Stereotypes Think Pirates of Caribbean Were Not Racist Like Mainstream Society, Know The Truth Behind This Stereotype
There is always a stereotype popular around the world that pirates in the Caribbean were more egalitarian than mainstream society when comes to the racism. But the truth is not that simple to understand and has complicated explanations. A historian user on Reddit shared a long but interesting incites in this. The explanation is going to long but it is really an interesting read-
Racism among pirates in the Carribean
This is an interesting question and one that as you point out has been much written and claimed about with regards to pirates supposedly having been much more egalitarian and progressive than mainstream society at the time, and this is far from a modern phenomenon as I’ve discussed a bit in this post with regards to their portrayal in some contemporary pirate fiction. But the latter was fiction and the reality was definitely not so black and white, so to speak. The pirate historian Benerson Little who I greatly respect and who I will be frequently using as a source here has this to say about the more modern myth of racially egalitarian pirates:
Golden Age pirates functioned as democracies, yet they chose to engage in the slave trade and treat most members of several peoples as worthy of nothing more than slavery. Only the few free blacks, mulattos, mestizos, zambos (mixed African and Native American), and Native Americans whom pirates permitted into their crews were granted the same rights and respect they accorded themselves. The rest they regarded as property, whether free or already enslaved.
The myth of Golden Age pirates as colorblind is fairly recent and has two origins. First, many scholars have promoted pirates of color to their rightful place in history. However, in doing this, they have often sought to diminish the role of the pirate as slaver, in order to improve the pirate’s image—less racist and more egalitarian, in other words. Second, Hollywood and popular fiction have also had a strong role, primarily by ignoring slavery as a critical aspect of piracy.
Authors and screenwriters have long realized that accurate depictions of how pirates treated slaves might put off much of the audience. The pirate as slaver does not fit the modern myth of the pirate as a social and political rebel—as a colorblind Robin Hood, so to speak. Even when Hollywood depicts pirates freeing oppressed populations (something pirates never really did), the populations are usually white. The Hollywood and video game ideals, seen for example in Rage of the Buccaneers and “Assassin’s Creed Freedom Cry,” of pirates freeing slaves out of a sense of moral obligation derived from anti-slavery beliefs, has no basis in fact, no matter how appealing these ideals are. (The Golden Age of Piracy: The truth behind the myths by Benerson Little, 200, 206-7)
Pirates and buccaneers did sometimes free slaves, and blacks did occasionally serve as roughly equal members of pirate crews, as did Native Americans and people of mixed race. These same pirates were usually at the same time extremely un-egalitarian and racist and not remotely opposed to things like slavery since they readily engaged in it themselves, often with astonishing brutality. This harsh contrast is what makes it difficult to draw any overarching narrative about how pirates generally viewed and treated race and slavery, except ultimately to conclude that they were opportunistic and generally willing to adjust themselves and cooperate with anyone if it was to their benefit under the circumstances. For every instance of pirates cooperating with and treating blacks and Native Americans with a surprising amount of equality and respect, there are far more instances of those same pirates committing the worst atrocities against other members of those same races. And for that matter, pirates and buccaneers treated other Europeans in a similar manner, treating some as friends and companions, while pillaging, torturing and raping others, sometimes based on nationality and sometimes just because they had the opportunity to do so.
Pirates and buccaneers were hardly unique in this regard either. For all the atrocities and genocides committed by Europeans against native peoples during their attempts at colonialism, there was usually an equal number of friendly relationships and alliances. Cortez didn’t bring down the Aztec Empire without the aid of thousands of native allies (which he again betrayed and turned against after they were no longer useful). Likewise, black Africans were not universally enslaved even in European society at the time and there were some free blacks and mulattos both in Europe itself and especially in European colonies after the 16th century who sometimes held minor positions of power and had some degree of wealth, sometimes owning slaves themselves. Native American, too, and people of mixed race were also not universally enslaved in European colonies and sometimes also held positions of relative power and independence in their own right, while at the same time inhabiting a European dominated society that subjected other members of their own race to the worst atrocities and oppression. And just as Europeans frequently oppressed other Europeans at many various times, often Africans and Native Americans enslaved and oppressed members of their own race as well with as much brutality as Europeans did.
My point here is not to downplay the evils of European slavery and racism in any way by pointing out that slavery wasn’t exclusively European nor were European relations with non-Europeans exclusively hostile, but to make it more evident that none of what pirates did was outside the norm for other Europeans of the time and the fact that pirates were sometimes friendly with individuals of other races does not remotely suggest that they had any higher moral opposition to slavery.
I think a good starting illustration of what I’m describing can be seen in the actions of one of the most famous early privateers, who while not technically a pirate is often grouped at least as a precursor to later ones who acted entirely outside the law since Drake’s actions toward the Spanish were ultimately not much different. Francis Drake began his career in the early 1560s on slave trading voyages under the command of his second cousin John Hawkins who came up with the ruthless idea of buying hundreds of slaves in Africa and then illegally selling them to Spanish colonies in the Caribbean (illegal because Spanish merchants claimed a monopoly on the slave trade in their colonies). From 1562 to 1565, Drake and Hawkins made two such highly successful voyages and profited immensely from it. Then in 1568, during a third such slave-trading voyage in the Caribbean, the Spanish navy under pressure to defend their slave-trading monopoly finally attacked the English flotilla under Hawkins and Drake while anchored in a bay in Mexico, destroying three out of five ships with the survivors limping back to England.
In revenge for this, Francis Drake set out for the Caribbean in 1572 with the intent purpose of raiding and plundering the Spanish colonies, and in one of his most famous actions during this raid he successfully ambushed and captured a treasure-laden Spanish mule train as it made its way across the Isthmus of Panama in 1573. In order to achieve this, Drake enlisted the aid of local Indians and communities of escaped African slaves called Maroons living in the forests of Panama who provided invaluable intelligence to him and agreed to act as guides and may have even fought alongside Drake against the Spanish. The Indians and Maroons in Panama clearly did this because they hated the Spanish who were directly oppressing them, and the English interlopers were more than happy to seek out their valuable assistance. So in conclusion: despite Drake’s former career as a brutal slave-trader, he was still happy to seek out and accept assistance from escaped black African slaves in order to plunder his primary enemies at the time which were the Spanish. If anything defines the sometimes-friendly relationships European pirates had with other races in the Caribbean on occasion, it is exactly this sort of opportunistic and circumstantial alliance.
