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Understanding Our History

How do we begin to understand our true history?  The answers lay somewhere within our most troubled past.  From America’s birth, much of our history was shrouded by lies and deceit and told and re-told by those in control with the power to meld a falsity to benefit their cause.

How do I know this? After countless hours of research, the physical documents tell a much different story than previously known to the masses and continues to be told today.

February is Black History Month!  

In honor of Black History Month, we will be examining the false or previously shrouded FACTS about America’s earliest Africans who arrived in 1619.

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Where were they from?

From the Atlantic Ocean, narrow coastal cliffs ascend over four thousand feet to a vast plateau extending into the central region of Western Africa, wherein 1619 the Bantu-speaking Kingdom of Ndongo was located, modern-day Angola. Across the immense highlands were small livestock-producing villages and to the eastern interior the Ndongo Kingdom capital of Kabasa – a grand city of artisans, bustling with merchants from near and far selling their commodities in Kabasa’s international market, which rivaled the silk and spice markets of the Far East. In early 1619, the Portuguese contracted with the Imbangala, an African contraband tribe of mercenaries – reportedly cannibals, to raid the Ndongo Capital of Kabasa. Regardless of status, the Imbangala bound and beat their captives, and force-marched them to the Port of Luanda where they were sold as slaves.

Important Note: Because it was an “international market,” we CAN’T assume ALL of these earliest Africans were from the Kingdom of Ndongo. Merchants from the northern Kingdoms of Kongo and Loango were also in the market selling their goods. For example, an African found in the earliest census records is Anthony, who took the last name, Longo. No doubt an acknowledgment of his homeland.

Thirty-six ships left the Port of Luanda in the Spring/Summer of 1619 with full underbellies of enslaved African captives. Of these thirty-six ships, only six sailed to the Spanish Port of Veracruz, New Spain, modern-day Mexico. Of these six ships, only one would report piracy, the captain of the San Juan Bautista.

When the San Juan Bautista left Luanda with a full underbelly, Don Manuel Mendez de Acuna had captained the Spanish ship for less than a year. With 350 bound Africans and an ample crew, the Spanish galleon was heavily burdened. The galleon type was not built to carry human cargo, and the quarters were unusually tight. Within no time, much of the Bautista’s enslaved were ravaged by the harsh conditions of the journey. Inevitably, filth and dysentery took hold, and sickness soon threatened the San Juan Bautista’s entire haul. After sailing nearly fifty-six hundred miles and with the loss of one-third of his cargo, Captain Mendez de Acuna decided he could sail no further. He made port in Jamaica for medicine and enough supplies to sustain his withered cargo to their destination. The treatment and provisions didn’t come cheap as the Spanish captain exchanged twenty-four African boys in trade before setting sail on the final leg of his journey – an additional thirteen hundred miles to the Spanish port of Veracruz, New Spain.

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PEDRAS NEGRAS – The Black Rocks of Pungo

One of the Wonders of Africa…  the Black Rocks at Pungo are a series of mystical rock formations standing 350 feet (107 meters) high above Angola’s African Savanna. Believed to be the location of the Kingdom of Ndongo in 1618-1619 when the kingdom was raided by the Portuguese contracted Imbangala. The survivors, stripped of their belongings and bound, are marched to the Port of Luanda and sold as slaves. Three hundred fifty (350) are sold to Don Manuel Mendez de Acuna, Captain of the San Juan Bautista. By chance, two English warships pirate the San Juan Bautista and the stolen Africans are brought to the English settlement of Virginia arriving the latter part of August, 1619.
The attached pictures shows the mapped location of Ndongo along with a current picture of the mystical Black Rocks at Pungo Andongo.

