The topic of slavery conjures up all kinds of horrific images within the minds of decent people.
For most of us, it is difficult to understand how anyone could ever justify enslaving another human being. Even worse is how some of the enslaved were harshly treated.
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The act of enslaving people has been an ugly blight on the entire history of humankind. It has affected virtually all races, both genders, and every age group¹. Sadly, slavery is still alive and well in our world today².
The current outlook of slavery within the United States is influenced by those who were enslaved during the history of early America. As we all know, most of these slaves were shipped from Africa to meet the labor needs of a growing nation.
The story of slavery is a source of great shame for the majority of Americans, but the fact that it happened cannot be erased — we can only learn from it and make a commitment to do better in the future.
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Not as many people are aware that there were also black slave owners — and some of them were quite powerful. Here are five (5) of those black slave owners:
Antoine Dubuclet was a wealthy man when he died in 1887. He was considered as one of the wealthiest men in the entire South — more so than his white neighbors. Historians claimed he was worth about $265,000, which was some 200 times greater than the average annual income during those times.
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In addition to the land he owned, he also had a large number of slaves. Unlike most black slave owners during those times, Dubuclet was born to free parents in 1810. His father was a part-owner of a sugar plantation that was near Baton Rouge.
After his father died, Dubuclet took the reins at the plantation. In addition to the land, he inherited about 70 slaves. The business continued to grow, and by 1860, it was one of the biggest sugar plantations in Louisiana and had over 100 slaves working in the fields.
Not only was Andrew Durnford a man of color, but he was also a doctor and a plantation owner. During the 1820s, he built and grew a sugar empire in Louisiana. He also owned dozens of slaves as well. Historians also claim that he believed that the slavery system was necessary and just.
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Born in New Orleans in the year 1800, Durnford’s father was an Englishman, and his mother was a free woman of color. When the Louisiana Purchase was completed, Durnford received automatic citizenship of the United States. He enjoyed an impressive education and was fluent in both English and French.
Durnford’s father passed away when he was a young man. He later befriended a white merchant from New Orleans named John McDonogh. Through this relationship, Durnford obtained enough credit to increase his plantation business.
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The Durnford plantation continued to grow over the years. Records indicate that he paid $7000 for five female slaves, seven male slaves, and two slave children. Shortly after, he obtained two dozen more slaves from Virginia to work his plantation. It is believed that Durnford, at one time, had over 80 slaves, literally earning him a fortune from their hard work.
John Carruthers Stanly⁵
As with lots of slave children from plantations, no one is sure of John Carruthers Stanly’s parentage. It is believed that he was born during March in 1795 as a bastard son of John Wright, who was a well-known merchant and trader from New Bern, North Carolina. His mother was a slave that had been working at a neighboring plantation. Fortunately for him, his slave owners treated their slaves more kindly than most.
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Because of the circumstances, Stanly got to learn a trade as a slave, as he became a barber. His owners allowed him to cut hair part-time whenever his plantation work was done. He was able to save his money, and at age 21, he bought his freedom.
Then In 1801, Stanly purchased his wife and also two slave children as well. This allowed him to become legally married within the State of North Carolina. He later bought his brother’s freedom and focused on expanding his barbershop.
Stanly eventually bought some land near New Bern to expand his business interests even further. He went on to own over 160 slaves.
Marie Therese Metoyer⁶
Marie Therese Metoyer had been living in Kongo when she met Claude Metoyer, a Frenchman who became her future husband. This happened during a time when interracial marriages were taboo and seen as immoral. They later moved to Louisiana.
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Since their marriage wasn’t sanctioned or approved of by polite society, Marie was seen as her husband’s slave. After several years passed and after six children, Marie divorced from her husband, and he moved back to France. Marie then started a new tobacco plantation.
Marie’s leadership allowed the Metoyer family to prosper greatly as the plantation continued to grow. After some time, the Metoyers had more slaves than anyone in their county. Records show that they owned 287 slaves in the year 1830.
In the year 1862, William Ellison was not only a large slave owner in the state of South Carolina; he was one of the wealthiest slave owners as well. Born as a slave, he was fortunate to have been purchased by a white slave owner that gave him a proper education. When he turned 26 years old, his master freed him. He then began building a cotton plantation.
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However, he earned the lion share of his fortune by “breeding slaves” even though it was not legal in many Southern states. Ellison would secretly sell off most of his female slaves but would retain a select few for breeding purposes. He would usually keep most of his young males because they could perform the most work on his plantation.
Ellison had the reputation of being a very harsh master. His slaves were usually hungry and poorly clothed. He maintained a building on his land that had no windows where he could chain slaves that had misbehaved.
: The History Press. Slavery in history. https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/slavery-in-history/.
: Kate Hodal. (February 25, 2019). One in 200 people is a slave. Why? https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/feb/25/modern-slavery-trafficking-persons-one-in-200.
: Thomas Clarkin. (February 2000). Dubuclet, Antoine. https://www.anb.org/view/10.1093/anb/9780198606697.001.0001/anb-9780198606697-e-0401232.
: Vito Mussomeli. (November 20, 2018). A Black Sugar Planter in the Old South. https://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/review/a-black-sugar-planter-in-the-old-south/.
: NC Dept of Cultural Resources. (March 12, 2016). John Carruthers Stanly, Black Master of New Bern. https://www.ncdcr.gov/blog/2016/03/12/john-carruthers-stanly-black-master-of-new-bern.
: Steven J. Niven. (March 10, 2015). A Cane River Tale: From Slave to Free Woman to Slave Owner. https://www.theroot.com/a-cane-river-tale-from-slave-to-free-woman-to-slave-ow-1790859045.
: The History Engine. Blacks Owning Blacks: The Story of William Ellison. https://historyengine.richmond.edu/episodes/view/6699.