St. Lucia Slave Census of 1815 , reflecting English or French Slave Trade Patterns?

Saint Lucia Slave Census of 1815

SUMMARY

Number of slaves 16,282
Creole (i.e. born in the Americas) 12,750 (78% of total)
African 3,488 (21% of total)
African specified ethnically/regionally 2,638 (16% of total)

BREAKDOWN OF AFRICAN BORN SLAVES

Ibo (Nigeria) 894 – 34% of African specified
Congo (Congo) 574 – 22% of African specified
Moco (Nigeria/Cameroon) 291 – 11% of African specified
Source

Origins of African-born slaves St Lucia 1815

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The top 3 of most frequently mentioned African origins in the Saint Lucia slave census of 1815 is exactly the same as it is for the Trinidad slave census. This is perhaps not so surprising as in both cases it seems to reflect the shift in British slave trade during the final decades before abolition (1790’s-1807) towards an increased flow of captives from the Bight of Biafra as well as Central Africa (see columns 11/12 in this chart). Again similar to Trinidad the census also describes a locally born “Creole” slave population whose African origins might more closely reflect French slave trade patterns, especially to Martinique. Afterall Saint Lucia was only definitely incorporated into the British Empire in 1803 when its slave owning settler class was still predominantly of French origin (source).

In fact the relative share of these “French Period Creoles” is much more significant for Saint Lucia than for Trinidad, being almost 80% of the total slave population! Slaves making up almost 85% of Saint Lucia’s total population in 1810 while almost 10% were free people of colour and about 6% European. The Afro-descended freedmen most likely also having African origins dating from the French rule period (Higman 1984). Before i discuss this in more detail let’s first have a look at the complete census which naturally only provides a snapshot of African origins for a restricted timeperiod and for a minor part of Saint Lucia’s slave population at that time (16%).

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Birthplaces of slaves St Luciab

Source: Slave populations of the British Caribbean, 1807-1834. (Higman, B. W. , 1984).

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  • Senegambia, the Mandingo yet again most frequently mentioned while specific Senegalese ethnicities are only few in number. “Senegal” and “Bambara” referring to slaves exported via the river Senegal or the French slave port of Saint Louis. There seems to be a misidentification on part of the author (Higman 1984) for the “Mondongue” who are usually described as being a separate ethnic group from Central Africa in slave registers for Haiti (source). The socalled “Cap Verd” might be referring to either slaves exported via the Cape Verde islands or (perhaps more likely) the Cap Vert peninsula in Senegal (Gorée being nearby). However the “Calvére” and all of its variations seem to be again misplaced/wrongly identified by Higman.
  • Sierra Leone, very few identified as such but some of the “Senegambian” Mandingo might actually have been exported via the rivers Nunez & Pongo in Guinea Conakry. Otherwise same pattern as in the other Anglo-Caribbean Slave Registers with Susu & Temne being predominant and the Mende not yet present. Also the minor number of Kissi being consistent with the censuses of Trinidad and Berbice.
  • Windward Coast, quite noticeable numbers for Cape Lahou (in modernday Ivory Coast), although relative to the total slave population (incl. Creoles) it’s not very significant (231 out of 16,282 is less than 2%). It’s tempting to assume they were all brought over by Voyage 82876, Narcissus (1806) in the Slave Voyages Database.
  • Gold Coast, not many in this category and again without any specific ethnic descriptions
  • Bight of Benin, even fewer mentioned than for Gold Coast however this area is very likely to be much more important when it comes to the African origins of the Creole slave population.
  • Bight of Biafra, clearly the most frequently mentioned area, in line with British slave trade patterns of this period (1790’s-1807). Similar to the Trinidad census showing a split between “Ibo”, “Moco” and to some lesser degree also “Ibibio”. Intriguingly besides a single mention for “Duala” from Cameroon (also seen on the Berbice census) there’s also 1 individual being described as “Bornoux”, possibly a reference to the Bornu Empire in northeastern Nigeria/Tchad. An isolated testimony of the interior reach of the slave trade at this time. Not likely to be very significant but still present, see also this map of the Biafra origins for Sierre Leone recaptives.
  • Central Africa, second only to the Bight of Biafra, again conforming with general slave trade preferences in this period. Aside from the seemingly omnipresent “Congo” also some interesting other designations, Mayombe being a coastal area north of the Congo river. The “Angola’s” might actually refer to people traded from the Congolese coastal area or only northern Angola/Cabinda. This term being used less precisely by the French/English than the Portuguese.
  • Unidentified, mostly obscure names which have not yet been identified but interestingly also 4 persons from North Africa, “Afrique du Nord”. In the Trinidad census there were also 6 slaves mentioned as being “Maure” or North African Moors, most likely from Mauritania. High chances of all of them being male, implying that their bloodlines would have gotten dilluted quickly if they had any offspring that is.

