African American History
Story Of African Slaves From U.S Who Hijacked A Ship In 1841 And Sailed Into Freedom In The Bahamas
There have been stories of slaves revolting against their masters over the years but since 1841, the Creole Rebellion has been capturing attention as the most successful revolts of enslaved people in history.
On November 7, 1841, Creole, a ship involved in the United States coastwise slave trade, was transporting 135 enslaved people from Richmond, Virginia to the slave markets in New Orleans when 18 of the slaves revolted, attacking the crew, killing one of the slave traders aboard the ship and wounding the captain, Robert Ensor.
Madison Washington, an enslaved cook in Virginia who had previously escaped to Canada is said to have been the first slave to trigger the revolt.
According to accounts, after they killed the slave traders and wounded the captain, the slaves gathered up all weapons on the ship and other documents related to their enslavement and took control of the ship.
One slave was badly wounded in the process and later died. Other crew members also sustained serious injuries.
The slaves initially demanded to be sailed towards Liberia as it was the only country they knew former slaves could get their freedom.
However the British West Indies was recommended by another slave, because slaves have already been freed the previous year.
After they landed in the Bahamas, the slaves were considered free as slavery was illegal in the British colonies.
However not all of them were freed as Madison and the others who had been involved in overtaking the ship and killing a slave trader were detained and charged with mutiny.
Curiously, a small group comprising of three women, a girl and a boy decided to stay aboard the Creole and sailed with the ship to New Orleans, returning to slavery.
Other reports however indicated that they had stayed in hiding on board.
The ship arrived in New Orleans on December 2, 1841 with five slaves still aboard, angering the white slave owners who were told that the remaining slaves had been freed by British authorities.
Although the slave owners demanded that the slaves be returned to them, they realized that it was impossible because slavery had been outlawed and there were no extradition treaties between British and America.
The Admiralty Court in Nassau on April 16, 1842 ordered the mutineers, including Washington to be released and freed.
Washington has since been described in glowing terms as a hero, especially by abolitionists for championing a revolt that made 128 enslaved people to gain their freedom.
However, a consequence of his revolt was a diplomatic tension between the United Kingdom and the United States as Southerners were annoyed to have lost property in another instance of British colonists freeing slaves from American ships that had gone into their ports in the Caribbean.
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