The Chesapeake Slave Trade:
Regional Patterns, African Origins, and Some Implications

THE movement of peoples from the Old World to the New and the resulting transfers or transformations of homeland cultures in new physical and social environments has been a central theme of early American history. Overwhelmingly, historians have written on the transfers of peoples from sixteenth- through eighteenth-century Europe and sub-Saharan Africa to various American destinations in isolation from one another. When these two contemporary migration flows are considered together, sheer numbers demonstrate that, up to 1776, the majority of men, women, and children transported from the Old World to British North America were, to varying degrees, unfree. And increasingly throughout most of the eighteenth century, those migrants came from Africa and were permanently enslaved.[1]

But numbers alone, however refined, tell us little about cultural transfer, transformation, or annihilation among forcibly transplanted Africans. Information on the geographic and cultural origins of these migrants has been presumed lacking. Almost no individual life histories survive, and even their sex, ages, and names (whether self-stated or assigned) are often unknown. Moreover, they composed a group set apart from other migrants by enslavement and by racial prejudice. Consequently, in contrast to other migrant groups, scant attention has been paid to the role that ethnicity may have played in forging new African-American identities, especially in mainland North America.

A few pioneering studies have made a strong case for the dominance of one or two African nations in most New World settings and have posited a central role for ethnicity or nationality in the development of lives lived in slavery.[2] Preliminary findings from the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute slave-trade project, demonstrating strongly patterned distributions of Africans in receiving colonies, also argue for the need to revise “the picture of a confusing [or “conflicting”] mix of African cultures with all the attendant barriers to establishing African influence on the New World.”[3]

Even if one concedes that new evidence on transatlantic migration patterns is sufficient to contradict the widely accepted supposition of almost random migration flows, interpretation of the range of surviving evidence for specific ethnic continuities or discontinuities still presents heroic challenges. And even where nonrandom migration is most firmly established, significant cultural mixing between Africans of varying regional origin, between Africans and creoles, and between these groups and Native Americans, indisputably complicates the analysis. Furthermore, the asymmetry of power between the enslaved and the enslaving precluded any simple synthesis of African and European cultural forms. The revisionist position “that sees slaves as forming identifiable communities based on their ethnic or national pasts” remains strongly challenged.[4]

Newly published information on forced migration patterns affords no more than a beginning but offers significant promise. Such information can help to redress the overwhelming advantage that has privileged all parallel explorations of European cultural continuities and transformations, that of knowing beforehand the geographic limits of the migrating culture. Historians of New France or French Louisiana, of British New England, the Middle Colonies, the Chesapeake, and the Carolinas, or of Spanish settlements in North America have begun their investigations with the comforting knowledge that they need not master the entire history of Europe in order to understand the Old World backgrounds of the particular peoples whose colonial history they want to study. In contrast, so long as the randomization model prevailed, most historians of the African diaspora have been overwhelmed by the supposed prerequisite of mastering the entire complex, shadowy history of scores of present-day West African countries during the past four or five centuries. Consequently, it remains common and acceptable to investigate the role of ethnic African continuities in slave societies without undertaking serious study of West African languages, histories, or social and material cultures.

The very possibility of being able to limit, with confidence, the geographic scope of the African societies from which most migrants to a particular area were drawn allows more focused comparisons between sending and receiving regions than has heretofore appeared feasible. Significant evidentiary problems impose strenuous challenges. One cannot uncritically equate port of embarkation with a particular ethnic group. Moreover, the precolonial histories of some slave-exporting regions are poorly known. Most of the surviving written evidence is limited to the accounts of foreigners who rarely ventured far from confined coastal enclaves and who uncritically mixed firsthand observations with a miscellany of dated hearsay and unattributed borrowings from earlier writings.[5] This literature has pronounced cultural biases and pronounced racial biases as well. Most Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Dutch language accounts are unavailable in English translation. African oral histories are even less accessible and pose methodological problems as historical evidence. Finally, New World archaeologists are hampered by a lack of comparative collections from Africa.[6] Nonetheless, given the dismal preconceptions about the amount of information available for precolonial Africa that are still too common, most striking is not its scarcity but its relative abundance.

If additional evidence on the likely origins and eventual destinations of enslaved Africans prompts more scholars simply to explore already available primary sources and some of the recent outpouring of secondary literature on West African history, the results will greatly expand our understanding of the development of both generalized and more regionally specific West African contributions to New World culture. How much such comparative investigations will contribute to a better understanding of African-American ethnicity remains an open question.

At this early stage, scholars have yet to agree about how to define ethnicity, much less about how to study it most fruitfully. In recent historical archaeological and material culture literature, the concept of ethnicity is usually applied in an entirely North American, twentieth-century perspective, to all African Americans as a group. The search for Africanisms or African-American patterns encompasses multiple African ethnicities that were transformed into a single (or multiple) African-American ethnicity eventually rooted almost entirely in race. Many historical archaeologists are now abandoning such approaches, choosing to emphasize instead “the social and power relations that guided masters and slaves in the daily exchanges and long term dealings which continually negotiated domination and resistance.” Ethnicity, now regarded as an overly static concept, is being discarded in favor of a dialectical creolization.[7]

In the recent historical literature, in contrast, ethnicity is equated with the localized cultural traditions of particular African groups or nations. Debate centers on such issues as the composition of the peoples captured in the slave trade, the degree of random or concentrated redistribution in the Americas, the accuracy of the ethnic labels employed by slave traders and New World planters, and whether enslaved Africans were aware “of belonging to an imputed ethnic and cultural tradition” transcending dialect or localized village groupings.[8] The markers that historians use to identify groups who shared the same culture or closely related ones remain frustratingly imprecise. Language, geographic zone, and allegiance to West African political entities or presumed relatively homogenous culture groups are variously and inconsistently employed.

For some historians, group identity is the central issue. An accurate and detailed understanding of how identities were created and reshaped in home areas is viewed as a prerequisite for any consideration of what cultural effects Africans from particular regions may have brought to the Americas. According to this line of argument, positing the existence in the colonial Americas of identifiable African cultures risks an uncritical acceptance of oversimplified stereotypes applied by contemporary Europeans, inappropriately evokes larger ethnolinguistic units that emerged only in later colonial and postcolonial Africa, risks conflation with European connections between self-conscious nationalism and the development of nation-states, and reinforces outmoded stereotypes of African culture as static. These are indeed formidable critiques that need to be taken seriously. They are especially disheartening for anyone interested in the transfer and transformation of African cultures to mainland North America, where, given the scarcity of relevant evidence, the question of how cultural identities developed may never be satisfactorily answered.[9]

For other scholars, the potentially unanswerable issue of group identity is a less central concern. First, patterned distributions of Africans in many receiving colonies resulting in concentrations of slaves taken from no more than two or three geographic regions might have permitted more cultural retentions or recreations than models based on random origins assume. Second, some recent discoveries, especially from archaeology, suggest the transfer or synthesis of more elements of regionally specific cultural practices than heretofore suspected. The appearance of various West African mortuary practices and tool kits likely used in African religious rituals on the North American mainland as well as on Caribbean sites is a prime example. Looking for evidence of general African traits is given relatively low priority, since most scholars now agree that there were few “basic West African elements common to a number of slave-producing African societies.”[10] Rather, the main goal is to use whatever one can learn about the historic cultures and material background of the African regions from which most migrants were taken to reevaluate a broad range of material and documentary evidence on the American side. Of special concern are those areas that Michael Gomez has defined as constituting community: “a collection of individuals and families who share a common and identifiable network of sociocultural communications (for example, kinship, dietary patterns, labor conventions, artistic expressions, language) that have their origin in either a particular geographic area and period of time or a unique system of beliefs and rationalization.”[11]

Ethnicity refers to the same network of sociocultural communications but is a more restrictive term. By one recent definition it is “a system of social classification embraced by groups of individuals who identify themselves and are identified by others as distinct on the basis of their shared putative or real cultural, ancestral, regional, and/or linguistic origins and practices, and where the identities of the groups and individuals so classified are also subject to periodic reinvention.”[12] In the many cases where direct evidence of the creation of group identities is exceedingly thin, it is all too easy to invoke ethnicity or nationality and then to get on with the more feasible parts of the agenda.[13] Invoking these terms, however, risks assuming more than is in fact known about the nature of the links. Truly transatlantic history is at such an early stage that it is too soon to expect that widely accepted, definitive results will quickly emerge. Pioneering explorations in search of ethnicity in colonial North America may well reveal more about community, as Gomez defines it, than about ethnicity rigorously construed.