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Who Were the Three Africans taken from Bermuda to Leighs (Leez) Priory, Felsted, England in 1621

ANTHONY/ANTONIO
One of the most documented early Africans to arrive in Virginia was Anthony/Antonio. Records show Anthony/Antonio arrived in Virginia on the ship ‘James’ from England in 1621.  Was he one of the first “twenty and odd” sold on the shores of the James River in August of 1619? The short answer is NO. However, its slightly more complicated than that.  Anthony/Antonio was among at least two others who found their way to Virginia from the pirating of the San Juan Bautista in the Bay of Campeche in the summer of 1619.  The San Juan Bautista is the same slave ship the first “twenty and odd” were pirated from.   Anthony/Antonio’s path would be slightly different than the “twenty and odd” who arrived on the White Lion.  From the San Juan Bautista, Anthony/Antonio was put aboard the Treasurer, which arrived at Point Comfort three days after the White Lion.  The Treasurer would be turned away or “warned” off allowing its Captain, Daniel Elfrith, to sail to Bermuda.  Anthony/Antonio would remain in Bermuda until 1621 when Gov. Butler would put him and two other Africans/Angolans aboard the ship “James” sailing for the Port of Southampton, England.  Once in the English port the three Africans/Angolans were taken to Robert Rich / Earl of Warwick’s Felsted estate, Leighs (Leez) Priory.   Before the end of 1621, Anthony/Antonio would be brought back to the south shore of the James River and indentured to Robert Bennett of Bennett’s Plantation also known as Warrosquarak.  There he would survive the great massacre of 1622 and remain in the area for nearly 30 years.  Anthony/Antonio was one of America’s first FREE Africans.

MARY / MARIA
Mary, like Anthony/Antonio, was among the African slaves pirated from the San Juan Bautista in the Bay of Campeche, 500 miles from their destination of Vera Cruz, Mexico.  Mary was put aboard the “Treasurer” which arrived at Old Point Comfort, Virginia three days after the “White Lion.”  Warned of the pirating charges the Captain would face the Treasurer would disappear from the James River and reappear in Bermuda with a cargo of Africans. Mary, like Anthony/Antonio was among them.  In 1621, Mary would be put aboard the ship James, sailing from Bermuda for the port of Southampton, England where she would be taken with Anthony/Antonio and one other African to Robert Rich’s Estate in Felsted, England known as Leighs (Leez) Priory.  In mid 1622, six months after Anthony/Antonio was removed from Leighs/Leez Priory Mary was put aboard the English ship “Margaret & John” sailing to Virginia.  By 1623, Mary would be listed on a muster, like Anthony/Antonio, at Bennett’s plantation on the south side of the James River in the area called Warrasquarak.  Later, Mary would marry Anthony and they would be known as Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Johnson.  By 1644, they would have four children, two boys and two girls.

JOHN PEDRO

Like Antonio/Anthony and Maria/Mary, John Pedro was among the San Juan Bautista survivors brought to Bermuda on the “Treasurer” in 1619.  John Pedro is the third and last African to be put aboard the  “James” in 1621 sailing for the English port of Southampton and delivered to Robert Rich’s estate in Felsted, England known as Leighs (Leez) Priory.  Where the other two Africans (Antonio/Anthony and Maria/Mary) were sent from England to Virginia, John Pedro, a catholic, would take a different route.  In 1622 John Pedro was placed on the “Swan,” one of Robert Rich’s ships, sailing for Cape Cod, New England.  Within the year John Pedro would make his way to Virginia with Captain Francis West.  In 1623, John Pedro is listed on the muster at Captain Francis West’s plantation at the Eastern Shore where he would remain until West’s death in January of 1634.

Interesting fact:  The Angolan kingdom raided by the Portuguese in 1618/1619 where the San Juan Bautista survivors were enslaved was documented as a Catholic community.   John Pedro would be the first openly practicing Catholic in Virginia’s early Anglican settlement.

WHY DID ANTHONY, MARY AND JOHN PEDRO FIND THEMSELVES IN ENGLAND IN 1621?  Antonio/Anthony, Maria/Mary and John Pedro were taken to Leighs (Leez) Priory, the estate of Robert Rich II, Earl of Warwick in Felsted, England in 1621 as an aristocrat’s attempt to cement a political charade.

