Moors In Colonial Louisiana

“When the African slave trade to Lousiana began, the Company of the Indies’ control over its Senegal concession was weak and was challenged by African nations as well as by its European rivals. During the early and mid-1720s, the French and the Dutch fought over Arguin Islan, the center of the trade of Arabic gum collected in the forests of Morocco. The gum trade was considered far more profitable than the trade in slaves. The Moors sided with the Dutch. The English had a trading post at Fort James in the Gambia River and were quite active there. The Portuguese had a long tradition of control at Bissau, and the Company of the Indies’ trading post there was under great pressure.”¬†

“The Bambara brought to Lousiana during the 1720s had been captured during warfare among Bambara kingdoms at the early stage of the formation of the Segu empire under Mamari Kulubali, who ruled from 1712 to 1755. The export of Bambara slaves peaked during warfare in Bambara. In contrast, when peace reigned, the slave trade from Galam to St. Louis was badly disrupted. In 1721, Galam sent few slaves, and those have been of poor quality, even though the trading post had received good and adequate trade merchandise. St. Robert explained that “no slave caravans arrived… the Bambara who are almost always at war among themselves…were all obliged to unite to protect their country against the Moors of Morocco whom they chased out of their country after having defeated them twice. The said Moors, upon withdrawing, boasted that they would soon come back with an army big enough to destroy the Bambara entirely. This obliges the countries of Bambara to live in harmony and join forces to oppose the Moroccans whom they expect.”

“If the slave trade from Senegal to Lousiana got a late start, it was not for lack of trying. As soon as the Company of the Indies took control of Lousiana, it devoted serious attention to supplying the colony with slaves from the Senegal concession. In October 1720, its directors informed Senegal that it had sent le Comte de Toulouse with well-assorted trade goods, principally to strengthen Galam and stimulate trade there. Le Comte de Toulouse was to be sent quickly to Lousiana with a “cargo” of slaves. Le Marechal d Estrees had picked up its cargo of wine, liquor, and foods at Bordeaux, and this vessel was also to be sent to Lousiana with slaves. Any ship seized from interlopers was to be likewise sent to Lousiana with slaves and its papers sent to France for confiscation proceedings. After retaking Fortd‘ Arguin, the French were to enslave any Moors taken prisoner, send them to Senegal, keep them in shackles, and transport them to Lousiana on the first available ship. Aside from the four ships sent to Juda during 1720, three ships were reportedly sent to Madagascar in June of the same year to load slaves for Louisiana.”

“Few of these projects materialized. There is no record of any interloper seized and sent to Louisiana with slaves. There is no evidence that any ships from Madagascar arrived in Louisiana. The Moors taken at For d’Arguin were not deported and enslaved: They were needed there to cut wood and to make salt. The French were afraid of antagonizing all the Moors if they enslaved those who had turned Arguin Island over to the Dutch. The Moors (called “cette Morvaille“) still had not forgotten the affair of M. Ducas, who had taken Moorish captives to French islands. Instead of enslaving Moorish captives, the French decided to try to win over that nation with kindness. In order to attract and control the Moors, it was proposed to hire Boaly, a great Marabout (Muslim holy man) and an interpreter at Portendic. Le Ruby was the first slave trade ship that arrived in Lousiana from the Senegal concession. It left Le Havre in December 1719, and Goree in May 1720, with 130 slaves, arriving in Louisiana in July 1720, with¬†127 slaves.”

“The French had great difficulties with the Moors along the coast. The pilot of le St. Louis wrote, “The Moors there behave very badly, and we can never land without risking several attacks by this bunch of Moors who are without pity when they can take advantage of us, whom they hate more than the other nations.” Before leg St. Louis left Senegal, a war had broken out in Galam with King Braque and had extended all along the Senegal River.”

See Africans In Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Revised Edition