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Top 10 Famous Slaves

Jamie Frater

Slavery is a very ancient institution which is even sanctioned in the Bible: “Let your bondmen, and your bondwomen, be of the nations that are round about you” [Leviticus 25:44]. While most of the Western world has abolished this practice, there are still some nations that turn a blind eye to a very active slave trade. This is a list of the most famous slaves in history. It is very difficult to write such a subjective list in light of the enormous number of slaves that are known in history, nevertheless I have endeavored to do so.

10. Margaret Garner

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Margaret Garner was a slave in pre-Civil War America notorious for killing her two year old daughter with a butcher knife, rather than see the child returned to slavery. Margaret was not tried for murder, but was forced to return to a slave state along with her youngest child, and a daughter aged about nine months. The Liberator reported on March 11, 1856 that the steamboat Lewis, on which the Garners were traveling, began to sink and that Margaret and her baby daughter were thrown overboard when another boat coming to their rescue hit the Lewis. Sadly, the baby was drowned. It was reported that Margaret was happy that her baby had died and that she would try to drown herself.

9. Abram Petrovich Gannibal

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Major-General Abram Petrovich Gannibal, also Hannibal or Ganibal, (1696 – 20 April 1781) was an African slave who was brought to Russia by Peter the Great and became major-general, military engineer and governor of Reval. He is perhaps best known today as the great-grandfather of Aleksandr Pushkin, who wrote an unfinished novel about him, The Moor of Peter the Great.

8. Ammar ibn Yasir

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Ammar bin Yasir is one of the most famous companions of Muhammad, and was among the slaves freed by Abu Bakr. He is venerated by Shi’a Muslims as one of the Four Companions, early Muslims who were followers of Ali ibn Abi Talib. Ammar was born in the Year of the Elephant (570). Therefore he is as old as Muhammad. Ammar was a friend of Muhammad even before Islam. He was one of the intermediaries in his marriage to Khadijat Al-Kubra. He was a slave of Banu Adi. He was killed by a group loyal to Mu’Awiyah in the battle of Siffin (657). His killer was ibn Hawwa esaksaki and Abu Al’Adiyah.

7. Nat Turner

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Nat Turner was a black preacher who led an 1831 uprising in Southampton County, Virginia in which at least 55 whites were killed by a group of about 50 slaves. Turner was a deeply religious man who claimed to have visions and directives from God. On the night of 21 August 1831 he led four other slaves (Henry, Hark, Nelson and Sam) on a murderous spree near the town of Jerusalem, killing men, women and children in their beds. By the next day his mob had grown to at least 40 or 50, but the local militia confronted and captured most of them. Turner escaped, but was eventually captured in October and tried. He was hanged and skinned 11 November 1831. Before he was executed, he described his actions to Thomas R. Gray, and “The Confessions of Nat Turner” was later widely published in newspapers. Turner’s failed rebellion led to hundreds of blacks being murdered by white vigilante mobs, and spurred a new set of strict codes that limited the activities of slaves.

6. James Somersett

Image From Abolitionist Pamphlet

James Somerset or Somersett was a young African slave who was purchased by Charles Stuart in Virginia in 1749. Stuart was involved in English government service and traveled as part of his duties accompanied by Somerset, who at the time did not have a first name. In 1769, Stuart along with Somersett traveled to England. While in England, Somersett met and became involved with people associated with the anti-slavery movement in England including the well known activist Granville Sharp. During this period, Somersett was christened with the name James in a church ceremony. Somersett was recaptured after escaping, and his trial ultimately spelt the end of slavery in England (though not English participation in slavery in its other nations).