The Chesapeake—where settlement was dispersed, landing sites multiple, and slave buyers forced by relative poverty to build up African labor forces piecemeal—has been considered a region where a randomized trade threw together a bewildering mix of African peoples who were isolated from one another by a “Babel of languages.” A cursory look at Virginia naval office shipping lists reinforces this view. Systematic analysis of the Virginia and Maryland materials, however, reveals a more patterned trade. Information on direct African voyages to the Chesapeake included in the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute dataset was combined with Virginia Slave Trade Statistics and with data collected from Maryland naval office shipping lists and related records. It builds on a similar study by Douglas Chambers, whose identification of significant variations in the origins of the enslaved Africans who disembarked in individual naval districts in Virginia prompted this extended investigation.[14]

More than nine out of ten slaves brought into the Chesapeake in the eighteenth century either arrived directly from Africa or were transshipped from the West Indies after only a brief period of recuperation from their transatlantic ordeal. Firmly entrenched in Chesapeake historiography, however, is the belief that many of the region’s slaves were a mixed lot of seasoned hands, or perhaps were Caribbean-born Creoles, brought from the West Indies after a long period of ecological and cultural adjustment; this belief is little more than a myth sorely in need of revision.[15] Although the number of slave-carrying ships listing a West Indian island as the port of departure exceeds the number of vessels recorded as coming from Africa, the number of slaves transported from the Caribbean who cannot be positively linked to a voyage originating in Africa comes to just under 7,000, or only 7 percent of the approximately 96,000 estimated to have arrived between 1698 and 1774. Slaves arriving from the West Indies constituted just 3 percent of the total brought into the York, Rappahannock, and Upper James districts, fewer than 10 percent of those imported into Maryland, and 17 percent (but only 347 individuals) of those imported into South Potomac. Only in the Lower James did slaves carried from the West Indies (and some of these were likely also recently arrived Africans) constitute a majority of imported captives, and they numbered just over 4,000, too few people to have exerted more than a localized influence.[16]

The results, shown in Table I and Figure I (p. 170), demonstrate much less initial random mixing of African groups in the Chesapeake than has been commonly supposed. Throughout the eighteenth century, about three quarters of the Africans whose regional origins are known and who were brought to the upper Chesapeake (Virginia Potomac basin and Maryland) and to the Lower James came from the upper parts of the West African coast, from Senegambia on the north to a second region extending from the Cassamance River to Cape Mount (present-day Sierra Leone is in the center), and then easterly along the Windward Coast (present-day Ivory Coast and Liberia), and ending on the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana). In contrast, nearly three quarters of the Africans disembarked in the lower-Chesapeake (York and Upper James basins) came from more southerly parts of Africa east and south of the Bight of Benin, from the Bight of Biafra (present-day eastern Nigeria) and West Central Africa (termed Kongo and Angola in contemporary sources). Fewer than 1 percent were from the Bight of Benin; indeed almost twice as many were brought from distant Madagascar. The patterns of importation and subsequent distribution of Africans of different origins in the Chesapeake largely coincide with the geographical divisions between sweet-scented, oronoco, and peripheral tobacco growing areas, an outcome apparently unrelated to the crop itself but instead the result of complex interactions of African, British, and colonial trading patterns.[17]

Differing circumstances in the naval districts and their hinterlands affected subsequent possibilities for cultural continuities among forcibly transported Africans and their descendants. Considering the more marginal areas first, the slave trade of the Lower James (effectively including the lower Delmarva Peninsula) differed from that of all other districts. Few soils were suitable for tobacco, and by about 1700 most planters had dropped the staple entirely, turning instead to the production of naval stores, timber, cider, small grains, corn, and livestock as well as to subsistence farming.[18] Fewer than 1,000 slaves disembarked in that district between 1698 and 1730. These newcomers were incorporated into an existing black population that included Africans earlier transshipped from the West Indies and the descendants of slaves, primarily from West Central Africa, imported by Dutch traders before 1660. After 1730, when the local economy experienced better times, the number of imported enslaved laborers increased. The nearly 5,000 slaves who arrived in the Lower James between 1731 and 1774 likely ended up in the port towns of Norfolk and Hampton and on recently established farms on the North Carolina border; some were probably eventually sent farther west to expanding Southside tobacco farms.

Most slaves arrived in the Lower James in small lots as ancillary cargo on small ships plying the West Indian trade (see Table II). During the eighteenth century, the mean number of slaves carried per ship was only twelve. Virginians were most prominent in the trade, closely followed by West Indian shippers. No more than about 1,500 slaves are known to have come directly from Africa. The third whose origins were specified came (with one exception) from Senegambia or the Windward and Gold Coasts, regions from which a much smaller proportion of captives arriving in the York and Upper James were taken. Yet the origins of most of the slaves are obscure, since nearly three quarters are recorded as arriving from Barbados, Jamaica, Bermuda, Antigua, Nevis, St. Kitts, and other West Indian locations. The majority were probably recently transshipped Africans for whom no ready market appeared in the islands and almost certainly included individuals from many different regions in Africa. The Lower James likely also received a disproportionate number of more seasoned, chronic troublemakers sold out of the islands as punishment. Consequently, the slave population in the Lower James region was probably the most ethnically diverse of any in Virginia. Buyers in this comparatively poor region, which had few connections with the otherwise dominant tobacco trade, had scant choice but to accept whatever laborers the marginal traders who called there offered. These buyers may have found it easier to employ captives of widely varied backgrounds in maritime enterprises, in producing timber and naval stores, and on the small farms that characterized the region than did planters in other areas pursuing plantation agriculture. In addition, conditions in the Lower James were ostensibly the least favorable for maintaining specific African cultural practices. These include their small absolute numbers, low proportion in the total population, widely mixed African origins, and arrival in small lots from a variety of interim landings in the West Indies. Once in the region they were further dispersed to small estates whose owners then frequently hired them out by the year to yet other masters.[19]

South Potomac was the least important Virginia destination. Only 2,058 slaves are recorded as disembarking there, and there were many years in which no ships carrying slaves arrived. The total surely understates the numbers brought in, because Virginia planters on the Potomac evaded the periodically higher duties Virginia assessed on imported slaves by clandestinely buying hands on the Maryland side of the river.[20] With the exception of 1734 to 1741, when Liverpool tobacco merchants made a concerted effort to supply Africans to this district, most of the consignments consisted of refuse slaves transshipped from Barbados. Geographic origins are known for 58 percent of those brought from Africa either directly or after a brief stop in the West Indies. More than three-fourths were from Senegambia.

Potomac basin soils were capable of growing only inferior oronoco tobacco, and, by and large, area planters lacked both the wealth and mercantile connections available to better situated Virginians, especially in the last quarter of the seventeenth century and first third of the eighteenth. The larger planters built up their workforces from varying combinations of laborers imported from the West Indies; Africans purchased in South Potomac, on the Maryland side of the river, or occasionally in the Rappahannock; and a mix of more seasoned Africans and Creoles acquired through marriage or inheritance from relatives living in other parts of Virginia and in Maryland. Overall, the origins of slaves living along the Potomac remain sketchy. Among newly arrived Africans, the majority were likely from Senegambia, given that people from this area predominated in both South and North Potomac and were the most numerous group brought into the adjoining Rappahannock from the mid-1730s onward, the time when Potomac district planters were opening new quarters in the upper reaches of that river.

Although the Maryland slave trade cannot be reconstructed as fully as that of Virginia, because fewer of its naval office records survive, sufficient information exists to establish that there were significant differences in the origins of Africans arriving there from those brought into Virginia’s major slave-buying districts.[21] Almost all of the 18,000 slaves estimated to have been imported into Maryland in the eighteenth century came, as in Virginia, directly from Africa. During those years for which the interplantation trade records are most complete, slaves transported from the West Indies accounted for fewer than 10 percent of total imports. These were brought primarily in New England or West Indian vessels; only a few Maryland shippers were involved in either the island or African trades. In Maryland, potential slave buyers were fewer and markets more easily overstocked, so large cargoes of slaves were often sold in two different naval districts. Moreover, early in the eighteenth century, some ship’s captains were in the habit of entering their ships in one district (apparently to augment the fees accruing to a particular naval district officer) while off-loading their captives in an adjacent district that afforded a better market.[22] Consequently, in this analysis Maryland is treated as a single destination.

Londoners owned nearly three-fourths of the ships bringing African captives to Maryland ports. Bristol traders, for whom information is relatively complete, are known to have sent fourteen ships, and Liverpool merchants, who entered the Maryland trade only in the 1730s, twenty-two. Of the 43 percent of Africans whose region of origin is known, 69 percent came from Senegambia, Sierra Leone, or the Windward and Gold Coasts. Captives from West Central Africa (all brought by Liverpool traders) made up 23 percent. Almost entirely absent were slaves from the Bight of Biafra. Only three ships, one from London and two from Bristol, carrying 540 individuals (7 percent of those with known origins) are identified as coming from that region. Caution is surely in order in making inferences about the origins of the majority brought into Maryland from unidentified places in Africa. Since London ships transported most of them, however, it seems reasonable to suppose that most also came from somewhere in Upper Guinea or the Gold Coast, the areas where most London slavers concentrated their trade.[23]

The Upper James district was the last area in Virginia into which substantial numbers of Africans were transported before the close of that colony’s transatlantic trade. Only about 400 slaves entered the district before 1731, and large direct shipments from Africa became common only from 1735. Ten years later, the Upper James emerged as the leading slave entrepôt in the colony, and by the 1760s it received nearly two-thirds of all incoming Africans, who by then were brought almost exclusively by Bristol and Liverpool traders. Forty-one percent came from the Bight of Biafra and almost a quarter from West Central Africa, with lesser numbers taken from the Windward and Gold Coasts, Senegambia, and Sierra Leone. The evidence for widely mixed origins is persuasive; a place of embarkation is specified for more than three quarters of imported Africans.

These newcomers were dispersed throughout the Southside and the central Piedmont, where they joined a combination of native-born and African-born slaves forced to move west from throughout the tidewater. Improving prices for upland tobacco encouraged planters to expand labor forces in the interior. Although newly purchased slaves were initially further dispersed among small, far-flung quarters, both plantation size and the proportion of blacks in the local population increased rapidly. Moreover, sex ratios, among both Africans and transplanted Creoles, were more evenly balanced than had been the case in the tidewater earlier in the century. Finally, during the period of initial settlement, many slaves enjoyed greater autonomy than in the tidewater, living on quarters with no resident master and sometimes no white overseer. Conditions for family formation were thus favorable.[24] Whether these same conditions fostered the continuation of specific languages and customs or the development of specific ethnic identities is less clear. Syncretism appears the more likely outcome of this rapid mixing of Africans from diverse areas and numerous Creoles over a wide geographic area. The concentration or mixing of groups likely varied considerably from one estate and one locality to another. In some Piedmont neighborhoods, large communities of slaves were transferred virtually intact from older tidewater neighborhoods.[25] Cultural evolution in the Piedmont requires further investigation.