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“St. Lucia changed possession fourteen times, seven times British, seven times French, which resulted in the island being dubbed “The Helen of the West”

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Despite over 150 years of continuous British rule and over twenty-five years as a member of the British Commonwealth most Saint Lucians still speak their French-based & Niger-Kongo influenced Creole or Kwéyòl language. It is a shared legacy they have in common with other officialy English speaking Caribbean islands like Dominica, Grenada and Trinidad. For Saint Lucia this can be traced back to historical ties with Martinique which sent over the first French settlers in the late 1600’s as well as continued to transfer slaves (either African born or Creole) to Saint Lucia and neighbouring islands throughout the 1700’s. When exploring the African ethnic roots of Saint Lucians we should therefore not stop with the census held in 1815 which, eventhough very valuable, only identifies the origins of less than 15% of the African born population. It is the over 80% “French Period Creole” slaves and freedmen whose ancestry will be most representative of Saint Lucia’s African roots, taking a purely statistical approach.

Below we can see the registered birth places of this Creole majority (78% of all slaves). From the 12,750 Creole slaves 9,821 were born in Saint Lucia, which is about 77% of all Creole slaves. But quite possibly the 2,021 Creoles without any further description were also Saint Lucian born. Otherwise it’s first of all Martinique and then other formerly French ruled islands like St. Vincent and Grenada that get mentioned most frequently. If the census had been held in an earlier period most likely Martinique’s share would have been even higher. Also right after the abolition of slavery by the English in 1834 another wave of runaway slaves from Martnique would arrive in Saint Lucia (see third quote below).

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Birthplaces of creole slaves St Lucia

Source: Slave populations of the British Caribbean, 1807-1834. (Higman, B. W. , 1984).

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“Slave trading records from the 18th and 19th centuries indicate that the slave trade on St. Lucia was controlled from Martinique, even in times of British rule: . . . it seems likely that Martinique would have been able to supply St. Lucia’s slave needs to a large extent and that established slave merchants in Martinique would have tried to keep the St. Lucian trade in their hands. In the latter part of the eighteenth century Martinique was the third largest slave exporter listed in the British returns, after Barbados and Jamaica . . . But during this period neither Barbados nor Jamaica exported to St. Lucia.” (LePage & Tabouret-Keller, 1985, p. 60)” (Source)

 “One early record, a census taken on Martinique in 1680 cited by Alleyne (1996, p. 44), indicates that at that time, speakers of Benue-Kwa languages such as Akan and Ewe-Fon were predominant. Since almost all slaves on St. Lucia arrived from Martinique, the same ethnicities would have predominated on St. Lucia.” (Source)

“Roberts, citing Breen (1844), recalls the period from 1834, when Britain abolished slavery and 1848, when it was abolished by France. During this time thousands of slaves from Martinique and Guadeloupe fled to St. Lucia, Dominica, and St. Vincent in search of freedom under the British flag. These slaves, known as Nèg mawon [nègres marrons] in the French colonies, came from Martinique in canoes at night to the northern part of St. Lucia and made for the mountainous interior, where they joined existing maroon communities.” (Source)

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Below charts are taken from the slave voyages database and show a comparison between the documented direct slave voyages from Africa to Saint Lucia and Martinique. Intercolonial voyages, e.g. from Martinique to Saint Lucia, are therefore not included! The total numbers documented for Saint Lucia are quite minor given what we know about how big the total slave population was in the late 1700’s. Which makes sense if we take into account that intercolonial slave imports (from especially Martinique) were usually more important than direct slave imports from Africa. Almost all of the St. Lucia data is reflecting slave trade carried out by the English in the very last period before abolition in 1807 (French slave trading was by then already in decline because of the Napoleonic Wars & the Haitian Revolution). In fact the regional breakdown for Saint Lucia’s documented direct slave voyages corresponds very nicely with the census results of 1815. Showing a predominance for Bight of Biafra followed by Central Africa.

