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This is a list of Black officers employed by English traders in West Africa. This record is just one page from the extensive archives of the Royal African Company.

The Royal African Company (RAC) was formed in 1660 by the royal Stuart family and City of London merchants. Trade focused on the west coast of Africa with a primary interest in trade for gold. That focus would shift to human trade. The RAC shipped more African slaves to the Americas than any other company in the history of the Atlantic slave trade. By 1752 its assets were transferred to the newly formed African Company of Merchants that would operate until 1821. The page I’ve shared has to be from a company ledger produced after 1765.

Many company records have been digitized and are accessible via a genealogical database. It is interesting to peruse these records and see the number of Black men employed by the company. These men listed may have been stationed at the trading post, Cape Coast Castle.

Cape Coast Castle (as rebuilt by the British in 18th century), Ghana

The first man, Cudjoe, was a cabboceer and linguist. Cabboceers were African men appointed by their leaders to supply European traders with trade goods including slaves. The third man Frederick Adoy was a writer, as are several other men on the list. Adoy was the son of a cabboceer and had been educated in England. Writers were the equivalent of clerks for the company. Adoy had the advantage of speaking the native languages. The last man Philip Quaque was born on the Cape Coast but taken to England as a child in 1754 by a missionary from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. There, he went to school, was baptized and may have studied theology at Oxford. In 1765 he became the first African ordained in the Church of England. In that same year he received his commission to serve as chaplain and spread the gospel back in Africa.

In October he and his English wife Catherine Blunt boarded the ship The King of Prussia, captained by Shepherd. If you switch over to the slavevoyages.org database, you can search for a vessell named King of Prussia.

Entry from Slave Voyages Database

The entry notes in October 1765 Captain John Shepherd and crew departed London for West Africa. After safe delivery of any goods and departure of passengers, like Quaque, Shepherd and company factors began trading activities. When the ship departs, 216 enslaved people are in the hold of the ship. At least 189 survived the voyage, with 107 sold in Grenada and 82 sold in Nevis. Shepherd than returned to London by the fall of 1766.

Quaque never returned to England, except for a short visit in 1784-1785. His wife Catherine died a year after arrival at the Cape Coast. Over time he would eventually marry two African women who bore him sons. He focused his missionary efforts on starting a school primarily for Afro-European (i.e. mulatto) children of the elites. He wrote frequently to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel back in London. You can read his own words.

He describes in great detail his successes and challenges, challenges that included the fact he was no longer fluent in the local language. His family ties remained within the community but his cultural connection had been distorted by a childhood and devout Anglican upbringing in England. Local and global politics, as well as wars, hampered his mission at every level yet he persevered. For extra money he even worked as a writer/clerk like Frederick Adoy.

Sometimes Quaque had no students and sometimes he had over a dozen. He taught them reading, writing and arithmetic, and of course religion. He had dreams of expansion and wrote of wanting to hire Adoy and fellow Black writer John Acqua (also educated in England) as his teaching assistants. The school never thrived though it did survive. Quaque’s sons, educated in England, even assisted him for a time. Quaque died in 1816 after fifty years of service.

Cape Coast Castle Dungeon

What must he have thought of the slave trade? In the place where he taught brown and black children in a school room, down below brown and black children were chained in the holding cells awaiting transport to the New World. As a writer he would have chronicled the trade that took place. He had been chaplain to the English traders and missionary among his African people. While he vilified slavery, especially later in life, his actions suggest he believed religious conversion would save his people. Still, his criticism would be an important part of the growing abolitionist movement. And while, as indicated in his letters, he may not have felt successful, his legacy endures as does his school.

Sources and Additional Reading

Bartels, F. L. “PHILIP QUAQUE, 1741—1816.” Transactions of the Gold Coast & Togoland Historical Society, vol. 1, no. 5, Historical Society of Ghana, 1955, pp. 153–77, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41406590.

slavevoyages.org

Royal African Company Records 1694 to 1743

“One of their Own Color and Kindred” Philip Quaque and the SPG Mission to Africa, by Travis Glasson, DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199773961.003.0007

The Life and Letters of Philip Quaque the First African Anglican Missionary

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