Until midcentury, more than 80 percent of imported Africans were disembarked on the shores of the York and Rappahannock Rivers. There planter wealth and political power was most concentrated and transatlantic mercantile connections most developed. The source of these fortunes and connections was the more valuable strain of sweet-scented tobacco, which could be raised only on pockets of rich, alluvial soils on the Middle and Lower peninsulas. Moreover, growers of sweet-scented tobacco enjoyed a spate of high prosperity in the early 1700s when oronoco tobacco prices were sorely depressed. These planters either had sufficient resources on hand or could command sufficient credit from English tobacco merchants to finance the purchase of large numbers of African slaves.[26] The size of the lower tidewater market and the planters trading connections in Britain resulted in the Lower and Middle peninsulas receiving different mixes of Africans from those brought into other parts of the Chesapeake.

In the first half of the eighteenth century, the Rappahannock trade ranked second to that of York. The years of greatest importation were between 1720 and 1745. Ninety-six percent of the approximately 10,000 slaves sent there arrived directly from Africa on Bristol- or Liverpool-owned ships that often carried a hundred or more captives each. Of the 64 percent of the Africans whose region of embarkation is known, almost two-thirds came from Senegambia, Sierra Leone, and the Windward and Gold coasts and just over-one-fifth from the Bight of Biafra. The primary buyers were wealthier planters who owned tidewater plantations along the major rivers that produced the valuable sweet-scented tobaccos, as well as upland quarters in the Rappahannock hinterland. After 1745, most Rappahannock basin planters could meet needs for additional laborers from natural increase, and imports tailed off quickly. Most captives from the Bight of Biafra were brought in the first third of the century, when planters were purchasing workers for both tidewater and hinterland quarters. From the mid-1730s, when most new slaves were sent to upland plantations between the upper Rappahannock and the Mattaponi, three quarters came from Upper Guinea or the Gold Coast.

The York naval district was the destination for a majority of the nearly 50,000 Africans transported to Virginia by 1745. Most arrived directly from Africa in vessels that carried, on average, 125 captives. London slavers predominated in the York at the turn of the century but then were soon supplanted by Bristol shippers. Region of embarkation is known for 60 percent of the Africans arriving by 1745. Just over 9,000 (56 percent) came from the Bight of Biafra, one-fifth from West Central Africa, a tenth from the Windward and Gold Coasts, and two additional twentieths from Senegambia and Madagascar. Studies of the careers of some Lower Peninsula planters demonstrate that a significant proportion of the Africans purchased in the 1720s and early 1730s remained on Lower Peninsula estates. Through the mid-1730s, larger planters still had to buy additional African hands of working age in order to staff recently established ancillary tidewater farms as well as to open new ones farther west. This need ended abruptly in the 1740s, when enough creole children were coming of age to replace aging and dying Africans in the workforce, and imports into the York basin rapidly diminished.[27] The origins of the approximately 4,000 Africans brought to the York after 1745 were more diverse than in earlier years, with somewhat higher proportions from West Central Africa and Upper Guinea, a distribution reflecting Liverpool’s greater share in the remaining York trade. Most of these new Africans likely ended up on upland quarters in the hinterlands of the York River.

How can we account for such contrasts in the provenance of Africans in lower tidewater Virginia and the upper Chesapeake? The initial explanation lies in differing combinations of shippers supplying captives to the various Chesapeake destinations. London and Bristol traders especially favored the York River, whereas traders from Liverpool and the outports concentrated their efforts along the Rappahannock and Potomac. London dominated the Maryland trade, not only in the seventeenth century and the first quarter of the eighteenth century, as in Virginia, but across the entire duration of the transatlantic trade (see Table II).[28] Given that London, Bristol, and Liverpool slavers were concentrating their African trades on differing sources of supply, varying combinations of suppliers would result in peoples of differing ethnic mixes arriving in the various naval districts.[29] London and Bristol traders also discriminated between destinations in the Chesapeake. Ships from these two ports delivered primarily Gambian, Windward, and Gold Coast slaves to the Rappahannock River and to Maryland while marketing most of their Biafran cargoes on the York and Upper James. Liverpool merchants, who entered the Chesapeake slave trade only in the mid-1730s, in contrast, were not selective; they sent ships from many West African regions to all the naval districts in which they traded.

The slave and tobacco trades were often closely intertwined, although connections between the regional origins of enslaved Africans sent to particular Chesapeake ports and the marketing and investment strategies of English tobacco merchants depended more on trading patterns in Africa and shifting demand for various grades of tobacco in European markets than on the Chesapeake trade itself. London tobacco traders were frequently among the lists of investors in slaving vessels originating from that port, and the choice of local agents to manage slave sales almost certainly depended on knowledge and connections first developed through tobacco dealings. London merchants who dealt primarily in sweet-scented tobacco for the home market, for example, were prominent in the early lower Virginia slave trade, while other London firms that traded in oronoco for the export market remained active in the Maryland slave trade during the eighteenth century.[30] There was less overt overlap of investors in slaving voyages among Bristol traders.[31] In the mid-eighteenth century, some Bristol tobacco merchants, who hoped to gain an edge over London rivals, posted bond with Bristol slave traders guaranteeing payment for shipments of slaves consigned to favored Chesapeake correspondents who sought the tobacco merchants help in getting into the business of selling slaves. Once Bristol tobacco traders ceased trying to expand their share of York River and southern Maryland output, Bristol shippers sent few slaves to these areas, concentrating instead on the then prime labor market of the Upper James.[32] Similarly, many Liverpool slave traders had no apparent connections with tobacco firms, but those merchants who dealt in both tobacco and slaves directed shipments of slaves to the same areas from which they were buying, or hoped to buy, the most tobacco.[33]

If planter preferences for slaves from particular ethnic groups had any impact, it was limited. Already established slave buyers may have preferred to purchase additional hands from ethnic groups with whose ways they were already vaguely familiar rather than ones coming from totally unfamiliar ethnic groups. As David Eltis has suggested, it is possible that after an initial period of trial and error, planters discovered that they could better maximize plantation output by buying people of similar backgrounds to work together.[34] When the need for added laborers was acute and supplies of new captives limited, monied planters likely bought whatever promising laborers were offered with scant regard to their particular origins. But when enough ships arrived to afford affluent buyers a choice, the regional origins of the captives may have played some role in their decisions. To say that the planters may occasionally have had a choice is not to say that they had much influence over what groups were offered. Perhaps the powerful Carter family’s stated preference for Gambian or Gold Coast slaves, coupled with their bad experience with one shipment of sickly and unfamiliar captives from Angola and subsequent refusal to accept further consignments from that region may have been sufficient to influence the composition of the Rappahannock trade.[35] But one would be hard pressed to find other examples. English merchants who had limited or no direct ties to the tobacco trade likely sought out the best markets for enslaved laborers. For merchants whose principal business was tobacco, slave dealing seemed often to have been part of a broader strategy for maintaining or expanding their shares of the tobacco trade in particular naval districts. These merchants may have been more aware of influential planters’ preferences for slaves from particular areas and perhaps more likely to try to accommodate them.

In Virginia, shippers only infrequently chose to market slow-selling captives in other rivers. Only 30 out of 1,153 ships transported ten or more slaves from one naval district to another. The pattern of these transfers lends further support to possible regional purchasing preferences. Most movements between naval districts, other than shifts from the Lower to the Upper James that were likely occasioned (few or no slaves were sold in the lower district) by the need to take on water and fresh provisions before proceeding upriver, involved transfers of slaves from one river to another in either the Lower or Upper Chesapeake (that is, from the York to the Upper James or between South and North Potomac). Yet of eleven transfers made between the Lower-and Upper Chesapeake (the York into Maryland), five of the six ships for which the region of embarkation is known carried captives from Gambia or Sierra Leone, for whom a better market was apparently anticipated farther north. Sometimes a few newly arrived Africans, too old, sick, or otherwise unpromising to attract timely buyers (but on whom import duties had presumably already been paid in the port of entry) were sent to the next adjoining district for sale. Thus, small lots of slow-selling captives were sometimes sent from the York to the Rappahannock or from the Rappahannock to South Potomac or into Maryland.[36]

The predominance of Africans from the Bight of Biafra and Angola in southern Virginia underscores planters’ general inability to influence the ethnic composition of new arrivals. No Chesapeake planter is known to have expressed a preference for laborers originating in the Bight of Biafra, and indeed Ibo and to a lesser extent Angolan slaves were held in particularly low esteem in much of the Caribbean and in South Carolina. Insofar as Chesapeake planters expressed any preference, it was for Gambian and Windward and Gold Coast slaves as well as for predominantly adult males.[37] Until midcentury when the Upper James became the prime outlet, British merchants judged the York basin the best slave market in the Chesapeake. Wealthy planters were most concentrated along this river, and they were most likely of any to pay for slaves with sound bills of exchange drawn on well-known London houses or perhaps with solid coin. Conversely, planters living in more marginal areas more often paid with less-reliable bills of exchange drawn on less-established London or outport houses, paid in tobacco, or bought only on long-term credit. For example, in 1687 a cargo of illegally imported Angolan slaves was put up for sale in the York River, “they being the ablest men to purchase for Money.”[38] In 1723, John Tayloe, a Virginia planter and slave dealer, wrote Bristol merchant Isaac Hobhouse that he had undertaken to sell a cargo of Calabar slaves in the York “as being most for ye Owners Intrest, There being most money Stiring in that river.” Tayloe’s co-factor, Augustine Moore, advised Hobhouse that slaves were sometimes taken from the York to the Rappahannock only “after ye best [were] Sold, not for ye goodness of their bills but to gett rid of ye slaves in time.”[39] By midcentury, when the prices of Upper James River tobacco began to equal and sometimes to surpass those offered for sweet-scented tobacco, the ability of large Piedmont planters to make good remittances rose in tandem with their rising need for additional laborers.[40]