Now I’m going to discuss many more examples of the interactions pirates and Buccaneers had with other races in the Caribbean and elsewhere in the 17th and 18th centuries which is the period most commonly termed the golden age of piracy.
Part 1: Blacks and Mulattos
The precursors of the more commonly stereotyped pirates of the early 18th century were the so-called buccaneers of the 17th century. Beginning around the early 1630s and continuing until the 1690s, French, English and Dutch buccaneers plundered mostly Spanish ships and settlements in the Caribbean, either as lawful privateers or as outright pirates, but they usually at least had the cooperation of corrupt local governors unlike the final major wave of piracy in the 1710s and 1720s. Based on an important book called The Buccaneers of America published in 1678 by Alexandre Exquemelin who had himself been a former French buccaneer, it seems clear that most buccaneers treated captured African slaves purely as property and plunder. This was so ubiquitous that when the agreed upon compensation for wounded buccaneers is listed, it is given as a choice of either x amount of money or x amount of slaves that were worth an equal amount. From this, it appears that slaves were commonly valued at 100 pieces of eight equivalent to something like $5,000 today):
Then came the agreed rewards for the wounded, who might have lost a limb or suffered other injuries. They would be compensated as follows: for the loss of a right arm, 600 pieces of eight or six slaves; for a left arm, 500 pieces of eight or five slaves. The loss of a right leg also brought 500 pieces of eight or five slaves in compensation; a left leg, 400 or four slaves; an eye, 100 or one slave, and the same award was made for the loss of a finger. If a man lost the use of an arm, he would get as much as if it had been cut off, and a severe internal injury which meant the victim had to have a pipe inserted in his body would earn 500 pieces of eight or five slaves in recompense. (Exquemelin, 71)
Yet despite this, there are a number of references scattered throughout buccaneer sources from this period, including Exquemelin, that indicate African slaves were occasionally freed by buccaneers and sometimes even incorporated into their crews. The English buccaneer John Cox published an account in 1684 about a buccaneering voyage he took part in during 1680-82. In 1680, the buccaneers had attempted to capture the town of Arica on the coast of Chile but were repulsed by the Spanish defenders, the survivors retreating with heavy losses. Eight months later in 1681, while still sailing along the Pacific coasts of South America in search of plunder, the same buccaneers captured some Spanish prisoners who had been at Arica and gave an account of how several of their wounded buccaneer comrades had been killed and captured there after the survivors retreated. One of these buccaneers was a black former slave who had been freed by the buccaneer captain Bartholomew Sharp and is said to have died fighting to the last rather than surrender to the Spanish:
The Prisoners, we took, told us, that at Arica, our Doctors had had good quarter given them, for the sake of their skill; but that the wounded were knockt on the Head; and that one Negro, who had his Leg shot off, being offered quarter, refused it, and killed four or five of their Men, before he was shot dead on the spot. This fellow had been a Slave, whom our Commander had freed, and brought from Jamaica. (Cox, 70-71)
But — again — these same English buccaneers readily engaged in the slavery of Africans during the very same voyage. The English buccaneer Basil Ringrose was another member of the same 1680-82 expedition and also published his own journal account of it in 1685. He describes how the buccaneers captured 12 black slaves in a Spanish ship off the coast of Peru in 1680 and decided to keep them onboard “whom we intended to make good use of, to do the drudgery of our ship” (Ringrose, 228). It should also be noted that the buccaneers kept several Spanish prisoners onboard the ship as well both to hold for ransom and because several were Spanish pilots who knew the coastline (of note: one of these Spanish pilots was actually a free black man which I will touch a little more on later). In June of the next year, 1681, two of these black slaves managed to escape while the buccaneers were careening their vessel on the coast of Mexico. Four days later, two more slaves tried to run away from the buccaneers but were caught. Of the latter two slaves, one was black and the other was identified as an Indian who the buccaneers had also previously captured. It is not said how or if they were punished. Two months after this, in August, the buccaneers’ remaining black slaves plotted to rebel and kill them all while they slept, but one of their numbers betrayed them to the buccaneers and the slaves’ leader was promptly killed, quelling the revolt:
In the evening of this day [August 12, 1681], our slaves agreed among themselves, and plotted to cut us all in pieces, not giving quarter to any, when we should be buried in sleep. They conceived this night afforded them the fittest opportunity, by reason that we were all in drink. But they were discovered to our commander by one of their own companions, and one of them named Santiago, whom we brought from Iquique, leapt overboard; who, notwithstanding, was shot in the water by our captain, and thus punished for his treason. The rest laid the fault on that slave, and so it passed, we being not willing to enquire any further into the matter, having terrified them with the death of their companion. (Ringrose, 280)
So Bartholomew Sharp may have freed a single black slave who he had owned in Jamaica and taken with him on his buccaneering voyage, but he was perfectly comfortable with continuing to enslave other blacks and evidently so were the rest of his white crew.
Something else interesting that the buccaneers encountered on this voyage was the Spanish fear of the buccaneers inciting a slave revolt among the Spaniard’s own slaves when they captured a settlement. In December 1680, the buccaneers raided the town of La Serena on the coast of Chile. The Spanish had been forewarned that the buccaneers were along the coast and might attack the town, and in response almost all of the inhabitants fled inland, taking their valuables with them and hiding the rest by the time the buccaneers arrived. But the Spaniards also feared a revolt from their native Chilean slaves amidst the chaos and decided to massacre them all at the approach of the buccaneers for fear they would desert to them. Ringrose writes:
These prisoners told us, that the Spaniards, when they heard of our coming, had killed most of their Chilian slaves, fearing they should revolt from them to us. (Ringrose, 244)
Later that day while occupying this same town, a black slave deserted from the Spanish to the buccaneers and told them that the Spaniards’ black slaves had already been transported inland away from the buccaneers in fear that they would take the same opportunity to revolt and try to join them:
Having taken possession of the town, that evening there came a negro to us, running away from the Spaniards. He informed us, that when we were before Panama, we had taken a negro, who was esteemed the best pilot in all the South Sea [the same previously mentioned black ship’s pilot who had been kept prisoner onboard the buccaneers’ ship to guide them]; but more especially for this place, and the coasts of Coquimbo. And further, that if the Spaniards had not sent all the negroes belonging to this city farther up into the country, out of our reach and communication, they would all undoubtedly have revolted to us. (Ringrose, 245)
To some extent the Spanish fears of slave revolts aided by the buccaneers may well have been justified going back to the idea of opportunistic alliances such as in the case of Francis Drake, a former slave-trader who allied with escaped slaves against the Spanish. That said, the drastic and brutal Spanish response to massacre all of their native slaves in preemptive fear of revolt in this may have simply been a result of the general paranoia of slave owners whose greatest mortal fear was always violent rebellion. Forty years later in 1718, English slave owners would write about their own fears of slaves running away to join pirates living on the island of Nassau in the Bahamas, but I’ll get back to that later on. What happened to the escaped slave who gave this information to the buccaneers is not recorded but it’s possible he might have joined them.