However for Martinique it’s rather the Bight of Benin that’s most significant while Central Africa is about the same proportionally and depending on time periods also Senegambia might have been important earlier on. Given what i’ve discussed above the numbers for Martinique should be assigned a higher weight when talking about the African origins of present day Saint Lucians. There’s no way of knowing how exactly these ancestral contributions were inherited and distributed among Saint Lucians across the generations, but perhaps the weighted averages shown in the third column of the last chart could be indicative for Saint Lucia’s African roots. Bight of Benin would be most important overall, followed by Central Africa and then Bight of Biafra.

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St. Lucia timeperiods

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database (2010) (http://www.slavevoyages.org/)

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S.Lucia vs Mnique (numbers)

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database (2010) (http://www.slavevoyages.org/)

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S.Lucia vs Mnique (percentages)

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database (2010) (http://www.slavevoyages.org/)

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Sources:

– Higman, B. W. (1984). Slave populations of the British Caribbean, 1807-1834.
Mitchell, E.S.Schuler, M. (2010). St. Lucian Kwéyòl on Saint Croix: A Study of Language Choice and Attitudes.

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10 thoughts on “St. Lucia Slave Census of 1815 , reflecting English or French Slave Trade Patterns?

  1. Dear Felipe,
    I’d like to thank you on this outstanding source for people of the diaspora. For many years now I’ve been studying this site,

    Dear James, thank you for your appreciation! Have you done any DNA testing yet? I am very interested in obtaining samples from people of St. Lucian descent (either AncestryDNA or 23andme) because I find it truly inspring how they have managed to hold on to their French-based Kwéyòl heritage! As I have stated in this article from already 2015 I greatly suspect that this may also have genetic implications when looking into their African origins. Although to be sure there will also be plenty of overlap with strictly Anglophone Caribbean islands, principally Barbados.

    You might be interested to know that I am preparing a blog post about the African DNA matching patterns of 30 West Indians (excl. Jamaica). Sadly I won’t be able to include any Saint Lucian samples however I will discuss the results of 10 Barbadians and 2 persons from St . Vincent among others. So it should be insightful either way.

    as a person of paternal St Lucian heritage,I desired a better statistical break down of the Benin component of St Lucian population.

    I have not really studied this in detail for St. Lucia, except for this census from 1815. Interestingly in this later period the interior origins of captives (grouped under the label of “Chamba”, n=30) was almost equal to that of the coastal group of “Allada”, (n=36) which is generally understood to be a reference to Gbe people such as the Fon but also the Aja, Ewe etc.. The sample size is admittedly limited however this seems to fall in line with a trend of increased sourcing from interior areas during the last phase of slave trading. See also these maps for ethnic groups in Benin. Again the Chamba is an umbrella term, but most likely including people such as the Bariba and other Gur speakers. Keep in mind that modernday borders did not exist at that time so the ethnolinguistic composition of neighbouring countries Togo and western Nigeria is naturally also very much relevant (see this page):

    Map 1
    Map 2
    Map 3

    However I imagine during the 1700’s the Bight of Benin origins would be more similar to what has been recorded in greatest detail for St. Domingue/Haiti. See also this page. Eventually I hope to also include data for Martinique and other French speaking Caribbean islands on this page:

    Ethnic identities documented in Haiti 1721-1797

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  2. James said:

    You note, rightly, the slave trading patterns will be predominantly French (since St Lucia was a French colony although intermittently). St Lucia, as you know, never imported slaves directly from Africa (Breen is a source): French planters shipped slaves over from Martinique or, alternatively, English speaking planters looked to Barbados for man-power.

    Indeed, and also post-Slavery migrations would have involved Barbados. I have been intrigued ever since I learnt that Derek Walcott, the first Caribbean winner of the Nobel prize, was of partial Barbadian decent. Even when of course he was born in St. Lucia and is well known for celebrating his St. Lucian roots. If I understand correctly it is both religion (either Catholic or Protestant) as wel as language (Kwéyòl or English-based Patois) which are main indicators of having either recent Bajan ancestry or rather having St. Lucian roots going back to at least the 1700’s. See also:

    The Barbados Connection: beyond just South Carolina!