But why were British merchants sending the ostensibly least desired ethnic groups (which moreover typically included higher proportions of women and children than did the preferred groups) to the best markets while consigning slaves from the most desired groups to more marginal ports?[41] The best explanation, advanced by Stephen Behrendt, is that British merchants employed ships of varying tonnage (and hence slave-carrying capacity) in different African markets. Slave traders chose not just cargoes suited for a particular African region but ships as well. The navigational limitations of African ports, regional rates of slave delivery, the probable age, sex, and size of the slaves likely to be offered, and the probability that the captives would resist violently were all taken into account. Ships going to the Upper Guinea Coast were smaller than those trading on the Gold Coast, Bight of Biafra, and West Central Africa. The merchants then directed the larger ships carrying the most captives to the biggest American markets where they were most likely to achieve quick sales. Although Behrendt’s analysis focuses on the Caribbean, a similar policy seems to have prevailed in the Chesapeake.[42] Overall, ships arriving in the York and Upper James were of greater tonnage than those going to the more marginal districts. And while London, Bristol, and Liverpool traders each employed ships of differing tonnage, merchants from all three ports directed their largest ships (and thus more Biafran and Angolan slaves) to these two districts. Since most Liverpool slavers sent somewhat smaller vessels to the Chesapeake than did either London and Bristol merchants, they had more flexibility for choosing among destinations. Thus the distribution of different groups of Africans in the Chesapeake seems primarily an unplanned outcome of the marketing strategies of British and African merchants over which local buyers had little influence.

With the exception of the York district, which at times supplied large planters living on the Lower and Upper James and on the Rappahannock when their labor needs could not be satisfied from shipments sent to those districts, the numbers of slaves imported annually into the Rappahannock, South Potomac, and Lower and Upper James naval districts were small enough to be absorbed primarily by buyers living along these rivers and their adjoining hinterlands. In addition, since sales usually commenced no more than a week after the vessel’s arrival, it was primarily local buyers who had sufficient advance notice to travel to or arrange for an agent to attend the sale. The majority of slaves sent to the smaller naval districts likely remained in the hinterlands of the rivers on which they disembarked.[43]

In the first half of the eighteenth century, Lower James River planters usually took up additional land bordering on or south of the James, Lower and Middle Peninsula planters opened new quarters in the central Piedmont, and those residing in the Northern Neck expanded into the upper reaches of the Potomac. Elite planters initially staffed western quarters primarily with Africans purchased in the same tidewater ports where they earlier (or simultaneously) bought African laborers for their home plantations. Subsequently, some of these planters children moved to family holdings in these hinterlands, taking with them a mix of surviving Africans from older tidewater plantations and their Virginia-born descendants. Some planters on less frequented rivers did arrange for friends or relatives living along the York to purchase slaves for them, and Virginia slave dealers did sometimes market the unsalable slaves who remained too long on their hands in other rivers. Later, many Africans were further dispersed throughout the two colonies when their owners married, moved, died, or sold them. But none of these factors seems sufficient to rule out the likelihood that Africans from the Bight of Biafra and West Central Africa predominated in southern Virginia, while peoples from Upper Guinea and the Gold Coast predominated in the northern Chesapeake.

Evidence about the patterns by which larger York and Rappahannock planters assembled enslaved workforces in the first third of the eighteenth century bolsters arguments for the likely concentration, on individual tidewater estates, of enslaved people drawn largely from one or two African regions. Elite planters coming of age at the turn of the century almost invariably acquired ample land and some slaves as gifts or bequests from their parents as well as from their wives’ dowries. The inherited and dower laborers were almost never enough to exploit fully the inherited tidewater lands, much less additional undeveloped acres further west. The planters’ substantial starting assets provided collateral against which British tobacco merchants readily extended credit for purchasing additional workers. Although most bought only one, two, and seldom more than four slaves from individual ships, they nonetheless acquired their adult labor forces in a span of no more than ten to fifteen years, either through design or because their adult careers ended in an early death. Occasionally, there were sufficient assets in an estate to permit the purchase of additional new hands for underage heirs. More usually, however, there were no further augmentations, aside from natural increase, until the next planter generation came of age.

Temporarily concentrated purchases in themselves increased the probability that many new Africans on a given estate originated from the same geographic area, and this probability was further enhanced by temporal concentrations in the African trading regions of London, Bristol, and Liverpool suppliers. Furthermore, if a number of well-endowed young planters living in a particular neighborhood came of age at roughly the same time—a likely outcome of sequential European settlement in the Chesapeake—their individual estate-building strategies could well unwittingly result in larger concentrations in that neighborhood of Africans from one or two West African areas. Then even isolated, recently arrived Africans were likely to find members of their own coastal or interior region on adjacent plantations if not on their home quarter.[44]

On the peninsula south of Williamsburg and on other plantations just across the York and James Rivers, for example, around 1750 perhaps 200 Africans and their descendants, who had arrived in the 1710s, 1720s, and early 1730s, lived on five separate estates and numerous ancillary quarters owned by the Burwell family. Many of the Africans on these interconnected quarters shared common geographic origins in the Bight of Biafra, as they did with others living on adjoining estates who had been purchased in these same years. On the nearby Custis plantations, whose owner began buying new Africans a few years later than the Burwells, Angolans predominated.[45]

Local conditions, including an unhealthy environment, unbalanced adult sex ratios on the larger plantations, and possible conflicts between recently arrived Africans and more privileged Creole slaves did not favor sustained family formation in the lower tidewater until the 1740s. Moreover, plantation discipline became more severe and more systematic as the proportion of blacks in the total population rose. “Numbers,” William Byrd II observed in 1736, “make them insolent, & then foul means must do, what fair will not.” Local circumstances did sometimes permit the continued or reconstituted use of African languages and other African customs as well as the transmission to later generations of some parts of the slaves African history.[46]

Initial concentrations of Africans of particular ethnicities were further unintentionally perpetuated on large central tidewater Virginia estates by the practice of entail. Most Chesapeake slaveowners thought of slaves as personal property, along with other moveable goods such as livestock, tools, and household furnishings. Parents commonly divided their personal property relatively equally among their children, male and female, whatever the consequences for the slaves. When an owner died intestate, the courts apportioned the family’s slaves equally among all the heirs. Yet in Virginia the eldest son, who automatically inherited all the land when there was no will, had the right to keep all the slaves if he paid other family members their appraised value. Entailing human beings as well as real estate for purposes of inheritance was a novel legal practice, which elite Virginians apparently borrowed from Barbados. A Virginia law of 1705 allowed planters to entail slaves as well as land, and by the 1720s many gentry planters began entailing slaves in their wills. Typically, not all the slaves a family held were entailed, and these might be freely sold or bequeathed. Once restrictions were placed on the way some slaves could be transmitted to heirs, however, affected gentry planters came to think of all their slaves, like their similarly entailed land, as family property to be passed on, largely intact, in the male line. Although a father might bequeath one or two enslaved children to a daughter or grandchild, he usually willed almost all the slaves, entailed or not, to one or more of his sons. Until the practice was abolished after the American Revolution, elite gentry inheritance strategies, especially common in the York and Rappahannock districts, afforded the largest and most ethnically concentrated enslaved communities more settled places of residence and more generational continuity than was the lot of most Chesapeake slaves.[47]

Did these variations in the forced migration stream have any effect on local slave cultures in the Chesapeake? Much of the sketchy documentary evidence suggests the answer is no, but this may be in part a result of scholars arguing from examples drawn from throughout the Chesapeake rather than from appropriate subregions and from across a broad span of time that homogenizes two or more generations. On the other hand, some recent archaeological discoveries seem to suggest that the answer may be yes. The possibilities for much cultural continuity seem to have been limited for those groups brought to the Upper Chesapeake. The total number of transported captives was small compared to the larger numbers imported into lower-Virginia, and the proportion of all blacks in the total population was less. Most scholars agree that the ethnically diverse peoples of Senegambia shared a relatively homogenous history and culture and spoke either related languages of the West Atlantic family or Mande, which served as a commercial and political lingua franca throughout much of Senegambia.[48] Much less is known about the peoples brought from Sierra Leone and the Windward Coast. Those living north of Cape Mount had economic and some cultural and linguistic connections with Senegambia but practiced a rice rather than grain-based agriculture, grouped themselves in smaller, more diffuse polities, and lived in an entirely rural environment. The majority of peoples taken from the Windward and Gold Coasts in the seventeenth century were likely coastal dwellers who spoke variants of Kwa, a separate language family. Those from the Windward Coast were drawn from a multiplicity of small-scale polities and included multiple ethnicities and other collective groupings. Still other peoples with other languages and cultures lived in the interior, and from the mid-eighteenth century, conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims resulted in the export of captives from these inland areas.[49] The peoples of the Gold Coast were more culturally homogeneous than those of the Windward Coast, and by the late seventeenth century lived in larger, centralized states. The Gold Coast economy was based on both long distance trade in gold and other commodities and an agriculture relying on tropical root crops and recently imported New World maize.[50]

The places from which slaves were embarked south of the Gambia River east to the Gold Coast are often ambiguously specified in period documents, and exported slaves are inconsistently grouped in recent studies, adding further uncertainty about ethnic affiliations. Although ships often stopped at several ports on the Windward Coast to trade for gold or ivory and some slaves, evidence from the Du Bois database suggests that relatively few were taken from this region before the late eighteenth century.[51] Some scholars present separate counts of slaves exported from Senegambia, Sierra Leone, and the Windward Coast, others combine the Windward Coast with Sierra Leone, and still others lump peoples taken from Senegambia, Sierra Leone, and the Windward Coast into a single region termed Upper Guinea.[52] In this analysis, the Gold and Windward Coasts are tabulated as a single region because a number of the vessels were recorded as trading in both places and because Chesapeake newspapers often advertised ships as arriving with an unspecified mix of Windward and Gold Coast slaves. (Less frequently there is a conflation of Sierra Leone and the Windward Coast.)