Going back to Exquemelin’s The Buccaneer’s of America published in 1678, a number of other instances are indeed recorded of buccaneers freeing certain slaves they captured under certain circumstances. The most common such circumstance was for them to act as guides and give the buccaneers information about where their former masters had hidden valuables. When the Welsh buccaneer Henry Morgan captured the Spanish towns of Maracaibo and Gibraltar on the coast of Venezuela in 1669, he found most of the Spanish inhabitants had already fled into the surrounding countryside and hidden their valuables before the buccaneers arrived. After unsuccessfully searching around for them for a few days, the buccaneers resorted to freeing and bribing a captured black slave who agreed to lead them to where the Spanish were hiding. They made this slave kill Spanish prisoners so that he knew the Spanish would never accept him back again, but perhaps he was also resentful toward his former masters and was thus eager to do so:
At last they captured a slave, whom they promised to take back to Jamaica, and give him as much money as a man could carry, and Spanish clothes to wear. This prospect suited the Negro very well, and he promptly led them to the hiding places. They let the slave kill some of the prisoners they captured so that he would not run away, and he did great havoc among the Spaniards. (Exquemelin, 150)
Shortly after this, it is said that a Portuguese man was denounced to the buccaneers by his slaves for being wealthy, which resulted in him being nearly tortured to death until he was able to produce 1,000 pieces of eight in (equivalent to something like $50,000). But the buccaneers also appear to have threatened and tortured captured slaves as well to make them reveal things:
When they had finished with the white men, the buccaneers started on the slaves. Eventually they found a slave who promised to bring them to a river which flowed into the lake, where there was a ship and four barques, laden with rich cargo, belonging to Maracaibo. Another slave was denounced as knowing the whereabouts of the governor of Gibraltar and most of the women. This man was instantly seized, but he denied it. When the rovers threatened to hang him, however, he admitted he knew and promised to lead them to the governor. (Exquemelin, 151)
After having been paid a ransom for his white captives, Henry Morgan left Maracaibo and Gibraltar but refused to give back the slaves he had captured since he viewed these as rightful plunder to be sold in Jamaica. However, the one slave mentioned earlier who had been freed and promised rewards in exchange for leading the buccaneers to the Spanish hiding places does appear to have been duly rewarded for his services. When the Spanish offered a very large reward in exchange for this slave back in order to torture him to death as an example, Morgan refused, knowing the Spaniards would have had him “burnt alive if they could have laid hands on him” (153). Another time, after Henry Morgan captured the Spanish city of Panama in 1671, some slaves seem to have joined the buccaneers again in torturing and killing Spanish captives, e.g., “At last, when the wretch [Spanish prisoner] could no longer speak and they [the buccaneers] could think of no new torments, they let a Negro stab him to death with a lance” (200).
For a slightly different type of example, when the notoriously sadistic and violent French buccaneer Francois l’Olonnais was shipwrecked on the coast of Campeche in Mexico in the early 1660s, he enlisted the help of some Spanish slaves by promising them freedom if they took him on a boat back to Tortuga, which they agreed to do and were presumably freed, possibly joining the buccaneers:
Having recovered his strength and bound up his wounds, l’Olonnais approached the outskirts of the city of Campeche, dressed in Spanish clothes. Here he spoke with some slaves, promising them freedom if they would follow his advice. The slaves listened to his words, stole one of their master’s canoes, and put to sea with the buccaneer, sailing for Tortuga. (Exquemelin, 90)
In all of these examples from Exquemelin, there is an obvious practical and opportunistic motive for the buccaneers to accept a few select African slaves to either act as guides or transport them places or even sometimes join their crews.
Another example from this period that mentions what may be the highest ranked full African buccaneer is a man called simply Diego who was a quartermaster aboard the French buccaneer Nicolas Brigaut’s ship in 1686 when they were shipwrecked on the coast of Florida after a failed attack on Spanish settlement of St. Augustine. Most of the buccaneers were massacred by the Spanish, but both Captain Brigaut and Diego were captured alive because they were officers and later executed.
There are only a few examples of someone of African origin that I know of rising to the rank of captain among English, French or Dutch buccaneers during this era. The most notorious of these was a Spanish mulatto called Diego el Mulatto who I’ve written a lengthy post about here, but he seems to have been very unusual and in addition was never a slave, but a mulatto who was born free to a Spanish father, educated, and apparently only turned against the Spanish and became a buccaneer because of legal troubles. He commanded white crews and/or mixed race crews and had an impressively long career spanning several decades from roughly 1630 to the 1640s and then again emerged in the late 1660s and early 1670s before finally being captured and executed by the Spanish in 1673. Another mulatto privateer/buccaneer was “Captain Francis” who served the Dutch in 1674. Much later, a mulatto privateer captain named Francisco Fernando who also owned property and likely slaves in Jamaica was accused of piracy in 1716.
However, while black and mulatto buccaneers and pirates seem to have been quite rare among the English, French and Dutch, an often-neglected way in which they were far more common was aboard and in command of Spanish privateer ships during this same time, who sometimes turned to outright piracy as well against the English, French and Dutch. Unlike in most English, French and Dutch colonies, the majority of the inhabitants of the Spanish colonies were non-white and largely mixed race. It was not at all uncommon for Spanish privateer crews to be majority or almost entirely composed of Indians, blacks, mestizos and mulattos and sometimes these were commanded by mixed race individuals as well. There are many, many examples of this. The mulatto privateer Miguel Enriques active from the beginning of the 1700s to the 1730s was one such individual who commanded a mostly mixed-race crew against the British during the Spanish War of Succession (1702-1713) and later against British pirates during the 1710s and 1720s.
