The White Lion slave ship

The White Lion slave ship is affirmed on this date in 1604. This was an English privateer operating under a Dutch letter of marque during the middle passage. The ship brought the first Africans to the English colony of Virginia in 1619, a year before the arrival of the Mayflower in New England. Though the African captives were sold as indentured servants, the event is regarded as the start of slavery of Africans in colonial North America. In 1526 personnel in the expedition of Spanish explorer, Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón landed on the South Carolina coast, including enslaved Africans. They escaped and are thought to have joined Native Americans if they survived.

The first enslaved African in North America was Estevanico, a Moor who participated in the Spanish Narváez expedition in 1527. Enslaved Africans were also part of the Spanish expedition to Florida in 1539 with Hernando de Soto and the 1565 founding of St. Augustine, Florida. The Africans on the White Lion were probably among the thousands who had been captured in 1618-1619 by a slave-raiding force primarily consisting of African raiders, under nominal Portuguese leadership, who were at war with the Kingdom of Ndongo. These enslaved Africans were taken on the Portuguese slave ship São João Bautista from Luanda, Angola, the capital of the Portuguese settlements in Angola.

The White Lion and another privateer, the Treasurer, commanded by Daniel Elfrith, intercepted the São João Bautista on its way to modern-day Veracruz on the Gulf Coast of New Spain (present-day Mexico). The two ships captured and divided part of the Portuguese ship’s African captives under the aegis of Dutch letters of marque from Maurice, Prince of Orange. White Lion captain John Colyn Jope sailed for the Virginia colony to sell the African captives, first landing in Point Comfort, in modern-day Hampton Roads.

As John Rolfe, secretary of the colony of Virginia wrote to Virginia Company of London treasurer Edwin Sandys: About the latter end of August, a Dutch man of Warr of the burden of a 160 tunnes arrived at Point-Comfort, the Commanders name Capt. Jope, his Pilot for the West Indies one Mr. Marmaduke an Englishman. They met with the Treasurer in the West Indies and determined to hold consort ship hitherward, but in their passage lost on the other. He brought not anything but 20. and odd Negroes, which the Governor and Cape Marchant bought for victuals (whereof he was in great need as he pretended) at the best and easiest rates they could.

After being sold off the White Lion, two of the slaves, Isabella and Anthony, married and had a child in 1624. William Tucker, as they named him after a Virginian planter, was the first recorded Black child born in English America.

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