Even if these ambiguities about trading patterns and appropriate regional groupings are resolved, considerable linguistic and cultural diversity among Africans brought to the Upper Chesapeake seems apparent. There were linguistic and cultural continuities between adjoining regions but obvious dissimilarities between the outliers. At present, there is little consensus as to degree of cultural similarities and differences in Upper Guinea and the Gold Coast in the era of the slave trade. Assessments range from overwhelming multiplicity to John Thornton’s reduction, on the basis of language, of all the western coast slave-exporting regions to just three “truly culturally distinct zones.”[53]

In contrast to the more diverse groups predominating in the Upper-Chesapeake, half the Africans brought to lower Virginia whose geographic origins are known came from the Bight of Biafra, as did a majority of those disembarked on the Upper James before 1761. Another quarter was from West Central Africa. The Ibo, who predominated among captives shipped from the Bight of Biafra, spoke closely related dialects of eastern Kwa that were broadly understood among all groups and shared manners and customs. The innumerable self-contained villages in which they lived had similar-social institutions and a similar root-crop agriculture centered on the culture of yams.[54] The peoples of West Central Africa spoke closely related western Bantu languages, primarily Kikongo and Kimbundu, and possessed many common conceptions of religion and aesthetics. They practiced differing kinds of agriculture suited to widely varied local ecologies; in the era of the slave trade, small grains were being replaced by the new crops of manioc and maize. Early, intense involvement in the Atlantic trades created high levels of political instability in Kongo and Angola.[55] Still overall, greater linguistic and cultural homogeneity among the main groups brought to the Lower-Chesapeake seems reasonably established and, with it, the possibility of greater and different cultural continuities than emerged in the upper tidewater Chesapeake and in parts of the Piedmont.

Ethnic diversity among newly transported Africans increased around 1740, when Liverpool traders began sending regular shipments of Africans to the Chesapeake. Liverpool slavers bought captives in ports all along the West African coast, and unlike London and Bristol traders, those from Liverpool did not distinguish among Chesapeake destinations. Most of these new arrivals were sent to new plantations in the west or were bought by tidewater-planters or town dwellers who owned few other slaves. Those who ended up in the western areas indeed may have encountered the “babel of languages” and heterogeneity of African and Creole cultures that inform the dominant model. In the older tidewater, the arrival of Africans taken from outside earlier trading networks added diversity to local communities, but less often to the large, established plantations on which an ever increasing proportion of tidewater slaves lived.

Varying sex ratios among adult slaves brought from different parts of West Africa may have further increased or diminished possibilities for forming families and socializing children in a homeland culture. Men from Senegambia faced the most formidable obstacles. Shipments from that area included the highest proportion of males, sometimes reaching the planters’ ideal labor balance of two men for one woman.[56] Many enslaved Senegambian men, even in the most favorable of circumstances, could not have found wives brought up in similar cultures. The unknown proportion who were Muslim may have been in addition reluctant to marry at all unless to a fellow Muslim.[57] Thus those who were able to marry were more likely to form unions with African women from other cultures or with native-born women. In contrast, sex ratios among captives from the Bight of Biafra were nearly evenly balanced, so Ibos in the Lower Chesapeake had greater chances to find a mate from the same ethnic group and perhaps to retain more elements of their homeland culture. Sex ratios among slaves from the other main sending areas fell between these two extremes and thus, hypothetically, afforded a midrange of opportunities for finding mates sharing similar backgrounds.[58]

The lack of written records has compelled scholars to look to material remains for evidence of how transported Africans created new identities in the Chesapeake. The several dozen slave quarters now excavated in tidewater Virginia offer many artifacts, but archaeologists have reached little consensus about what this evidence means. Veritable culture wars have ensued following the unearthing in the Chesapeake of locally made ceramics and tobacco pipes incorporating non-Western technologies or displaying nonwestern shapes or decoration, or some or all of these. Archaeologists convinced of a predominantly Native American provenance debate others equally convinced of significant African derivations. Nor is there much agreement about whether ceramics combining European shapes with non-European technologies reflect European cultural domination or more resilient creative adaptations.[59] Wittingly or unwittingly, the ceramic culture wars have encouraged Eurocentric conclusions about broader issues of cultural initiative or forced assimilation.[60] Similarly, discussions of foodways—focused primarily on animal remains, which are most likely to survive in the ground—limit attention to an insignificant component of slaves diet and, moreover, are preoccupied with late nineteenth- and twentieth-century assumptions about the desirability of dietary variety and the status values of assorted kinds and cuts of meat.[61] Mainstream historians, seeking to integrate material culture evidence, are understandably frustrated when they try to synthesize the findings of a sister literature. The most responsible course appears to be to opt for the lowest common denominator of informed consensus; however, this level is conservative and one that perversely and probably unintentionally privileges slaveholder hegemony and discourages the exploration of alternative explanations.[62]

Some archaeologists are beginning to reinterpret radically what were initially thought anomalous artifacts unearthed on eighteenth-century slave sites—pierced or incised spoons, white stones, fossilized shells, pieces of chalk, and virtually intact wine bottles, tobacco pipes, and iron tools, for example. Such objects demonstrably had spiritual significance among contemporary West Africans and, it is now being suggested, may have been employed as protective or healing charms and perhaps used in recreated rituals honoring ancestors.[63] To cite one example, a root cellar excavated on a plantation on the Lower Peninsula, where slaves from the Bight of Biafra are known to have lived, contained artifacts such as cow or horse bone, fossil scallop shells, a kaolin pipe bowl, wrought iron nails, wine bottle glass, a piece of quartzite, and tin-enameled earthenware concentrated in a mounded area in the center of the pit, objects (along with the white color of most) that link them to Ibo spiritual traditions. Moreover, high concentrations of grape tannin also were detected in this pit, suggesting that libations of wine or brandy had been poured into it. Incised spoon handles found on an adjacent slave quarter have been tentatively identified as inscribed with symbols used by Ibo diviners.[64] A late nineteenth-century literary account relates the story of a man, living on the same plantation where the incised spoons were found, who sometimes declared “he gwine sing he country, an’ den he dance an’ jump an howl tell he skeer we chillun to deaf.”[65] Although the last account suggests the tormented longing for homeland of a grieving and isolated individual, the archaeological findings lend some credence to the notion that Africans in this neighborhood had managed to recreate spiritual rituals associated with their particular African heritage.

Similarly, recent excavations of North American slave cemeteries pose more poignant and more immediately compelling rationales for re-evaluating established assumptions about slave culture than any minute revision of slave-trade statistics is likely to do. Burials in New York City and tidewater Virginia (some on the same site and dating to the same time period as the possible ancestor shrine described above) provide irrefutable evidence that specific African spiritual traditions survived the Middle Passage. Use of European-style coffins demonstrates the intrusion of white owners into this final passage. But significant African components are concurrently demonstrated by the nonwestern orientation of some of the bodies and more especially by the deposits of personal items such as jewelry, African clothing, tobacco pipes, food utensils, and weapons, either with the body or atop the grave.[66] Members of the white Chesapeake elite acknowledged in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century that “Funeralls for Dead Negroes” were occasions for meetings of “great Numbers” of transplanted Africans, at which, they suspected, plots for violent resistance were devised.[67] Though this interpretation probably says more about slaveowners’ paranoia than about enslaved Africans intentions, interplantation gatherings that afforded a chance for the affirmation and reinforcement of what may have been specific cultural identities and values almost certainly strengthened the resolve of the enslaved to survive and to resist by one means or another.

Interpretations linking material remains with either broadly shared West African or more particular ethnic spiritual beliefs and practices will doubtless remain strenuously debated, as well they should, given the newness of the field. But the sheer volume of accumulating evidence for the prevalence of such artifacts, coupled with the manifest transatlantic connections that are beginning to emerge from close investigations of specific West African religious practices, is transforming what a few years ago seemed wild and wishful speculation into increasingly compelling arguments for the survival, continuation, and transformation of more sustained and sustaining nonmaterial beliefs and practices then heretofore supposed plausible.

