Manuel Barcia (Leeds) - The Portuguese ship Arrogante was captured in late November 1837 by the HMS Snake, off the coast of Cape San Antonio in Cuba. At the time of her capture, the Arrogante had more than 330 Africans on board, who had all been embarked at Gallinas. All of them were liberated soon after the vessel reached Montego Bay, Jamaica, where soon after their arrival, a chilling mystery surrounding the alleged practices carried out by her captain and crew were also brought to the attention of the local authorities. Shortly after landing, the captain and crew were accused of killing an African man, cooking his flesh, and serving it to the rest of the slaves on board. Additionally, they were also accused of eating the heart and liver of the murdered man.
The examination of the story of what happened on the Arrogante constitutes another example that supports the case of historians who currently claim that the atrocities committed by the slavers were more common than what we have thought thus far. It also raises the question of why the slavers would sacrifice whom they hoped to sell upon their arrival in Cuba. This case also highlights the questionable impartiality of Jamaican magistrates, courts and authorities at the time that coincided with the final emancipation of the slaves in the British West Indies, and the paper discusses the weight and credibility given to testimonies received from African slaves, most of whom in this case were children.
Manuel Barcia is Professor of Latin American History at the University of Leeds. He is a specialist on the history of slavery in the Atlantic world and his most recent book is West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba: Soldier Slaves in the Atlantic World, 1807-1844.
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