Beginning in the 1670s and continuing progressively until the end of the 1690s, European nations became generally more peaceful with one another and realized that using privateers or buccaneers against each other during times of war was less and less desirable, as after each war concluded these buccaneers would often continue attacking ships, thus halting trade and sometimes leading to a further resumption of hostilities. This was ultimately very bad for trade and thus the English and French governments attempted to crack down on piracy and expanded their standing professional navies to compensate. I’ve written a few posts like this and this and this that go into more detail about how and why this happened, but ultimately what it resulted in was the remaining pirates by the 1710s existing completely outside any rule of law and being universally recognized as renegades by all European nations. Within a decade almost all of this generation of pirates was completely eradicated by the mid-1720s. While there were lots of similarities between the earlier buccaneers and these later “golden age” pirates of the early 18th century, one of the biggest things that set them apart in a way that’s relevant to the topic of this post is that the remaining pirates in this final period were often extremely desperate for recruits since they were little more than hunted criminals on the high seas and not many wished to join them voluntarily. To get recruits, they often resorted to forcing captured sailors to join them and indeed a few famous pirate captains like Bartholomew Roberts started out first having been captured by pirates before joining them.
Pirates of this final period also seem to have forced captured African slaves to join them or at least to do the “drudgery” work aboard ships, as the previously mentioned English buccaneer Basil Ringrose had written about doing on a small scale in the 1680s. Some pirate crews during this period had a high proportion of Africans onboard and this has led to the impression by some that these Africans were treated equally but, just as in the earlier buccaneering period, the reality doesn’t appear to have been so simple. For example, the French pirate Olivier Levasseur was recorded as having a crew made up of half Africans and half whites in 1719 and in 1722 the Welsh pirate Bartholomew Roberts had 70 captured Africans onboard in his ships out of 267 men total (about 25%).
However, a closer look at Bartholomew Roberts and his crew reveals that most of the Africans onboard were probably not free or treated equally and Roberts and his crew are further known for having committed horrific atrocities against captured African slaves who fell into their hands. Roberts himself was a former second mate serving onboard a slave ship when he was captured by pirates in 1719. Given his rank and that he was in his late 30s, he had probably had a long career as a slaver and his later actions are consistent with someone who had absolutely no moral issues with slavery and an outstanding lack of regard for the humanity of black slaves. In January 1722, Roberts captured a British slave ship after it had just finished loading slaves from the west coast of Africa and held it for ransom, but the ship’s owner refused to pay the demanded ransom. In response, Roberts tried to unshackle and load the slaves onto his own ship as a normal part of plunder but when it began taking too long his men simply had the ship burned with the entire cargo of slaves still onboard:
This Ship lay in the Road, almost slaved, when the Pyrates came in, and the Commander being on Shore, settling his Accounts, was sent to for the Ransom, but he excused it, as having no Orders from the Owners; tho’ the true Reason might be, that he thought it dishonourable to treat with Robbers; and that the Ship, separate from the Slaves, towards whom he could mistrust no Cruelty, was not worth the Sum demanded; here upon, Roberts sends the Boat to transport the Negroes, in order to set her on Fire; but being in haste, and finding that unshackling them cost much Time and Labour, they actually set her on Fire, with eighty of those poor Wretches on board, chained two and two together, under the miserable Choice of perishing by Fire or Water … (A General History,Charles Johnson, 235-36)
The above quote is from the book A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyratespublished in 1724 under the name of Charles Johnson, although this was likely a pseudonym for the English publisher Nathanial Mist. Although the reliability of A General History is in some cases very bad as I’ve discussed in this post, the chapter on Bartholomew Roberts is considered to be generally quite reliable and drawn from many contemporary first-hand sources and trial records and this particular incident is confirmed by authentic first-person accounts. Another contemporary account adds an even more sinister detail that the pirates had spent the time to tar the ship’s decks (making it flammable) before setting it alight, indicating that they had perhaps never intended to unload the slaves at all. Other information included in the trials of Bartholomew Roberts’ crew make it pretty clear that the 70 Africans captured onboard in February 1722 were not treated equally and were probably essentially used as slaves. In the trials, “Negroes” rather than white pirates are usually mentioned as being sent to do dangerous and laborious tasks, and Roberts even gave “eight or nine Negroes a-piece” to two other pirate ships as a sort of gift when they came to him seeking “Charity” because they were undersupplied and undermanned. Ultimately at the trial, of the 197 white men captured in Bartholomew Roberts ships, 52 were executed for piracy by hanging, 39 were imprisoned or sentenced to penal servitude and 74 were acquitted and set free having been found not guilty of piracy. All of the 70 Africans found onboard were simply sold back into slavery, indicating that British authorities considered them merely recaptured cargo rather than violently rebellious slaves worthy of death.
It seems hard to get much worse than burning shiploads of people chained below the decks of a ship because the owner of the ship refused to pay a ransom demand. But Bartholomew Roberts and his crew were not the only pirates to do this. In 1717, the English pirate John Martel ran his ship aground on the Caribbean island of St. Croix while being chased by British navy vessels and after abandoning ship he decided to burn it before fleeing inland regardless of the fact that about 20 black slaves were still chained below decks (another 20 slaves managed to get out of their chains and either went with the pirates or ran off somewhere else). When the navy vessel reached the burned out ship they found about ten slaves burned to death and another eight who had escaped onto the shore.
Another famous pirate who next to Bartholomew Roberts is often claimed to have had black crewmembers is Edward Thache, better known as Blackbeard. Of the 18 men Thache had with him during his famous final engagement in which he was killed, 6 of them were black. Unlike in the case of the blacks aboard Bartholomew Roberts’ ships who seem not to have been regarded as pirates and were simply sold back into slavery, all 6 of the blacks onboard Thache’s ship were tried for piracy and hung along with 7 other white pirates (another 9 pirates including Thache had been killed in the engagement and 7 more individuals who hadn’t been on Thache’s ship during the engagement were later arrested and tried as members of his crew).