It is still too early to accept uncritically arguments that the slave culture or cultures of portions of any one North American colony developed primarily from one or two West African sources. Collective knowledge of early modern West African history, both in general and for particular regions, remains too scanty to sustain a widely shared consensus. But mounting evidence for a trade whose geographic and temporal complexities can be unraveled for sending and for receiving localities certainly encourages careful attention to more transatlantic ethnic continuities than has heretofore been supposed probable or possible. Evidence emerging from the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute dataset of slaving voyages on the nonrandom character of the slave trade is more than sufficient to justify rethinking and reevaluation of interpretations that presuppose a conflicting mix of cultures. Homogeneity or heterogeneity, continuities or subsequent new creations will doubtless continue hotly contested in the foreseeable future. To suppose that such reevaluation will greatly enrich the historical understanding of African and African-American cultures seems undeniable. On the other hand, to suppose that such reevaluation will produce clear-cut answers culminating in an early consensus about complex issues by historians who have yet to agree even for better-documented European populations is decidedly unrealistic.[68]

Many transplanted Africans who survived both initial enslavement in Africa and the Middle Passage could at best recreate or creatively adapt only selected elements of their “mangled pasts.”[69] Syncretic solutions most likely predominated, at least in the longer run, over specific national customs that some migrants may have managed briefly to recreate. Nonetheless, one has to question the degree to which the accumulating body of material and documentary evidence for previously unsuspected Africanisms appearing throughout the North American colonies continues to support dominant assumptions about overwhelmingly syncretic outcomes, plucked randomly if courageously out of the remains of a veritable cultural holocaust. Scholars’ penchant for lumping evidence from disparate places and time periods, thus obscuring critical local variations and intergenerational contrasts, aided and abetted by continuing widespread ignorance of historic African pasts, seems an equally likely possibility.

Arguments positing links between random forced African migration patterns and creolized cultural outcomes in New World slave societies have almost certainly overemphasized random patterns. Conversely, the accompanying point, that all “Africans in the Americas had to adapt to survive,” cannot be refuted solely on the basis of evidence for more patterned migration streams.[70] Localized concentrations in the New World of forced African migrants who came from a few restricted geographic areas surely must have encouraged retention and perpetuation of some of the specific customs that distinguished them from other Africans as well as from Europeans. If the primary aim of freshly inspired studies of ethnicity is simply to engage in renewed debates about issues of “cultural purity or precise roots,” then potential long-term contributions are indeed doubtful.[71] If they instead foster a more informed and more balanced understanding of interactions between historic African, Native American, and European cultures, then potential benefits will greatly outweigh any short-term discomforts engendered by fresh questioning of entrenched assumptions.

Lorena S. Walsh is a historian at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. A preliminary version of this article was presented at the conference “Transatlantic Slaving and the African Diaspora: Using the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Dataset of Slaving Voyages,” Williamsburg, Va., Sept. 11–13, 1998. She thanks the commentators and conference participants for helpful suggestions and the editors of this special issue and Douglas Chambers and P.M.G. Harris for insightful comments.


1 David Eltis, “Free and Coerced Transatlantic Migrations: Some Comparisons,” American Historical Review, 88 (1983), 251–80; Russell R. Menard, “Migration, Ethnicity, and the Rise of an Atlantic Economy: The Re-Peopling of British America, 1600–1790,” in Rudolph J. Vecoli and Suzanne Sinke, eds., A Century of European Migrations, 1830–1930 (Urbana, Ill., 1991), 58–77; Aaron S. Fogleman, “From Slaves, Convicts, and Servants to Free Passengers: The Transformation of Immigration in the Era of the American Revolution,” Journal of American History, 85 (1998), 43–76.

2 John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1800 (Cambridge, 1992, 1998); Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century (Baton Rouge, 1992); Douglas Brent Chambers, “He Gwine Sing He Country’: Africans, Afro-Virginians, and the Development of Slave Culture in Virginia, 1690–1810” (Ph. D. diss., University of Virginia, 1996); Michael A. Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South (Chapel Hill, 1998).

3 Eltis, Stephen D. Behrendt, David Richardson, and Herbert S. Klein, The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: A Database on CD-ROM (Cambridge, 1999), 33. For a recent restatement of the argument that the multiplicity of slaves backgrounds coupled with planter hegemony precluded coherent transfers of language or culture, see Klein, The Atlantic Slave Trade (Cambridge, 1999), 174–75.

4 Philip D. Morgan, “The Cultural Implications of the Atlantic Slave Trade: African Regional Origins, American Destinations, and New World Developments,” in Eltis and Richardson, eds., Routes to Slavery: Direction, Ethnicity, and Mortality in the Transatlantic Slave Trade (Portland, Ore. 1997), 122–45.

5 See, for example, P.E.H. Hair, Adam Jones, and Robin Law, eds., Barbot on Guinea: The Writings of Jean Barbot on West Africa, 1678–1712, 2 vols. (London, 1992).

6 Merrick Posnansky, “West African Reflections on African-American Archaeology,” in Theresa A. Singleton, ed., “I, Too, Am America: Archaeological Studies of African-American Life” (Charlottesville, 1999), 21–37; Christopher R. DeCorse, “Oceans Apart: Africanist Perspectives on Diaspora Archaeology,” ibid., 132–55.

7 Thus archaeologists speak of “searching for material markers and artifact patterns indicative of a presumed ethnic identity and a certain socioeconomic status, those of African-Americans and slaves,” in order to “specify undocumented sites as slave and/or African-American-related.” Others address the difficulty of ascribing ceramics “to potters of one ethnicity or another” (meaning European, Native American, or African) and look for “an identifiable, pan-Chesapeake ethnic subculture”; Douglas Sanford, “Searching and ‘Re-searching’ for the African Americans of 18th-Century Virginia,” in Theodore R. Reinhart, ed., The Archaeology of 18th-Century Virginia, Special Publication No. 35 of the Archaeological Society of Virginia (Richmond, 1996), 131–48; L. Daniel Mouer et al., “Colonoware Pottery, Chesapeake Pipes, and ‘Uncritical Assumptions,’ “in Singleton, ed., “I, Too, Am America,” 83–115; Singleton and Mark D. Bogard, eds., The Archaeology of the African Diaspora in the Americas: Guides to the Archaeological Literature of the Immigrant Experience in America, Number 2 (Ann Arbor, 1995), 24–29.

8 Morgan, “Cultural Implications of the Atlantic Slave Trade,” 134.

9 David Northrup, “Culture and Ethnicity in West Africa and African America: The Case of the Bight of Biafra, 1600–1850,” Slavery and Abolition (forthcoming), summarizes these critiques. Criticisms similar to those raised about the use of ethnicity apply equally to the concept of culture.

10 Posnansky, “West Africanist Reflections,” 27–34; DeCorse, “Oceans Apart,” 149–52.

11 Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks, 6.

12 Sandra E. Greene, Gender, Ethnicity, and Social Change on the Upper Slave Coast: History of the Anlo-Ewe (Portsmouth, N. H., 1996), 12.

13 The presence of African “nations” in the New World was first advanced by Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 183–92. Two recent studies addressing this issue are Eltis, The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas (Cambridge, 2000), chap. 9, and Chambers, “The Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Creation of Diasporic African ‘Nations’: Toward a Theory of Historical Creolization,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, Washington, D. C., 1999. Recent critiques include Morgan,”Cultural Implications of the Atlantic Slave Trade,” and Northrup, “Culture and Ethnicity in West Africa and African America.”

14 Walter Minchinton, Celia King, and Peter Waite, eds., Virginia Slave Trade Statistics, 1698–1775 (Richmond, 1984); Chambers, “He Gwine Sing He Country,” chaps. 4, 5. For additional sources see the Omohundro Institute website:

15 Earlier studies of the Virginia and Maryland slave trades employing primarily naval office records also emphasized the low percentage of slaves coming from the West Indies. But most scholars continue to ignore their findings. See Darold D. Wax, “Black Immigrants: The Slave Trade in Colonial Maryland,” Maryland Historical Magazine, 73 (1978), 30–45, and Susan Westbury, “Slaves of Colonial Virginia: Where They Came From,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3 d Ser., 42 (1985), 228–37, and “Analysing a Regional Slave Trade: The West Indies and Virginia, 1698–1775,” Slavery and Abolition, 7 (1986), 241–56. The 17th-century trade to Virginia, which, it has been posited, included a high proportion of seasoned West Indian slaves, needs further study. It is difficult to see how a total black population in 1700 of as many as 20,000 could realistically have been achieved primarily by the transshipment of slaves from the Caribbean in small lots as ancillary cargoes, given the overall low volume of Chesapeake-West Indian trade before the turn of the century. Estimates of decennial net migration are found in David W. Galenson, White Servitude in Colonial America: An Economic Analysis (Cambridge, 1981), 212–17. For estimates based on extant shipping records, see Eltis, “The British Transatlantic Slave Trade before 1714: Annual Estimates of Volume and Direction,” in The Lesser Antilles in the Age of European Expansion, ed. Robert L. Paquette and Stanley L. Engerman (Gainesville, Fla., 1996), 182–205.

16 The numbers of slaves brought from the West Indies is understated for 1719–1726 Virginia and 1702–1744 Maryland, periods for which no naval office lists are available. There is no reason to supposed that proportions in those years exceeded the just under 10% found for later years for which such records are relatively complete. The percentage from the West Indies may also be understated in official records because of the smuggling of small lots of slaves disembarked in out-of-the-way locations from low-tonnage vessels trading to the islands. Scattered reports of smuggling do appear for Maryland in the 1690s, when some shippers tried to evade newly enacted import duties on slaves. Most reported illegal importation, however, involved the clandestine offloading of a few slaves by ships’ captains engaged in the direct African trade before official entry with a naval district officer. There is no credible evidence for levels of intercolonial slave smuggling on a scale large enough to have a significant effect on the composition of the Chesapeake slave population overall. See Minchinton et al., Virginia Slave Trade Statistics, xiv xvi.

17 The classification of sweet-scented and oronoco tobacco areas shown in Figure I is based on a 1724 report of Virginia governor Drysdale, CO 5/1319, fols. 212–13, PRO. Surry, Prince George, and Henrico counties, at the head of navigation for ocean-going vessels on the Upper James, were oronoco-growing areas, which helps to explain the low numbers of slaves disembarked in that district during the first third of the 18th century. Counties farther west, bordering on and south of the James River above the fall line, which began to be intensively settled in the 1740s, were the destination of most slaves disembarked in the Upper James district. These areas produced quality tobacco that commanded prices equal to tidewater sweet-scented.

