The Zong massacre part 2

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The only passenger in the ship was Robert Stubbs, a former captain of slave ships who was appointed by the African Committee of the Royal African Company as the governor of Anomabu in the early 1700s.

After nine months, he was forced out of governorship due to his ineptitude and the enmity he incurred with John Roberts, governor of the Castle. Statements from witnesses that were gathered by the African Committee of the RAC accused Stubbs of being a semi-literate drunkard who mismanaged the slave-trading activities of the fort.

He was aboard to return to Britain, so Collingwood may have thought his previous experience on slave ships would be useful.

The ship had a 17-man crew before it left Africa and it was far too small to maintain adequate sanitary conditions on the ship.

The Passage

Zong sailed from Accra with 442 slaves, as it had taken on more than twice the number of people that it could safely transport.

However, on the 18th or 19th of November, the ship neared Tobago in the Caribbean but failed to stop there to replenish its water supplies.

Although, it is unclear who was in charge of the ship at this point as Luke Collingwood had been gravely ill for some time and the man supposed to replace him, James Kelsall, had been previously suspended from duty.

Though Stubbs had captained a slave ship several decades ago and he commanded Zong temporarily during Collingwood’s incapacitation, he was not a registered member of the vessel’s crew.


On the 27 or 28 November, the crew sighted Jamaica at a distance of 27 nautical miles but misidentified it as the French colony of Saint-Domingue on the island of Hispaniola.

The vessel continued on its westward course, leaving Jamaica behind. This mistake was recognized only after the ship was 300 miles from the island.

Malnutrition, overcrowding, several diseases, and accidents had already killed numerous mariners and approximately 62 Africans. James Kelsall later claimed that there was only four days’ water remaining on the ship when the navigational error was discovered and Jamaica was still 10–13 sailing days away.

On the 29th of November, the crew assembled to consider the proposal that some of the slaves should be thrown overboard. Although, James Kelsall later claimed that he had disagreed with the plan at first but it was soon unanimously agreed. Unfortunately, that day, 54 women and children were thrown through cabin windows into the sea.

On the 1st of December, 42 male slaves were thrown overboard, and 36 more followed in the next few days. Another ten, in a display of defiance at the inhumanity of the slavers, jumped into the sea.

Having heard the shrieks of the victims as they were thrown into the water, one of the captives requested that the remaining Africans be denied all food and drink rather than be thrown into the sea. The crew ignored this request and a total number of 142 Africans had been killed by the time the ship reached Jamaica. According to the account of the King’s Bench trial, it stated that one slave managed to climb back onto the ship.

On the other hand, the crew claimed that the slaves had been jettisoned because the ship did not have enough water to keep all the slaves alive for the rest of the voyage.

At the long run, the above claim was later unclear, as the ship had 420 imperial gallons which are a total sum of 1,900 liters of water left when it arrived at Jamaica on the 22nd of  December.

Kelsall presented an affidavit later which stated that that on the  1st of December, when 42 slaves were killed, it rained heavily for more than a day, and this allowed six casks of water (which is sufficient for eleven days) to be collected.

On the 22nd of December, the vessel arrived at Black River, Jamaica, with 208 slaves on board, which is less than half the number that was taken from Africa. They were sold for an average price of £36 each.

Three days after the Zong reached Jamaica, Luke Collingwood gave up the ghost and that was two years before the 1783 court proceedings about the case.

Kaskelot appeared as Zong at Tower Bridge during the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in 2007.

The Zong massacre has inspired several works of literature.

Read More

The Zong legal case was the main theme of a British period drama – Belle – that was filmed in 2013 and was directed by Amma Asante.


Africh Royale

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