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By Christine E. Sears (auth.)

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Extra info for American Slaves and African Masters: Algiers and the Western Sahara, 1776–1820

Example text

Both Foss and Captain Richard O’Brien sent letters to their mothers, and O’Brien’s “aged mother” returned at least one epistle. Isaac Stephens dispatched one communiqué to a brother and accepted three from his Boston family. Exactly which family member or members wrote to him is unknown, though it seems likely that his wife, Hannah, sent at least one letter. First mate Alexander Forsyth collected one letter apiece from an aunt and uncle, as he reported in a note to Peter Bright, whom he referred to as a distant relative.

But nothing indicated that Americans converted to Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, or Islam. Few American slaves discussed religion in their writing, making it difficult to judge whether or not priests proselytized. The Ottoman Algerian government permitted Christians to proselytize as long as other Christians were their targets rather than Muslims or Christian renegades. No American slave claimed that a Catholic priest tried to convince him to convert. ” Certainly, enslaved Americans did not petition officials about religious services or lacking a minister’s attention.

Nevertheless, I find that slaveries and slaves fit best in these historical settings, and thus I use those terms throughout this book. I situate the North and West African systems in a Mediterranean and Ottoman context while calling in African and New World comparisons to highlight how these slaveries function. These comparisons give a stronger sense of the particular nature of the victims’ experiences and the historical context for them. While the comparisons point out how very different these slaveries were, they also reveal surprising similarities.

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