18 Lorena S. Walsh, “Summing the Parts: Implications for Estimating Chesapeake Output and Income Subregionally,” WMQ, 3 d Ser., 56 (1999), 53 94. See also Westbury, “Analysing a Regional Slave Trade.”

19 Sarah S. Hughes, “Slaves for Hire: The Allocation of Black Labor in Elizabeth City County, Virginia, 1782 to 1810,” WMQ, 3 d Ser., 35 (1978), 260-86; Michael L. Nicholls, “Aspects of the African American Experience in Eighteenth-Century Williamsburg and Norfolk” (type-script, Department of Historical Research, Colonial Williamsburg). T. H. Breen and Stephen Innes, “Myne Owne Ground”: Race and Freedom on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, 1640 1676 (New York, 1980), 17, 70 72, 130 n., document the early Angolan connection.

20 Donald M. Sweig, “The Importation of African Slaves to the Potomac River, 1732–1772,” WMQ, 3 d Ser., 42 (1985), 507–24.

21 For sources see the appendix.

22 Sales of large shipments in two or more rivers appear in advertisements in the Maryland Gazette; some are discussed in Wax, “Black Immigrants.” For entry and offloading in different districts see Elizabeth Donnan, ed., Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade to America, 4 vols. (Washington, D. C., 1930–1935), 4:27–29.

23 Richardson, ed., Bristol, Africa, and the Eighteenth-Century Slave Trade to America, 4 vols. (Gloucester, Eng., 1986), 1: xxiii-xxvi. Various scholars define the boundaries of “Upper” and “Lower” Guinea differently. See, for example, ibid., 2:xvii; C. Wondji, “The States and Cultures of the Upper Guinean Coast,” in UNESCO General History of Africa, vol. 5: Africa from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century, ed. B. A. Ogot (London and Berkeley, 1992), 368; A. A. Boahen, “The States and Cultures of the Lower Guinean Coast,” ibid., 399; Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 187–89; and Eltis, Rise of African Slavery, 105. In this article, “Upper Guinea” is considered the area between the Senegal River and the Gold Coast, encompassing Senegambia, Sierra Leone, and the Windward Coast.

24 Morgan and Nicholls, “Slaves in Piedmont Virginia, 1720–1790,” WMQ, 3 d Ser., 46 (1989), 211–51.

25 Walsh, From Calabar to Carter’s Grove: The History of a Virginia Slave Community (Charlottesville, 1997), chap. 7.

26 Walsh, “Summing the Parts.”

27 Walsh, From Calabar to Carter’s Grove, chap. 1.

28 The London slave trade remains little studied. The most recent surveys are James A. Rawley, “The Port of London and the Eighteenth Century Slave Trade: Historians, Sources, and a Reappraisal,” African Economic History, 9 (1980), 85–100, and The Transatlantic Slave Trade: A History (New York, 1981), chap. 10.

29 Richardson, ed., Bristol, Africa, and the Eighteenth-Century Slave Trade, 1:xiv-xxvii, 2:xiii-xxiv, 3:xiv-xxxi.

30 This paragraph incorporates preliminary research into interconnections between the tobacco and slave trades. The author compared lists of tobacco merchants, compiled from ongoing research into Chesapeake plantation agriculture, with lists of slave and tobacco merchants in secondary sources. Jacob M. Price and Paul G. E. Clemens, “A Revolution of Scale in Overseas Trade: British Firms in the Chesapeake Trade, 1675–1775,” Journal of Economic History, 47 (1987), 1–43, and Price, “One Family’s Empire: The Russell-Lee-Clerk Connection in Maryland, Britain, and India, 1707–1857,” Md. Hist. Magazine, 72 (1977), 165 225, are especially helpful in documenting major London tobacco merchants. Price, “Sheffield v. Starke: Institutional Experimentation in the London-Maryland Trade c. 1696–1706,” Business History, 28, No. 3 (1986), 19–39, and Price, Perry of London: A Family and a Firm on the Seaborne Frontier, 1615–1753 (Cambridge, Mass., 1992), chap. 3, provide detail on the interconnections at the beginning of the 18th century.

31 For Bristol merchants see Richardson, ed., Bristol, Africa, and the Eighteenth-Century Slave Trade, 1:xix-xxiii, and The Bristol Slave Traders: A Collective Portrait (Bristol, 1985); Kenneth Morgan, Bristol and the Atlantic Trade in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge, 1993), chaps. 5, 6, and “Bristol Merchants and the Colonial Trades, 1748–1783” (pH D. diss., Oxford University, 1983), app. B; Minchinton, “The slave trade of Bristol with the British mainland colonies in North America 1699–1770,” in Roger Anstey and Hair, eds., Liverpool, the African Slave Trade, and Abolition: Essays to Illustrate Current Knowledge and Research (Liverpool, 1976), 39–59; and Minchinton, ed., “The Virginia Letters of Isaac Hobhouse, Merchant of Bristol,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 66 (1958), 278–301.

32 Morgan, Bristol and the Atlantic Trade, chap. 6; Price, “Credit in the Slave Trade and Plantation Economies,” in Barbara L. Solow, ed., Slavery and the Rise of the Atlantic System (Cambridge, 1991), 313–15; Lyde and Cooper v. Darnall, Attwood, and Digges, Chancery Record, 8 (1746–1767), fols. 9–75, Maryland State Archives.

33 For the Liverpool trade see Rawley, Transatlantic Slave Trade, chap. 9, and Richardson, “Liverpool and the English Slave Trade,” in Anthony Tibbles, ed., Transatlantic Slavery: Against Human Dignity (London, 1994), 70–76. Three of the 4 Liverpool tobacco traders most frequently cited in Virginia and Maryland planter letter and account books also invested to varying degrees in Chesapeake slaving ventures. John W. Tyler, “Foster Cunliffe and Sons: Liverpool Merchants in the Maryland Tobacco Trade, 1738–1765,” Md. Hist. Magazine, 73 (1978), 246–79, describes one shift of trading operations from one naval district to another.

34 Eltis, Rise of African Slavery in the Americas, 247, 252.

35 Cited in Chambers, “He Gwine Sing He Country,’ “255; Robert Carter to Micajah Perry, July 13, 1723, Robert Carter Letterbook, 1723–1724, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond; Carter to John Pemberton, July 23, 1738, Robert Carter Letterbook, 1727–1728, ibid.; Donnan, ed., Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade, 4:40. Their stated preferences did not keep members of the Carter family from purchasing Ibo slaves sold on the York River for their own plantations.

36 Minchinton, ed., “Virginia Letters of Isaac Hobhouse,” 293–94; “Account of Sales of a Cargo of Slaves Imported in ye Leopard Gally …July 4th, 1710,” in Lyonel and Stephen Loyde Account Book, 1708–1710, Tayloe Family Papers, Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville.

37 Wax, “Preferences for Slaves in Colonial America,” Journal of Negro History, 58 (1973), 371–401; Wax, “Black Immigrants”; Chambers, “He Gwine Sing He Country’ “, 250–55.

38 CO 5/1308, fols. 36–37, PRO.

39 Minchinton, ed., “Virginia Letters of Isaac Hobhouse,” 293–94, 297.

40 The kinds of payment accepted and the terms on which credit was extended require further study. These may have differed between London, Bristol, and Liverpool merchants, over time, and from one naval district to another. It is possible that slaves from different parts of Africa were sold not only in different parts of the Chesapeake but on different terms. On the latter see Chambers, “The Transatlantic Slave Trade to Virginia in Comparative Historical Perspective, 1698–1778,” in John Saillant, ed., Afro-Virginian History and Culture (New York, 1999), 6–13. Markets for other forms of unfree labor were similarly segmented. Convict servants were shipped only to the Rappahannock and South Potomac naval districts and to Maryland. British merchants were advised that convicts would not sell in either the York or the Upper James; A. Roger Ekirch, Bound for America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718–1775 (New York, 1987), 140–44.

41 Sex ratios in the lower Chesapeake were more even because all captives taken from the Bight of Biafra included a high proportion of women. The sex balance was thus a result of supply side factors, not a response to local demand; Eltis, Rise of Slavery in the Americas, 105; Eltis and Engerman, “Fluctuation in Sex and Age Ratios in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1663–1864,” Economic History Review, 46 (1993), 308–23.

42 Behrendt, “The Tonnage and Construction of Sailing Vessels in the British Slave Trade,” unpublished paper, kindly shared by the author. As a Kingston, Jamaica, merchant firm later noted, “People from Old Calabar require a brisk market”; Grove, Harris, and Papps to Rogers, Mar. 10, 1793, C 107/59, PRO, quoted ibid.

43 See, for example, the geographic concentration of planters purchasing slaves from Royal African Company ships, most of which entered the York River, analyzed in Charles L. Killinger, III, “The Royal African Company Slave Trade to Virginia, 1689–1713” (M. A. thesis, College of William and Mary, 1969), 63–70, 137–46; of purchasers of slaves from the Leopard Gally in the Rappahannock, in Lyonel and Stephen Loyde Account Book; and of purchasers of slaves from the Little Sally in the Upper James in 1763, in box 2, folder 4, Vernon Manuscripts, New York Historical Society.

44 Walsh, From Calabar to Carter’s Grove, chap. 1.

45 Ibid.

46 Ibid., chaps. 1, 3; William Byrd II to the earl of Egmont, July 12, 1736, in Marion Tinling, ed., The Correspondence of the Three William Byrds of Westover, Virginia, 1684–1776, 2 vols. (Charlottesville, 1977), 2:488.