    For some more references of Inter-Colonial Slave trade to St. Lucia from other islands:

    Governor William Hart of Saint Christopher reported to the
    Board of Trade in 1727, “Our British Traders to Africa have found a way to
    Rival the Dutch in” the transshipment of Africans to the French. “For as the
    Island of St Lucia . . . is look’d upon as a Neuteral place,” he explained, “the
    British Ships go into a Harbour there called Petit Carnage, where they sell
    their Slaves for money or Sugar: This place having the advantage of St. Eustatia
    [from whence the Dutch traded to the French], being within a few hours
    Sail of Martinique
    .” (O’Malley, p.253)

    Surviving records from Grenada from late 1764 to
    mid-1767 show the island gradually emerging as a small-scale exporter of enslaved
    people in the first years after the British takeover (and before passage of the Free Port
    Act). After exporting no Africans in the first documented year, 1764, Grenada sent a few
    shipments to unspecified destinations in “Spanish America” in late 1765— amounting
    to 129 captives. In the following year, port records reveal Grenada exporting more than
    400 Africans to Spanish America and to French Saint Lucia
    .” (O’Malley, pp. 371-372)

    Source: Final Passages: The Intercolonial Slave Trade of British America, 1619-1807 (G. E. O’Malley, 2014)

    However as discussed in this article it seems apparent that the Martinique connection will be most substantial for most St. Lucians. Regrettably this has not been documented in great detail. For example the Intra-American Slave Trade Database reprepresents the most up-to-date research on this topic. But Martinique is not even showing up in a search for St. Lucia! Hopefully future findings will bring more clarification, although really because most Inter-colonial slave voyages were contraband it is only natural that most of them have not been documented.

    Intra-American Slave Trade To St. Lucia

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  3. James said:

    In short, if you had to offer an informed guess, 1, What is the predominant tribal group on the island

    Again I only have an incomplete understanding of St. Lucia’s African roots. Given that the available historical data is also so scattered and ambigious I am doubtful such a question can be answered in a meaningful manner. Leaving aside ethnic specifics I do think you can say more when zooming into a more broader level of ethno-linguistic and regional provenance. Of course plenty of caveats still remain. Especially the unknown relative weight which is to be given to contraband slave trade and post Slavery migration by way of Barbados.

    However from my current understanding I would say that it seems quite likely that the Bight of Benin will be the primary region of provenance for many St. Lucians. And when wanting to get more specific, this will usually involve a majority of Gbe speaking ancestors. Although really it will be a mix of various peoples from this wider area, also incl. Yoruba and Nupe from western Nigeria and Bariba and other Gur speaking peoples from northern parts of Benin/Togo. At times also Hausa lineage from northern Nigeria might be included, but again to an overall minor degree.

    The Bight of Benin will also be a major or even primary region of provenance for Barbadians and probably even more so for people from Martinique. The difference between St. Lucians and Barbadians might not always be that stark as there is a great deal of overlap between French and English slave trade patterns. Again also keeping in mind Inter-colonial slave trade by the British which also affected Martinique itself. But given the overview below I think it is reasonable to highlight two key differences on average: 1) southeastern Nigerian and Ghanaian ancestry will be more prevalent among Bajans. Even when such lineage might also be still quite significant for Saint Lucians. 2) Central African ancestry might very well be more pronounced among St. Lucians, as it is also among the Martiniquais.


    Source: Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade database (2022)

    This is however pending on further corroboration by way of genetic studies. Again regrettably I have not seen any St. Lucian DNA results yet. However in a recent study by 23andme they used 293 samples from Barbados, St. Lucia as well as St. Vincent and Grenada, all grouped together under “Windward Islands”. Would have been more insightful if they had split these samples up but still already quite useful. For more details:

    Genetic Consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the Americas (Micheletti et al., 2020)
    Overview of samples used in this study (incl. St. Lucia/LC)

    See also my preliminary findings based on AncestryDNA results where I attempted to find some differentation between French Patois speaking islands (Dominica & Grenada) and the English speaking Caribbean. Obviously a small sample size for the most part. But I do think this line of research could give very insightful outcomes eventually.

    Anglo-Caribbean AncestryDNA survey findings (2013-2018)

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  4. James said:

    2, What percentage of Mandinka or Upper Guinea slaves would there likely to be (bearing in mind Dalphinis claims, on linguistic evidence, St Lucians are mainly from the Mandinka, and Malian hinterland)?

    Well, as I always say cultural inheritance is different from genetic inheritance because it can be passed on to following generations by unrelated persons.

    If you look into the overview above then there is little difference between the Senegambian share in Trans-Atlantic slave trade to either Martinique and Barbados (6-7%). The slave trade from these islands can be considered to have been most impactful for St. Lucia. Although of course there might be some unknown demographic variables and you cannot simply extrapolate from that overview. Still I would be surprised if this Upper Guinean share would surpass 10% on average for St. Lucians. It almost certainly does not constitute a predominant share (>50%) of African origins for St. Lucians. As such an outcome would be highly exceptional from my overall survey findings for West Indians and other parts of the Afro-Diaspora, and also that 23andme study I referred to above.

