ship__
_Hare_: A Journey into Captivity from Sierra Leone to South
Carolina_, is an impressive microhistory of a single transatlantic
slaving voyage from 1754 to 1755. In framing his narrative around a
single journey, Kelley ties together the vast array of forces and
peoples who worked in conjunction to produce the transatlantic slave
trade between Africa and the Americas from the sixteenth to the
nineteenth century. Scholars often describe the slave trade as a
monolithic entity, a barrage of asymmetries in transcontinental
economies, and/or the insidious exploitation of African societies for
the benefit of a Euro-American colonial system. For Kelley, though,
the slave trade, in toto, was the accumulated result of innumerable
series of individual historical actors making decisions in their
particular socioeconomic contexts. In short, _The Voyage of the Slave
Ship__ _Hare uses a microhistorical lens to explore the connections
between Rhode Island, Sierra Leone, Barbados, and South Carolina in
the mid-eighteenth century. Kelley simultaneously narrates the
transatlantic slave trade on the human level, while admitting in the
first sentence of the book that we do not know the names of the
seventy-two people captured and commodified in West Africa and
eventually sold in Charles Town.

One major reason there are not more studies like _The Voyage of the
Slave Ship__ _Hare is the lack of sources. Ironically, the major
extant sources for many slaving voyages, ship's journals and logs,
are not available for the _Hare_. But for this particular voyage
there is a wealth of other materials for Kelley to use for
reconstructing the worlds of the participants, including the
seventy-two captives. As Kelley observes, the _Hare_'s 1754-55 voyage
"is the most thoroughly documented slaving voyage to
eighteenth-century North America and is among the best documented for
any time or place" (p. 5). There are ship accounts, payment records
for the crew, a collection of letters written by Captain Caleb
Godfrey from Sierra Leone, and a list of sellers along the Upper
Guinea coast who sold captive peoples to the ship, in addition to an
extremely rare sales record listing the names of purchasers from
Charles Town merchant Gabriel Manigault. By using these sources and
placing them in the context of each site of the voyage, Kelley
meticulously reconstructs the circumstances within which his
historical actors found themselves maneuvering.

Kelley's chronological structure works well for tracing the slaving
voyage. Beginning his study in Newport, Rhode Island, Kelley unpacks
the investors' motives for planning the journey, the role of the man
who decided to captain the ship, and the methods for obtaining a
crew. Newport's economy (and more broadly, New England) was ripe for
ships to undertake such journeys to the coast of West Africa. The
Vernon family of Newport decided slaving was worth the obvious risks
of staging a transatlantic voyage. The _Hare_ carried rum distilled
locally in Rhode Island as a means for purchasing captive African
peoples in Sierra Leone. In this way, New England served as a conduit
between slave-made commodities in the Caribbean and the continued
transatlantic shipment of captives bound for the Americas. These
conclusions place this work alongside a growing literature on the
connections between slavery and the colonial New England society and

The second part of the book concentrates on attempts by Godfrey and
his crew to obtain enough captives at different trading locales among
the islands and waterways within twenty miles to the east of the
Sierra Leone Peninsula, from both British slave merchants at Bance
Island and indigenous traders in the vicinity. European slavers had
to accommodate local trading cultures. New Englanders were often at a
disadvantage compared to British traders because they had less to
offer than the vast array of manufactured goods from the imperial
metropole. Sierra Leone's economic organization meant that there were
many more possible dealers with whom to bargain in a small-scale
private trade. Consequently each transaction was much more likely to
consist of fewer people, necessitating a longer stay in Africa for
the transatlantic slavers. Godfrey purchased seventy-two people for
the _Hare_, but they came from twenty-four separate slave traders.
Another disadvantage for this particular voyage was the cargo; there
was a large Islamic population in the vicinity, so demand for
distilled spirits was lower than would otherwise be expected.
Conversely, the powerful Futa Jallon theocratic state to the east
began a jihad in the 1720s and provided a steady flow of non-Muslim
captives to sell into Atlantic slavery nearer the coast. Kelley
deftly uses the geopolitical situation in the region to argue for the
likely ethno-cultural makeup of captives sold for shipment on the
_Hare_. The majority of captives came from the Futa Jallon jihad and
"probably spoke Mande languages," and were more likely to be male,
while a small minority of non-Mande people from nearer the coast had
a greater likelihood of being female (p. 102).

Following a short--but still deadly--voyage to Barbados of twenty
days, the ship sailed to Charles Town. Once in South Carolina, the
captives were put up for sale by Manigault using the scramble method,
and for those captives who did not sell, Manigault attempted to
market the rest privately. In the end, "twenty-six different men and
women purchased at least one captive from the _Hare_" (p. 142).
Kelley then follows the captives to their destinations in South
Carolina, whether they remained in Charles Town or were forced to
move to rural plantations. About a quarter stayed in the city, mostly
women, and the rest went to plantations, where Kelley posits that
these enslaved people would have been likely to find other people
from Upper Guinea with similar cultural backgrounds. Interrogating
the moniker "Mandingo," Kelley concludes that "identity among Upper
Guineans in the Carolina Low Country was developing simultaneously
along three tracks" (p. 173). Initially, "Mandingo" was an ethnonym
used by Mandinka speakers from Senegambia. Then, other Mande-speaking
peoples of Upper Guinea adopted the identity ("Mandingization"), and
ultimately "cooperation between Upper Guineans and people from other
parts in Africa" was eroding the importance of individual language
and ethnic identity (p. 173). Unlike most other scholars of slave
ethnogenesis, Kelley is more concerned with the cultural milieu the
captives from the _Hare _faced than the eventual creole culture, in
this case Gullah, these people helped create. One question the book
raises is how does studying the milieu of specific enslaved
individuals change the way scholars should think of the broader
implications of cultural formation? Even though he is not explicitly
concerned with the origins of Gullah, Kelley has managed to add to
the discussion through his fine-grained tracing of individuals from
the _Hare_.

_The Voyage of the Slave Ship__ _Hare is an innovative and timely
addition to the historiography of the Atlantic slave trade. By
tracing the people involved in a single slaving voyage between Sierra
Leone and Charles Town, Kelley has written a historiographically
significant monograph that also works as a synthesis of the vast and
intricate worlds across continents that produced one of the great
tragedies in world history. _The Voyage of the Slave Ship__ _Hare
should be read by experts in the field and will be useful for
undergraduates as well as readers outside the academy with interest
in the transatlantic slave trade.

Citation: D. Andrew Johnson. Review of Kelley, Sean M., _The Voyage
of the Slave Ship Hare: A Journey into Captivity from Sierra Leone to
South Carolina_. H-SC, H-Net Reviews. October, 2016.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=46966

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States


Best regards,

Andrew Stewart

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