The Earl of Warwick was fully engaged in a court battle with Count Gondomar, the Spanish Ambassador in King James’ English court, over the Piracy of the San Juan Bautista’s Africans.  As FATE would have it, the Captain of the San Juan Bautista pirated by Rich’s Treasurer in the summer of 1619 was  no less than Count Gondomar’s kin. By 1621, deep within the court case, Gondomar is rabidly demanding his African slaves to be returned to his family’s possession. Believing he could convince Anthony, Mary and John Pedro to twist their testimony in his favor, the Earl of Warwick brings Anthony to testify before the court.  But, Anthony would not falsify his testimony and claims there were two ships at the raid, the White Lion and Rich’s Treasurer.  Instantly Rich/Earl of Warwick declares Anthony’s testimony invalid bringing to light the fact Anthony’s baptismal was unverifiable.  Angry over his testimony and unable to wait, Rich puts Anthony aboard the “James” shipping him to Bennett’s plantation on the south shore of the James River.  Mary and John Pedro follow as soon as the harsh winter months pass.

Interesting facts:  

The Angolan kingdom raided by the Portuguese in 1618/1619 where the San Juan Bautista survivors were captured and enslaved was documented as a Catholic community.   John Pedro would be the first openly practicing Catholic in Virginia’s early Anglican settlement.

Robert Rich was a Puritan leader as was Edward Bennett of Bennett’s Plantation.  Bennett’s plantation is the only puritan plantation in all of the Anglican settlement of Virginia until 1624 when Virginia becomes an English colony.

 

Our DNA has Memory

In the beginning, I didn’t understand where the desire came. I just knew it was there.  The desire quickly became a passion and consequently an addiction.

Nine years ago, looking for my husband’s ancestors, I came across a woman whose allure was irresistible. As a genealogist, I find many significant people with vital stories throughout history.  Why was this one so overwhelmingly important?

Her name was Margaret Cornish.  She was one of the first Africans to arrive in the English settlement of Virginia in 1619.  The desire to understand where she came from and how she found herself in an English settlement became intoxicating.  Every hour of every day filled with questions overwhelming my senses.  My husband’s 9th generation great-grandmother had captured my mind like she was captured by the marauders of her kingdom almost four-hundred years ago.  Some 20,000 + hours of research turned into a series of novels with the first book winning a national gold medal.  But, the grandest surprise was yet to come.

As my own 97-year-old grandmother’s health began to fail, and with her tireless urging, I collected her DNA.  Then in June of 2014 her spirit passed into the land of our ancestors and I said goodbye to a woman of unwavering faith.  Simultaneously, I received her DNA results and the explanation of my addiction quickly became crystal clear.  Margaret Cornish wasn’t only my husband’s ancestor, but mine as well.  With tears of joy streaming down my face I began to understand. The addiction I felt was a scream from within myself.  A memory from within my own DNA begging to be heard.  Finally, I understood my fate was deep within my own DNA.  A story of an ancestor begging to be told.

Join my journey as I take you down the path of Margaret Cornish’s life, one of FATE & FREEDOM.

Today in History August 25, 1619

cover1Almost four-hundred years ago today “twenty and odd” Africans arrive at Old Pointe Comfort, in Hampton, Virginia. They are the first Africans to arrive in what will become English-North America.
The “twenty and odd” Africans were captives, sold as slaves, during the Portuguese invasion of the Kingdom of Ndongo, in Angola Africa. Sold to the Spanish-Portuguese Captain Acuna some three-hundred captives are placed aboard the San Juan Bautista and shipped seven-thousand miles away to their doom in the silver mines of Mexico. But, before the slaver can reach it’s destination the ship is pirated by two English corsairs and fate is set in motion by the Calvinist Reverend turned Privateer, Captain John Jope. Their new destination becomes a small English settlement which will eventually become known as America. Until recent years the identity of the Captain was simply known as a Dutch Captain, who brought “twenty and odd” Africans to the shores of Virginia. Now, after intense research we know who they were, their fate which brought them to America and the cover-up that took place surrounding their arrival.

Fate & Freedom

Discovering Margaret…..

