During the ‘ Golden Age of Piracy’ Some estimate that nearly 5,000 pirates hunted prey between 1715 and 1726. Of that number, about twenty-five to thirty percent came from the cimarrons, black slaves who ran from their Spanish masters. Other blacks joined after pirates attacked slave ships. For example, when Sam Bellamy and his fellow pirates seized a “Guinea Ship,” twenty-five blacks went on the account. Stede Bonnet’s crew also included former slaves and freemen, and of the eighty sea rovers who followed John Lewis were numbered at least forty blacks from English colonies. Francis Sprigg’s cook was black and entrusted with dividing the spoils equally for the crew.
Not all black pirates were known by name. For example, thirty men escaped enslavement on Saint Thomas and went on the account in August 1699. A mulatto amongst Stede Bonnet’s crew had a confrontation with a white sailor who refused to sign the articles of agreement. After cursing the man, the black pirate wondered “why I did not go to the pump and work among the rest, and told me that was my Business and that I should be used as a Negroe.” (Kinkor, 199) Captain Bonnet overheard the exchange and concurred with the pirate – a man was either a sea rover or a slave, regardless of his color or status.
In his article “Black Men under the Black Flag,” maritime historian Ken Kinkor includes a chart listing various pirate captains and how many blacks were members of their crews. It can be said that the crews of some of the most successful pirates, including Samuel Bellamy and Blackbeard, were largely made up of ex-slaves.
- Samuel Bellamy (1717) – more than 27 out of 180 men
- Edward England (1718) – less than 50 out of 180 men
- Edward Lowther (1724) – 9 out of 23 men
- Blackbeard (1717) – 60 out of 100; (1718) – 5 out 14
- Oliver La Bouche (1719) – 32 out of 64 men
These five pirate crews are but a small sampling of those listed, and they indicate these men were active members of the crew. Sometimes, they were the most fearsome and most trusted of the pirates, the men who boarded prizes first. They did not, however, always receive the same punishment as other pirates when captured. Whereas their comrades often went to the gallows, black pirates were often returned to the men who owned them, or they were sold into slavery. This was the fate of John Julian, a Miskito Indian, after he survived the wrecking of The Whydah Galley. Rather than try him for piracy, he became the property of John Quincy of Braintree
Black Caesar (died 1718) perhaps one most famous pirates of African descent The story goes that he is one of the only pirates that didn’t spill his guts when captured. For nearly a decade, he raided shipping from the Florida Keys and later served as one of Captain Blackbeard’s chief lieutenants aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge. He was one of the surviving members of Blackbeard’s crew following his death at the hands of Lieutenant Robert Maynard in 1718. Caesar’s Rock, one of three islands located north of Key Largo, is the present-day site of his original headquarters and named in his honor.
Henri Caesar a Haitian slave (Also known as Black Caeser)
Assisted in the removal of slave holders alongside L’Ouverture and his followers during the haitain revolution .Later, Caesar and his men took over a Spanish ship moored offshore, and thus became pirates in the Caribbean (much unlike Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise movies). When things got too dangerous in his native waters, he took off for the Florida Keys.
Now, he is said to haunt Key Largo and is apparently an honored guest at the Key Largo Piratesfest.