One myth connected to Blackbeard’s crew is that of the supposed pirate “Black Caesar” who was supposed to have been Blackbeard’s second in command and also sometimes a former African prince who later became a successful black pirate captain, among other things. Most of these claims are not true at all and derive from modern myths and fiction. This is a well-researched paper examining and debunking many of those claims. However, as also pointed out in the paper, there really were 6 black members of Thache’s crew during his final engagement and one of these was called Caesar. It is pretty clear that all six of the blacks executed were slaves or regarded as such since their testimony at the trial was ruled as inadmissible on the grounds that slaves were not allowed to testify against whites. Beyond that, exactly what their actual status and position were among Thache’s crew is a bit more unclear since despite being slaves they were regarded as pirates. There is one famous anecdote included in Charles Johnson’s A General History published 1724 and also in unpublished letters of the governor of North Carolina at the time Alexander Spotswood which may provide some insight:
Teach had little or no Hopes of escaping, and therefore had posted a resolute Fellow, a Negro, whom he had bred up, with a lighted match, in the Powder-Room, with Commands to blow up, when he should give him Orders, which was as soon as the Lieutenant and his Men could have entered, that so he might have destroy’d his Conquerors; and then when the Negro found how it went with Black-beard, he could hardly be persuaded from the rash Action, by two Prisoners that were then in the Hold of the Sloop. (A General History, 85)
From Governor Alexander Spotswood:
His orders were to blow up his own vessell if he should happen to be overcome, and a negro was ready to set fire to the powder, had he not been luckily prevented by a planter forced on board the night before and who lay in the hold of the sloop during the action of the pyrats. Tach with nine of his crew were killed, and three white men and six negros were taken alive but all much wounded. (Calendar of State Papers for America and the West Indies: December 1718)
Nowhere in either of these two accounts is it specific that the negro who was set by Blackbeard to blow up the powder room was the one named Caesar as opposed to any one of the other five blacks onboard, but whether it was him or another isn’t very important. The bit about Thache having “bred up” the negro (in addition to the fact that his testimony was ruled inadmissible at his own trial) further suggests that either he was a slave or had been a slave, although his apparent loyalty to Thache and the fact that Thache trusted him maybe suggests he had been a slave but Thache had freed him or promised to free him as the buccaneer Bartholomew Sharp had done in the 1680s with the loyal negro who died fighting at Arica.
But whether the black pirate who Thache told to blow up the powder room was himself a slave or not, it is undeniable that Thache did own slaves and did readily trade in slaves when he captured them. Edward Thache was born in Bristol in England in about 1682, but his father moved with most of his family including young Thache to Jamaica in the early 1690s where his father set himself up as a somewhat wealthy plantation owner in St. Catherine’s Parish, where records indicate his family owned slaves. The author Baylus C. Brooks in his book Quest For Blackbeard: The true story of Edward Thache and his world has written in much more detail about this from his research. My point is, Thache grew up surrounded by slaves that his family owned and later in life his attitudes seem to have been remained completely fine with it. When he captured slave ships during his career as a pirate captain from 1716-1718, he seems to have treated the slaves merely as captured cargo and sold cargos of slaves on multiple occasions.
Thache’s own quartermaster William Howard (who was not with Thache during his final engagement and barely managed to avoid hanging) got into some legal trouble in North Carolina shortly before Thache’s final engagement when two “negro boys” that he owned were seized by an officer and accused of being taken during piracy. Howard protested they were his legitimate property and aggressively pressed the case, bringing a lawsuit against the officer who confiscated the boys and demanding their return, eventually making himself such a nuisance that the local “justices of the peace” or law enforcers tried to have him kidnapped and pressganged onboard a ship. But Howard evaded them and still refused to let it go, steadfastly resisting and taking his complaints to a higher court to give him a fair hearing, but the court was quickly able to bring new charges against him for piracy by producing evidence that he had in fact engaged in acts of piracy well after January 12, 1718, which was the expiration date for the Royal Pardon for piracy issued the previous year. Howard was then sentenced to death, but then arbitrarily pardoned a few weeks later, although with the two slaves and 50 pounds that he originally had in his possession confiscated. This example is bizarre and overly convoluted but it at least serves to show how incredibly arrogant and militant to the point of stupidity some pirates could be about their ownership of black slaves.
The pirate Stede Bonnet who was an associate and rival of Edward Thache during 1717-18 also had some interactions with blacks. Generally, Bonnet seems to have treated blacks as slaves when they fell into his hands, or sometimes giving them the choice to either join his crew or be used as slaves. One example of this was a free mulatto named Thomas Gerrard from the British Caribbean island of Antigua who had been serving onboard a sailing ship when Stede Bonnet captured him. Gerrard was indicted for piracy but argued his innocence at his trial in 1718, testifying that the pirates had threatened him to either join his crew or be used as a slave:
Some time after we were taken, one of the men [pirates] came and asked if I would join them? I told them, “No.” He said I was but like a Negro, and they made slaves of all of that color, if they did not join.” (quoted in Little, 209)
Presented with this choice Gerrard joined the pirates under duress and signed his name to their articles, but he refused to share in their plunder and resolved to “get clear of them at the first opportunity.” He was eventually acquitted of all charges and set free. Benerson Little writes in conclusion:
The fact is, Gerrard was treated better by a white judge and jury imbued with the common racism of the age than he was by pirates, who took men of color into their crews and are believed to have been ahead of their time in regard to race. The former gave Gerrard his freedom; the latter offered him only a choice between slavery and crime—with a noose waiting at the end. …
For actual slaves, though, the choice may have been clearer, with piracy preferred to slavery. … (Little, 210)
Another way that slaves were sometimes made use of by pirates during this period was to have them carry out illegal activities for them like smuggling and illegally looting Spanish shipwrecks because, as has been already mentioned, the testimony of slaves against whites was usually considered inadmissible in court. So having slaves do the brunt of dangerous illegal activities like smuggling was sometimes an appealing option. The author Baylus C. Brooks writes:
Hiring slaves was a safe method, for slaves could not testify against whites – and, it was better than doing the work themselves. One Captain Barret hired slaves from South Carolina residents, including wealthy residents Richard and Katherine Tookerman to fish the Spanish wrecks. Some of these slaves were eventually carried by “pirates” to the Bahamas. (Brooks, 220)
On the subject of the Bahamas and the Island of Providence which was home to the famous supposed “pirate republic” of Nassau until July 1718, another interesting subject to bring up again that I briefly mentioned before is in regards to fears from slave owners that slaves would revolt to join the pirates. In May 1718, Benjamin Bennet the governor of Bermuda wrote about this fear that the slaves there would revolt and join the pirates in Nassau:
…and as for the negro men they are grown soe very impudent and insulting of late that we have reason to suspect their riseing, soe that we can have noe dependence on their assistance but to the contrary on occasion should fear their joyning with the pirates. (Calendar of State Papers of America and West Indies: May 1718)
This to some extent echoes Spanish fears of their native and black slaves revolting in Chile in face of buccaneer invasion during the 1680s, so strong in one case that the Spanish massacred all their native slaves on one occasion in anticipation of the Buccaneers’ arrival. As in that case, I think these fears were probably unfounded if not even far more so than those of the Spanish in Chile since the pirates of the 1710s were much less powerful and numerous and weren’t even equipped to capture small towns by force. As it happens, the briefly existing pirate base in Nassau was invaded by the British navy under Woodes Roger the very next month after this was written, thus putting an end to even that remotest possibility. I think it’s funny and probably very revealing to further note that Governor Benjamin Bennett immediately follows his statement about his fears of slaves joining the pirates by asking the British government for two companies of 100 men each and a warship to defend the colony along with supplies and money to sustain them. That sounds ~a lot~ a little like he was just exaggerating things to try to get more assistance for the colony he governed even though it wasn’t necessary. Hmmm….