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  5. Felipe, thank you very much for your considered response. As to documented St Lucian DNA results, a female St Lucian, a doctor residing in London, has revealed her results on You Tube. Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/YCytn24hGyA
    I’m in the comment section discussing family history (user name: Jack Brown) as my father’s grandparents were from the same small town, Choiseul. She is 40 % Nigerian, but she didn’t say what ethnic group, and her Malian results are over or about 10 %. I have her email, and maybe she migh be able to assisst you.

    As to the intercolonial trade, our paternal line in St Lucia appears to have arrived on the island with a Monseuir Dusauzay, a French creole from Greneda. He and his family fled the island when the British took over. We still carry the name, through his sons who married African women. He was executed during the Brigands War, as a reactionary Royalist, and his story is chronicled in the French documents (I read French). The French branch was almost wiped out, and it is the St Lucian Dusauzay’s from Soufriere that still carry the name in the Americas.

    When I was on the island in 1985, I met an old African-looking woman, a relative of my grandmother. Her grandfather was one of the Youruba speakers who arrived from Nigeria as an indentured worker in the 19th century. Many came from Ekiti State. Please, dear Felipe, keep me up-dated regarding any new insights into St Lucia.

    Yours Sincerely,

    James Dusauzay

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    • Hello James, I am really glad to see that you are as passionate about this topic as I am! Thanks a lot for sending me the link to that video on Youtube! I had not seen it yet. Very interesting also the discussion you had with her in the comment section.

      I have her email, and maybe she migh be able to assist you.

      If you wouldn’t mind I would be grateful if you could tell her about my ongoing research! Analyzing her results as a Saint-Lucian should be very insightful and also would be greatly appreciated. Please tell her I have been doing this type of research for many years already and I can guarantee that I will be most careful and respectful in order to only obtain the data I need for my survey. As I have done with hundreds of other profiles which have been shared with me in the past. In particular I will be zooming into her African DNA matches on Ancestry which should be very illuminating for knowing more about her specific African lineage.

      She is 40 % Nigerian, but she didn’t say what ethnic group, and her Malian results are over or about 10 %.

      As I always say the country labeling applied for regional admixture should not be taken too literally. But you can still get valuable clues from it when interpreted correctly. For example that 10% “Mali” could also indicate DNA from Sierra Leone or Liberia. Or also Guinea which she was expecting beforehand. She made an intriguing comment about how St. Lucians sometimes call very dark-skinned people “Guinean”. I think she is referring to a colonial term which actually was used for the coastal area of West Africa! And therefore not any specific country named Guinea which at that time did not exist yet. I know that Haitians also have a similar term: “Ginen”. See also these links:

      Guinea in the 1700’s vs modernday Guinea (Conakry/Bissau)
      What’s in a name?

      Also her 40% “Nigerian” could possibly include a good portion of DNA which was inherited by ancestors who lived on the territory nowadays called Benin, and perhaps also other neighbouring countries of Nigeria. Still it should be a good indication of substantial Nigerian lineage. Her results will have changed now however because of the latest update which I will blog about shortly.

      I find it very impressive that she has already been able to confirm Igbo ancestry on her great-grandmother’s side! There’s a very good chance this also translates in associated Igbo DNA matches which can be found on Ancestry. Finding any other shared DNA matches she has with them will be very beneficial for exploring and corroborating this Igbo line in greater detail. Possibly she also has more than 1 Igbo ancestor who was brought over to St. Lucia?

      When I was on the island in 1985, I met an old African-looking woman, a relative of my grandmother. Her grandfather was one of the Youruba speakers who arrived from Nigeria as an indentured worker in the 19th century. Many came from Ekiti State

      What a valuable finding! Again if you should ever take a DNA test with either Ancestry or 23andme please contact me because if this Yoruba ancestor is also linked to your grandmother the odds of finding associated Yoruba DNA matches should be quite high for you!

      Please, dear Felipe, keep me up-dated regarding any new insights into St Lucia.

      Feel free to subscribe to my blog! That way you will always receive a message whenever I have published a new blog post. In addition you can use the search box for any St. Lucian related content. I also use tags or categories for my blog posts. Whenever I will focus on St. Lucia or other French Creole speaking Caribbean islands I will use: “Franco-Caribbean”. Right now these blog posts are usually Haiti related. But I hope to add content for other islands, like St. Lucia, eventually as well.

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        • Thank you for your interest to share! Which DNA company did you test with? Also please tell me more about your background. Are both of your parents from St. Lucia?

          Like

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