47 Walsh, From Calabar to Carter’s Grove, 44–45, 148, 224.

48 Philip D. Curtin, Economic Change in Precolonial Africa: Senegambia in the Era of the Slave Trade (Madison, 1975); Boubacar Barry, Senegambia and the Atlantic Slave Trade, trans. Ayi Kwei Armah (Cambridge, 1998; orig. pub. 1988); Walter Rodney, “Upper Guinea and the Significance of the Origins of Africans Enslaved in the New World,” J. Negro Hist., 54 (1969), 327–45. Thornton has supplied overviews in Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, chap. 7, and in “The African Background to American Colonization,” in The Cambridge Economic History of the United States, vol. 1: The Colonial Era, ed. Engerman and Robert E. Gallman (Cambridge, 1996), 53–94. See also the discussions of regional differences in Eltis, Rise of African Slavery, chap. 7. Hair, “Ethnolinguistic Continuity on the Guinea Coast,” Journal of African History, 8 (1967), 247–68, discusses the geographic and historical continuity of language groups but does not address the issue of mutual intelligibility.

49 Wondji, “States and Cultures of the Upper Guinean Coast,” 368–98; Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks, chap. 5; Walter Hawthorne, “The Production of Slaves Where There Was No State: The Guinea-Bissau Region, 1450–1815,” Slavery and Abolition, 20, No. 2 (1999), 97–124.

50 Boahen, “States and Cultures of the Lower Guinean Coast,” 399–433; Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks, chap. 5.

51 Richardson, “The British Empire and the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1660–1807,” in The Oxford History of the British Empire, vol. 2: The Eighteenth Century, ed. P. J. Marshall (Oxford, 1998), 450. On European trading patterns in these areas, see Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 192–95.

52 Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (Madison, 1969), 152–53, 184–86, discusses some of the ambiguities, as does Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks, 27–31, 103, 304 n. 45. The 3 regions are tabulated separately in Curtin, Atlantic Slave Trade; the proportion assigned to the Windward Coast is a conjectural distribution. Eltis lumped the 3 regions together in “The Volume and African Origins of the British Slave Trade before 1714,” Cahiers d’études Africaines, 35 (1995), 620, and uses lumped, individual, and a combination of two regions in different tabulations in Rise of African Slavery, 166, 181, 245. Richardson, “British Empire and the Atlantic Slave Trade,” and Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks, group Sierra Leone and the Windward Coast together. In the 17th and 18th centuries, “Windward” sometimes also referred to the eastern part of the Gold Coast, east or “windward” of Cape Coast Castle. Until the third quarter of the 18th century, most “Windward and Gold Coast” slaves were probably taken from the Gold Coast rather than the Windward Coast proper; Eltis, Rise of African Slavery, 176–77.

53 Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 186–92.

54 For the Bight of Biafra see Chambers, “He Gwine Sing He Country,” chap. 2; Walsh, From Calabar to Carter’s Grove, chap. 2; Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 189–90; and Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks, chap. 6. Northrup, “Culture and Ethnicity in West Africa and African America,” argues that there was more linguistic and cultural diversity in the area than these scholars have posited and that slaves from linguistic and cultural groups other than and differing from the Ibo were exported from this region.

55 J. Vansina, “The Kongo Kingdom and Its Neighbors,” in UNESCO General History of Africa, ed. Ogot, 5:546–87; Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 190–92; Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks, chap. 6. Joseph C. Miller, Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730–1830 (Madison, 1988), chap. 1, places more emphasis on diversity.

56 For general discussions of sex ratios, see Eltis and Engerman, “Was the Slave Trade Dominated by Men?” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 23 (1992), 237–57, and “Fluctuations in Sex and Age Ratios in the Transatlantic Slave Trade”; and David Geggus, “Sex Ratios, Age, and Ethnicity in the Atlantic Slave Trade: Data From French Shipping and Plantation Records,” J. African Hist., 30 (1989), 23–44. For Virginia see Chambers, “Transatlantic Slave Trade to Virginia in Comparative Historical Perspective,” 13–19. Information on sex ratios of Senegambian and Bight of Biafran slaves brought to the Chesapeake comes from records of cargo sales reported by Chambers and others collected by Walsh.

57 Sylviane A. Diouf, Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas (New York, 1998), 179–80. She notes that enslaved Muslims often tended to keep apart from non-Muslims as they tried to maintain Islamic dress, diet, and religious observances. Among well-known Muslim men, about half had no children, which could have been “by choice or out of necessity.”

58 Eltis and Engerman, “Fluctuations in Sex and Age Ratios in the Transatlantic Trade,” 310; Eltis, Rise of African Slavery, 96–113.

59 On pipes, see esp. Matthew Charles Emerson, “Decorated Clay Tobacco Pipes from the Chesapeake” (pH D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1988), “Decorated Clay Tobacco Pipes from the Chesapeake: An African Connection,” in Paul A. Shackel and Barbara J. Little, eds., The Historical Archaeology of the Chesapeake (Washington, D. C., 1994), 35–49, and “African Inspirations in a New World Art and Artifact: Decorated Pipes from the Chesapeake,” in Singleton, ed., I, Too, Am America, 47–74. The opposing view is summarized in Mouer et al., “Colonoware Pottery, Chesapeake Pipes, and ‘Uncritical Assumptions,’ ” ibid., 75–115. See also Posnansky, “West Africanist Reflections on African-American Archaeology”; DeCorse, “Africanist Perspectives on Diaspora Archaeology,” ibid., 29–31, 140–43; and Hannah Blake Canel, “Poplar Forest’s Schist Smoking Pipes,” Conference Proceedings, African Impact on the Material Culture of the Americas, Winston-Salem, N. C., 1996. Barbados pipes are discussed in Jerome S. Handler and Frederick W. Lange, Plantation Slavery in Barbados: An Archaeological and Historical Investigation (Cambridge, Mass., 1978), 130–31. The classic source for other locally made ceramics (colonoware) is Leland G. Ferguson, Uncommon Ground: Archaeology and Early African America, 1650–1800 (Washington, D. C., 1992), 1–62. See also the articles by Posnansky and DeCorse, cited above, and Matthew W. Hill, “Ethnicity Lost: Ethnicity Gained: Information Functions of ‘African Ceramics’ in West Africa and North America,” in Réginald Auger et al., eds., Ethnicity and Culture: Proceedings of the Eighteenth Annual Conference of the Archaeological Association of the University of Calgary (Calgary, 1987), 135–39.

60 Singleton and Bogard, Archaeology of the African Diaspora, 17–18, 25–27, 30–31. Archaeologists working with Caribbean materials are at least in general agreement that Africans were among the makers of colonowares unearthed in the islands. The creolization model also dominates recent West Indian studies, with the result that most attention is given to delineating a pan-regional, creolized pottery tradition. Syncretic outcomes are posited in all the essays dealing with locally made ceramics in a recent compilation; Jay Haviser, ed., African Sites Archaeology in the Caribbean (Princeton, 1999). Whether observed differences might reflect inputs from peoples coming from different African groups is not explored.

61 Interpretations of diet will be addressed at greater length in the future.

62 Thinking of the scarcity of material possessions reflected in most excavated slave sites only in terms of “challenging and circumventing oppression” privileges owner hegemony over African initiative and cultural resilience. Sanford, “Searching and Researching for the African Americans of 18th-Century Virginia,” 139–40, summarizes the “challenging and circumventing” approach. See also Jean E. Howson, “Social Relations and Material Culture: A Critique of the Archaeology of Plantation Slavery,” Historical Archaeology, 24, No. 4 (1990), 78–91.

63 See, for example, Maria Franklin, “Early Black Spirituality and the Culture Strategy of Protective Symbolism: Evidence From Art and Archaeology,” Conference Proceedings, African Impact on the Material Culture of the Americas, Winston-Salem, N. C., 1996; Lynn Jones, “Crystals and Conjuring at the Charles Carroll House, Annapolis, Maryland,” African-American Archaeology, No. 27 (2000), 1–2, 10–11; and Patricia Samford, “Strong Is the Bond of Kinship: West African-Style Ancestor Shrines and Subfloor Pits on African American Quarters,” paper presented at the Fourth World Archaeological Conference in Capetown, South Africa, 1999.

64 Samford, “Strong Is the Bond of Kinship,” and Samford to author,, Feb. 1, 2000.

65 Letitia M. Burwell, A Girl’s Life in Virginia before the War (New York, 1895), 17–18. For the context see Walsh, From Calabar to Carter’s Grove, 52. Other material evidence from this and adjacent plantations is discussed ibid., chap. 3.

66 Sterling Stuckey, “African Spirituality in Colonial New York: The Case of Albany, 1700–1770,” in Carla Gardina Pestana and Sharon V. Salinger, eds., Inequality in Early America (Hanover, N. H., 1999), 160 81; Philip Morgan, Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry (Chapel Hill, 1998), 640–42; Walsh, From Calabar to Carter’s Grove, 104–08.

67 Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia, 1: 86–87; William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large, Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, 13 vols. (1809–1823; rpt. Charlottesville, 1969), 2:481–82.

68 See, for example, the intense controversy that arose over David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York, 1989), as described in “Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America–A Symposium,” WMQ, 3 d Ser., 48 (1991), 223–308.

69 Sidney W. Mintz, foreword to Norman E. Whitten, Jr., and John F. Szwed, eds., Afro-American Anthropology: Contemporary Perspectives (New York, 1970), 9, quoted in Morgan, “Cultural Implications of the Atlantic Slave Trade,” 142.

70 Morgan, “Cultural Implications of the Atlantic Slave Trade,” 141.

71 Ibid., 141–42.