Lastly, maybe a few final illustrative examples I can cite regarding pirates and race would be the several pirate settlements established on Madagascar from the 1690s to 1720s which I’ve written pretty extensively about in this post. In the early 1690s, a former pirate named Adam Baldridge established a small trading post in Madagascar after subduing the natives with superior weaponry. He then traded with passing ships and especially pirate ships in the region who used him to launder their stolen goods back to the American colonies, which also included slaves. Eventually when Baldridge had amassed enough personal wealth he decided to leave Madagascar and return to the American colonies, but before he left he treacherously deceived a number of cooperative natives to come with him in his ship who he then put in chains and sold as slaves once they were out to sea. Hearing a rumor of this, the remaining natives at St. Marys revolted against the pirates and rose and massacred many while forcing the survivors to flee. Some of these surviving pirates went south to the southern part of Madagascar where a mulatto pirate named Abraham Samuel and his crew established a small settlement while living with a local tribe. But Samuel died in 1705 and his settlement disappeared immediately after.
Over a decade later in 1720, another pirate named John Plantain and 60-70 other pirates decided to create their own fiefdoms around the northwestern part of Madagascar. They quickly gained military supremacy over the natives with their guns and fortifications as Baldridge had and quickly came to dominate the area. Soon they had violent fallings out with each other and with other natives, and over the years John Plantain proved the strongest and most brutal warlord, eradicating other pirate warlords and native rulers who opposed him and coming to dominate most of Madagascar. Plantain’s regime was astonishingly brutal with massacres of hundreds of native women and children people who showed the slightest opposition or sided with his enemies. He clearly had no hang-ups about slavery and kept a personal harem of enslaved native women (on the subject of race and sexual violence: on at least one occasion, pirates unchained slaves aboard a captured ship only to rape the women, and earlier Plantain and his companions had stopped at a native village along the west coast of Africa where the locals quickly drove them out after its implied they committed many kidnappings and rapes of local women and the pirates also burned the village down in revenge before they left). Eventually Plantain fled Madagascar in 1728 in the face of imminent native revolt and settled in India.
In summary I’m going to conclude with one last passage from Benerson Little that I think sums up the actions of pirates regarding race:
If pirates were truly antislavery, they would not have sold so many as slaves, including freemen and women of color, as they all did. They would not have ransomed slaves back to their slave ship captains, as many did. And they would never have burned a cargo of slaves to death, or let those who jumped overboard drown, because they were in too much of a hurry to unshackle them, as Bartholomew Roberts did—and Roberts is the pirate often noted as hating slave-ship captains, and thus by inference making him an antislavery pirate.
But Roberts and his ilk were nothing of the sort. They were somewhat ahead of their time, as compared to their fellow men and women in the English, French, and Dutch colonies, in that they sometimes freed slaves and brought them into their crews as equals. In no way, however, did they oppose the slave trade. Rather, they engaged in it extensively because it was profitable to do so. Profit, after all, was the pirate’s ultimate motivation. (Little, 211)
Part 2: Native Americans
On the subject of Native Americans or Indians and pirates during this period, there was a long and fascinating history of English buccaneers along the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras taking native Miskito Indians along with them on their voyages. The English buccaneers usually had a friendly relationship with the Miskito beginning around the 1630s. The main reason they became natural allies was because of their mutual hostility toward the Spanish. I’ve written much more about the relationship between English buccaneers and Miskito Indians in this post.
This is an account of one of these Miskito Indians working with buccaneers mentioned by Exquemelin circa 1650s:
At midnight on the third night they reached the town. The sentry took them for fishers from the lagoon, for several of the rovers spoke good Spanish. Also, they had an Indian with them who used to live there and had fled because the Spaniards wanted to make him a slave. This Indian sprang on shore, approached the sentry and murdered him. Then they all landed and paid a visit to the mansions of three or four of the principal citizens. (Exquemelin, 84)
One of the aforementioned Basil Ringrose’s friends and fellow buccaneers was the English buccaneer William Dampier who also published a journal of his voyages in 1697. In the following excerpt, Dampier gives a detailed account of the role of Miskito Indians among buccaneers during the 1680s:
Having made mention of the Moskito Indians, it may not be amiss to conclude this Chapter with a short account of them. They are tall, well-made raw-bon’d, lusty, strong, and nimble of Foot, long-visaged, lank black Hair, look stern, hard favour’d, and of a dark Copper-colour complexion. … They are very ingenious at throwing the Lance, Fisgig, Harpoon, or any manner of Dart, being bred to it from their Infancy; … They have extraordinary good Eyes, and will descry a Sail at Sea farther, and see any Thing better than we. … For this [hunting] they are esteemed and coveted by all Privateers; for one or two of them in a Ship, will maintain 100 Men … it is very rare to find Privateers destitute of one or more of them, when the commander or most of the Men are English; but they do not love the French, and the Spaniards they hate mortally. When they come among Privateers, they get the use of Guns, and prove very good Marks-Men: they behave themselves very bold in fight, and never seem to flinch or hang back; for they think that the white Men with whom they are, know better than they do when it is best to fight, let the disadvantage of their Party be never so great, they will never yield nor give back while any of their Party stand.… The Moskito’s are in general very civil and kind to the English, of whom they receive a great deal of Respect, both when they are aboard their Ships, and also ashore, either in Jamaica, or elsewhere, whither they often come with the Seamen. We always humour them, letting them go any whither as they will, and return to their Country in any Vessel bound that way, if they please. … They have no form of Government among them, but acknowledge the King of England for their Sovereign. They learn our Language, and take the Governour of Jamaica to be one of the greatest Princes in the World. (Dampier, 15-17)
As you’ll notice in the above quote, while Dampier says the English buccaneers were friendly with the Miskito, he says the French often were not. In the second part of my long post about buccaneers and Native Americans, I quote a long excerpt from the buccaneer William Dampier’s journal describing “John Gret,” a native of the San Blas Islands, who was kidnapped and raised by English buccaneers and Miskito Indians and later helped to forge an alliance between the San Blas natives and English buccaneers against the Spanish. However, this had a somewhat tragic ending. John Gret was apparently under the impression that all the buccaneers were friendly to the natives so when a strange French buccaneer ship approached the islands, he happily ventured out with some companions to greet them. He spoke fluent English which surprised the French but they still tried to capture him and his companions to sell as slaves. Noticing this, Gret and his companions jumped overboard to escape but were then shot to death in the water. When the English buccaneers heard about this, they realized there was nothing they could do so they hid it from the rest of the San Blas natives who assumed John Gret and his companions had been killed by the Spanish, thus avoiding hostilities.
