JAMAICA | The Zong and a 21st Century Defense of an Investor in the Royal African Company

JAMAICA | The Zong and a 21st Century Defense of an Investor in the Royal African Company

KINGSTON, December 22, 2021 - The town of Black River in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, holds a special place in the bosom of of our ancestors, as today is yet another anniversary of the arrival of the slave trading ship the Zong at Black River on December 22, 1781.

Professor Verene A. Shepherd. Social Historian. Member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Host of Talking History on Nationwide 90FM.Professor Verene A. Shepherd. Social Historian. Member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Host of Talking History on Nationwide 90FM.In light of this, I take this opportunity to urge the people of Black River to ensure that those responsible do maintain this sacred monument erected there in 2007 to memorialize the Africans from Ghana thrown overboard and those who disembarked at the nearby port.

I also urge the schools and other educational institutions in Jamaica to ensure that all students are taught the story of the Zong, which left Ghana with 442 enslaved Africans on18 August 1781 but arrived with 208, 132 of the original number having been murdered through deliberate drowning by the crew in the hope of a successful insurance claim.

The survivors were sold into slavery in January 1782 at an average price of £36 per person. This was only one of the many tragedies, if the most horrendous, that characterized the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans from the time Queen Elizabeth 1st supported John Hawkins’ slaving expeditions in the 1560s, through King Charles II granting a charter to the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa in 1660 (which was recapitalized and re-emerged in 1672 as the Royal African Company) to the ending of the trade, and chattel enslavement, in the 19th century.

The Zong Memorial Black River - This plaque is placed as a lasting and solemn tribute to the 133 African Ancestors who were massacred by Captain and crew of the slave ship Zong during it’s voyage to Jamaica- November 29 – December 1, 1781. This site is the Black River Slave Market.The Zong Memorial Black River - This plaque is placed as a lasting and solemn tribute to the 133 African Ancestors who were massacred by Captain and crew of the slave ship Zong during it’s voyage to Jamaica- November 29 – December 1, 1781. This site is the Black River Slave Market.Interestingly enough, centuries after its formation, the Royal African Company (RAC) is back in the news as Jesus College, University of Cambridge, is set to make its case for the removal from the College chapel of the memorial to Tobias Rustat (1608-1694), an investor in the RAC and one of the largest benefactors of the college, against “objectors”, before an Ecclesiastical Court of the Church of England in the Diocese of Ely in early February 2022.

 This process is being followed because the chapel is a Grade I listed building (by historical and architectural importance) and changes to it fall under Faculty Jurisdiction Rules operated by the Church of England.

So even as Jamaicans reflect on the plight of those who perished in the African holocaust, others are set to defend someone who was involved in a company that,  according to historian William Pettigrew shipped more enslaved African women, men and children than any other single institution during the transatlantic slave trade, when this should be a time of global reckoning for centuries of crimes against humanity.

Verene A. Shepherd.

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