5. Enrique of Malacca

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Enrique of Malacca was a native of the Malay Archipelago. Also known as Henry the Black, he was Ferdinand Magellan’s personal servant and interpreter. He had been reportedly captured by Sumatran slavers from his home islands. In 1511 he was purchased by Ferdinand Magellan in a Malaccan slave market and baptized as Henrique (spanish Enrique), (his original name is not recorded). Thereafter he worked as a personal slave and interpreter, accompanying Magellan back to Europe, and onwards on Magellan’s famous search for a westward passage to the Pacific Ocean. He is simply called Enrique on the ship’s muster roll, and Henrich in Pigafetta’s account of the expedition. If a loose definition of circumnavigation (ie, not returning to the exact same spot), then Enrique has an undisputed claim to being the first circumnavigator. He made the first known cultural circumnavigation, travelling around the world until he reached people who spoke his language. He (and Magellan) may also have crossed every meridian — that is he crossed every line of longitude, or circumnavigated the poles.

4. Frederick Douglass

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Born in bondage on the eastern shore of Maryland, Douglass worked for several different slaveholders in both eastern Maryland and Baltimore between 1818 and 1838. During his youth, Douglass became proficiently literate by reading the Bible and classic orations and listening to the sermons of antislavery black preachers and Quakers. These experiences later contributed to his unyielding abolitionism and fierce egalitarianism. In 1838, while a ship caulker’s apprentice, Douglass acquired free seaman papers and escaped to New York City. He then moved to Massachusetts and became involved in antislavery activism, under the tutelage of William Lloyd Garrison. Eventually rejecting the apolitical nature of Garrisonian abolitionism, Douglass moved to Rochester, New York, and founded his own abolition journal, The North Star.

3. Saint Patrick

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St. Patrick is revered by Christians for establishing the church in Ireland during the fifth century AD. The precise dates and details of his life are unclear, but some points are generally agreed: as a teen he was captured and sold into slavery in Ireland, and six years later he escaped to Gaul (now France) where he later became a monk. Around 432 he returned to Ireland as a missionary and succeeded in converting many of the island’s tribes to Christianity. Late in life he wrote a brief text, Confessio, detailing his life and ministry. His feast day, March 17, is celebrated as a day of Irish pride in many parts of the world.

2. Aesop

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Aesop, famous for his Fables, is supposed to have lived from about 620 to 560 BC. The place of his birth is uncertain — Thrace, Phrygia, Aethiopia, Samos, Athens and Sardis all claiming the honor. We possess little trustworthy information concerning his life, except that he was the slave of Iadmon of Samos and met with a violent death at the hands of the inhabitants of Delphi. Aesop must have received his freedom from Iadmon, or he could not have conducted the public defense of a certain Samian demagogue (Aristotle, Rhetoric, II 20). According to the story, he subsequently lived at the court of Croesus, where he met Solon, and dined in the company of the Seven Sages of Greece with Periander at Corinth. It is probable that Aesop did not commit his fables to writing; Aristophanes represents Philocleon as having learned the “absurdities” of Aesop from conversation at banquets, and Socrates whiles away his time in prison by turning some of Aesop’s fables “which he knew” into verse.

1. Spartacus

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Spartacus, a Thracian, served in the Roman army. He became a bandit and was sold as a slave when caught. He escaped a gladiatorial school, where he had plotted a revolt with other gladiators, and set up camp on Mount Vesuvius, where he was joined by other runaway slaves and some peasants. With a force of 90,000, he overran most of southern Italy, defeating two consuls. He led his army north to the Cisalpine Gaul, where he hoped to release them to find freedom, but they refused to leave, preferring to continue the struggle. Returning south, he attempted to invade Sicily but could not arrange the passage. The legions of Marcus Licinius Crassus caught the slave army in Lucania and defeated it; Spartacus fell in pitched battle. Pompey’s army intercepted and killed many of those escaping north, and Crassus crucified 6,000 prisoners along the Appian Way.

This article cites text from Wikipedia which is licensed under the GFDL

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Jamie Frater

Jamie is the founder of Listverse. He spends his time working on the site, doing research for new lists, and cooking. He is fascinated with all things morbid and bizarre.

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