However, Dampier’s assertion that the Miskito were not friendly with the French but only the English doesn’t seem to be entirely true and I think it might be subtle propaganda to advance English claims of sovereignty over the Miskito which is a situation I discuss more in my previous post. In summary, the British government recognized the Miskito people as a sovereign nation during the 17th century up until the early 20th century when the area occupied by the Miskito became the modern country of Belize. Another reason the buccaneers may have exaggerated their friendly relations with the Indians may have been because they sought on several occasions to use the natives in an attempt to legitimize their own acts of piracy against the Spanish. William Dampier himself along with Ringrose and others did this during the 1680s, when, although lacking English privateering commissions against the Spanish, claimed to have been authorized by the native kings themselves against the Spanish. The buccaneer captain Richard Sawkins reportedly took this as far as stating this in reply to the Spanish governor when he was blockading the harbor of Panama in 1680:
To this message Captain Sawkins made answer, “That we came to assist the king of Darien, who was the true lord of Panama, and all the country thereabouts: and that since we were come so far, it was no reason but that we should have some satisfaction. So that if he pleased to send us five hundred pieces of eight for each man, and one thousand for each commander, and not any further to annoy the Indians, but suffer them to use their own power and liberty, as became the true and natural lords of the country, that then we would desist from further hostilities, and go away peaceably; otherwise that we should stay there, and get what we could, causing them what damage was possible.” (Ringrose, 206)
When the Spanish replied that he couldn’t be serious and demanded to see his actual privateering commission, Sawkins responded with a threat:
To this message, Captain Sawkins sent back for an answer, “That, as yet, all his company were not come together; but that, when they were come up, we would come and visit him at Panama, and bring our commissions on the muzzles of our guns, at which time he should read them, as plain as the flames of gunpowder could make them.” (Ringrose, 206)
On the other hand, the famous French buccaneer Francois l’Olonnais (mentioned earlier as having enlisted several black slaves to help him in exchange for their freedom) is known to have ruthlessly pillaged many native Indian villages along the coasts of Central America during the 1660s. When l’Olonnais was finally shipwrecked for the second time in his career on an island off the coast of Honduras, his men found themselves attacked by the natives there and one was ambushed and killed. After they managed to construct a small makeshift boat, l’Olonnais left with a party of men to get help for the rest of the castaways. However, l’Olonnais and his men were soon ambushed on the coast and almost all of them were killed by Indians — l’Olonnais himself, according to Exquemelin, was even cannibalized by them. Clearly, relations were not always so amicable.
Alexandre Exquemelin himself came into conflict with natives on the coast of Costa Rica in the early 1670s before arriving at the territory of the Miskito when some black female slaves that the buccaneers had with them were ambushed and killed by Indians while filling up casks of water on shore. Exquemelin writes:
The ship was nearly ready, and the women were sent to fill up the water-casks with all speed. At break of day they went with their pots to the wells, two of the girls walking some way behind the others, plucking fruit from the trees to eat. Suddenly, they heard from the wood the shrieks of their companions. Thinking some creature had bitten them, the girls ran forward to help, but before they reached the spot they saw a band of Indians coming out of the wood. Instantly they dropped their pots and began to run, screaming, ’Indios! Indios!’
We immediately seized our guns and rushed to the place where the girls said they had seen the Indians. Here we found the bodies of the two Negro women, each stuck with twelve or thirteen arrows; they had been shot through the body, the neck and the legs. It seemed as if the savages had taken delight in transfixing them with arrows, for the first one alone would have been sufficient to kill them. (Exquemelin, 216-17)
The Indians in this place seem to have been particularly unfriendly. Exquemelin writes that a few years earlier other buccaneers had come into violent conflict with the same natives here, some buccaneers being killed and the rest being forced to retreat after attempting to follow the Indians into the forest. Exquemelin writes of these Indians:
In my opinion, the reason why the Indians shun all contact with strangers is that when the Spaniards first came to this country they subjected the inhabitants to such cruelty they looked on the conquerors with terror, and fled into the interior. Here they live in the wilderness, without cultivating the land, living only on fish from the river and fruit from the trees. After their experiences they dare trust no white men, looking on them all as Spaniards. Indeed, they could not trust the other Indians even, for some tribes had taken sides with the Spanish, and cruelly tormented their fellow countrymen. (Exquemelin, 214)
Later Exquemelin’s party stole a canoe from these Indians when the Indians tried to run away but the buccaneers chased them:
After a while we noticed an Indian canoe, with four men aboard. As soon as the men cought sight of us, they made back for the shore with all speed. We promptly gave chase, to see if there was any chance of trading with them for foodstuffs.
But these Indians will have no dealings with Christians. They beached their canoe and, as soon as they had jumped ashore, picked up their boat and ran away. We persued them so hotly they were forced to abandon the canoe, which nevertheless the four of them had managed to carry 200 paces into the forest. This canoe weighed at least a ton, so that we were amazed at the men’s strength — we had enough to do, the eleven of us, to carry it back again to the water.
When the Indians saw us carrying off their canoe, they started screaming at the tops of their voices. We fired at the places where the voices came from, but to what effect we could not tell. We dared not go far into the woods, there are so many Indians on this islet.
