Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 29, 2011

Woodcut of the Zong Massacre

November 29, 1781: The Zong Massacre takes place. At the time, it was known as “The Zong Affair” rather than being labeled a massacre. Those who used the term “massacre” were thought to be “dangerous radicals” of the era. The Zong was a British ship owned by James Gregson. On this day, much of his “cargo” was destroyed. The Zong was carrying Africans captured to be sold as slaves.

The ship was originally Dutch and was called Zorg, but when the British captured her, she was renamed. She sailed from Liverpool and took on more slaves than she could comfortably handle. She sailed from Africa, heading for Jamaica on September 29, 1781. There was not enough food aboard and the Africans were crowded together. Due to malnutrition and overcrowding, death ran rampant aboard ship. Seven of the crew and approximately sixty of the slaves had died by this date. The trip was taking longer than expected due to bad sailing conditions.

Captain Luke Collingwood had so many sick slaves below decks that he was faced with an economic problem. If he delivered these sickly, weakened specimens and they died on shore, the company would be without funds from the sale of slaves. However, he reasoned that if the slaves were killed at sea, the insurance company would pay the jettison clause of £30 per head. The captain and crew decided to throw the sick overboard. On this day, the first 54 were sent over the rails. On the next two days, 42 and 26 more were sent to their watery graves.

The ship’s owners filed a claim with their insurance company, but the claim was disputed. Although it had been asserted that the slaves were thrown overboard because there wasn’t enough water, there had been water and Jamaica was near. The case was brought to the court system when the insurers failed to pay. The courts found that the ship-owners could did not have a legal claim against their insurers. Even so, no one on the ship was ever prosecuted for the murder of 133 Africans who were being transported against their wills.

“Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.” – Alexis de Tocqueville

“And who is responsible for this appalling child slavery? Everyone.” – Mary Harris Jones

“Death is better than slavery.” – Harriet Ann Jacobs

“Freedom means you are unobstructed in living your life as you choose. Anything less is a form of slavery.” – Wayne Dyer

Also on this day:
Warren Commission formed – In 1963 the Warren Commission was formed to investigate President Kennedy’s assassination.
Phonetic – In 1877, Thomas Edison demonstrated his phonograph.

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