Twenty and Odd Africans arrive in Virginia in 1619.  Most of their names are unknown, or quite possibly they were concealed.  The less known about the incident would be best.  The names we have are from the ‘List of the Living’ compiled after the Indian massacre of 1622.  They were Angela, Anthony, Isabel, Frances, Peter, Anthony, and Margaret.  The others were identified as only male or female as much about the whole incident would be camouflaged to protect the few involved.

Documents show that the Africans arrived at Old Pointe Comfort, Virginia in the later part of August, 1619.   The Captain, a former Calvinist Reverend turned Privateer, reported his only cargo as being “Twenty and Odd” Africans he took (pirated) from a floundering vessel off the coast of Vera Cruz, Mexico.  Under the watchful eye of the crown the incident is quietly reported.   John Pory, the Virginia Company’s newly appointed Secretary, writes in a letter to Sir Dudley Carleton dated September 30, 1619,

The San Juan Bautista's battle against the two English corsairs, the Treasurer and the White Lion.

The San Juan Bautista’s battle against the two English corsairs, the Treasurer and the White Lion.

“Having mett with so fitt a messenger as this man of Warre of Flushing.”   The letter goes on to tell of the arrival of some “twenty and odd” Africans brought by a Dutch Captain.

Was Pory disguising the ship to protect its captain and crew? Probably not.

Oddly, the letter was sent to Sir Dudley Carleton via messenger, Marmaduke Reynor, the English pilot of the White Lion.  This information alone is telling of some sort of an association. 
Was Pory’s loyalty to the company, trying to diminish the association by the cover of a Dutch marque?  Or was his loyalty to the Earl of Warwick?  Possibly it was to the English Crown.  But, clearly Pory’s loyalties didn’t align with the White Lion who was sent back into the English channels with a letter suggesting a Spanish piracy, not to mention, a cargo that would confirm Pory’s words.

Why?  There are several reasons.

Just months before the African’s arrival, Samuel Argall, the acting Governor of Virginia, was ordered to return to England to face questioning from the King’s Privy Council regarding the suggestion Virginia was nothing more than a Pirate’s haven.   The thought of a Spanish Piracy by an English ship so soon might be the last straw to an English King’s already tarnished image with Spain.  Proof of a Spanish piracy would surely condemn the Virginia Company, giving King James good reason to revoke their patent.

Another reason…..there were two ships involved, two English Corsairs.  When the Treasurer arrived at Pointe Comfort carrying Africans just days after the White Lion, oddly the Treasurer was immediately turned away, or was the ship warned off?  The Treasurer, captained by Daniel Elfrith was owned by Robert Rich II, Earl of Warwick, one of the most influential and powerful men in England.  The Treasurer would sail for Bermuda, an island known to be under the Earl of Warwick’s hand, where he could control the secrecy of the situation.

England would be tricky, as the White Lion was a common sight in the Port of Plymouth where the ship sat for years.  Reverend Jope had purchased the decayed White Lion from a member of his congregation, who captained the ship during the Elizabethan War between England and Spain 1585-1604.  In fact, it was the Port of Plymouth where Captain Jope re-launched the White Lion’s sails after the ten (10) years it took to refurbish the old war ship.    The White Lion, it’s captain and it’s crew were English, not Dutch as Pory’s letter would suggest and now their identities would need to be hidden under the association of a “Dutch” marque.

As fate would have it, the San Juan Bautista’s Captain Acuna, who reported the incident upon his arrival in Mexico, was kin to Count Gondomar, the Spanish Ambassador who was in the inner circle of England’s King James.  When the Spanish Captain Acuna makes claim to his kin that two English Corsairs pirated his San Juan Bautista just off the coast of Vera Cruz, Mexico stealing some fifty or sixty African slaves, Virginia becomes the target of Gondomar’s rage and demands retribution. For an English Captain in the year of 1619 the act of Spanish piracy would be a death sentence, for it was less than two years earlier Sir Walter Raleigh was be-headed for Spanish piracy, a result of Gondomar’s insistence under the Maritime Peace Treaty.
 

Continue to follow this blog as I reveal my findings while discovering Margaret.