The practice of stealing canoes from Indians seems to have been fairly common among buccaneers. Later during the 1680s, the Dutch buccaneer Jan Willems, known as Yanky, send a detachment of men to steal canoes from Indians in Florida in preparation for his planned attack on the Spanish settlement of St. Augustine. From the narrative of Henry Pitman published 1689 who came into contact with Buccaneers:
That they formerly belonged to one Captain Yanche, Commander of a Privateer of 48 guns, that designed to plunder a Spanish town by the Gulf of Florida, called St. Augustine. And in order thereunto, he sent 30 of them out into the Gulf of Florida, to take canoes from the Indians; for the more convenient and speedy landing of their men. But they going ashore on the Main to turn turtle [on their backs], were set upon by Indians, and two of them killed on that place. However, at length, they put the Indians to flight; and some time afterwards, took two or three canoes, and one Indian prisoner: who conducted them to his own and his father’s plantations, on condition they would afterwards set him free; where they stored themselves with provisions and other necessaries. But it cost them dear. For their Quartermaster and one more of the company were poisoned, by their unwary eating of cassava roots. (Pitman, 454)
Just as relations between buccaneers and natives were not always friendly, natives did not always side with the Buccaneers against the Spanish. Just as often, the natives joined the Spanish against the Buccaneers. When Henry Morgan invaded Panama in 1671, he was opposed by several thousand Spanish militias strengthened by hundreds of indigenous Darien Indians who fought against him with bows and arrows, some quite fanatically:
One band of Indians stood their ground and fought, until at last their chief fell wounded. Yet even then he tried to rise and run a buccaneer through the body with his spear — but was shot before he could land the blow, and fell amid three or four other Indian dead. Though the buccaneers tried to take prisoners they had no luck, because the Indians were quicker on their feet. In this encounter eight rovers were killed and ten wounded…. (Exquemelin, 191)
When English and French buccaneers raided the Pacific coasts of Mexico in the 1680s, they were often opposed by thousands of Spanish Indians, mestizos, and mulattos along with Spanish colonial troops. Even the Indians who helped to guide Ringrose and his companions across the Isthmus of Panama in 1680 eventually turned against the Buccaneers after their chiefs were tricked and captured by the Spanish who then forced them into obedience.
After the “buccaneering era” came to an end in the 1690s with increasing permanent naval presence and major crackdowns on pirates operating without valid commissions, the era of professional privateers or pirates like the Buccaneers went into decline and as such I think some of the established contacts between Indians like the Miskito and Caribbean buccaneers went into decline as well. To be sure there were plenty of Europeans and especially English still visiting and in some cases living with the Indians on the coasts of Central America, but they didn’t tend to be outright pirates as much, instead of engaging in other illegal activities like harvesting logwood that the Spanish claimed as their own. Even so, the English captain Natheniel Uring describing the English logwood cutters on the coasts of Central America like this:
The Wood-Cutters are generally a rude drunken Crew, some of which have been Pirates, and most of them Sailors; their chief Delight is in drinking; and when they broach a Quarter Cask or Hogshead of Wine, they seldom stir from it while there is a Drop left…. (Uring, 355)
A lot of pirates during this period were not part of the logwood cutter communities at all, and even if they were the Miskito were not stupid and given their familiarity with English society would have quickly realized that English pirates were ultimately enemies of the British government and wouldn’t have wanted to join them willingly since their allegiance was supposed to be with Britain. There is only one instance I know of where a Miskito Indian named John Julian joined pirates in the 1710s and he was very atypical. He wasn’t even a full-blooded Miskito but a half-breed Miskito and African called a Zambo, and he was only a young teenager. The odd thing about Julian is that he may have actually been a slave of the Miskito who escaped to join the Buccaneers or was even bought from the Miskito by the pirate Samuel Bellamy as a slave.
For a final digression, the history of Africans and their relationship with Miskito Indians is one that goes back to some time in the early 17th century when slaves rebelled and staged a mutiny aboard a ship they were being transported on before running aground in the Miskito’s territory. The survivors were then enslaved by the Miskito and eventually a separate group called the Miskito Sambu formed slowly over generations and some integrated with the Miskito to form a separate caste of “zambos” or mixed-race Africans and Native Americans. The buccaneer Alexandre Exquemelin who lived with the Miskito for a while in the 1670s writes:
These Indians form a little republic, having no chief over them whom they acknowledge as lord or king. The land they possess is some thirty leagues in circumference. They have no friendship with their neighbors, and none at all the Spaniards, who are great enemies of theirs. They are few in number, not more than fifteen or sixteen hundred. Among them are some Negroes whom they keep as slaves. These people had seized control of a ship and were endeavoring to escape in it when they ran aground near the cape, and the Indians promptly made them all slaves again.(Exquemelin, 220)
Perhaps because of the Miskitos’ familiarity with enslaving Africans in their own territory, when African slave revolts broke out on the British island of Jamaica during the 1720s and Maroon rebels were threatening the plantations, 200 Miskito were hired and shipped over as mercenaries where they were paid 40 shillings a month (something like $400 today) and given a pair of shoes to hunt down escaped slaves living in the interior of the island, which according to the English merchant captain Nathaniel Uring they were very successful at and “were sent home again well pleased.” Uring continues:
I being then in Jamaica, had the story from them as follows: When they were out in search of the run-away negroes, and having some white men for their guides who knew the country, one of them seeing a wild hog, shot it; at which the Musketoe [Miskito] Indians were much displeased, telling them, that was not the way to surprise the negroes, for if there were anything within hearing of that gun they would immediately fly, and they should not be able to take any of them; and told them, if they wanted any provisions they would kill some with their lances, or bows and arrows, which made no noise. (Uring, 272)
The Buccaneers of America by Alexandre Exquemelin published 1678
The Voyages and adventures of Capt. Barth. Sharp and others by John Cox, published 1684
History of the Buccaneers by Basil Ringrose published 1685
A relation of the great sufferings and strange adventures of Henry Pitman by Henry Pitman, published 1689
A New Voyage Round the World by William Dampier, published 1697
A history of the voyages and travels of Capt. Nathaniel Uring by Natheniel Uring, published 1724
A General History of the Pyrates by Charles Johnson, published 1724
The Golden Age of Piracy: The truth behind pirate myths by Bernson Little
Quest for Blackbeard: The true story of Edward Thache and his world by Baylus C. Brooks
Ghost of the Gallows: The historical record of Black Caesar by Devin Leigh
The Great Expedition: Sir Francis Drake on the Spanish Main 1585-86 by Angus Konstam
All credit for this explanation goes to Reddit user /u/Elphinstone1842, I hope it was an interesting read for you too as for us at Mobiviki. Share your thoughts if you like it!