No one present at the Battle of Cape Lopez off the coast of West Africa in 1722 could have known that they were on the edge of history. This obscure yet fierce naval battle would have a monumental impact on British colonies and the future of slavery in America.
Pirates of the Slave Trade follows three fascinating figures whose fates would violently converge: John Conny, a charismatic leader of the Akan people who made lucrative deals with pirates and smugglers while fending off British and Dutch slavers; the infamous pirate Black Bart, who worked his way from an anonymous navigator to one of the British Empire’s most notorious enemies in the region; and naval captain Chaloner Ogle, tasked by the Crown with hunting down and killing Black Bart at all costs. At the Battle of Cape Lopez, these three men and the massive historical forces at their backs would finally find each other—and the world would be transformed forever.
In this landmark narrative history, historian Angela Sutton outlines the complex network of trade routes spanning the Atlantic Ocean trafficked by agents of empire, private merchants, and brutal pirates alike. Drawing from a wide range of primary historical sources, Sutton offers a new perspective on how a single battle played a pivotal role in reshaping the trade of enslaved people in ways that affect America to this day.
Between its engaging narrative style filled with swashbuckling naval battles and tales of adventure at sea, its wide array of rigorous and detailed research, and its implications toward modern America, Pirates of the Slave Trade is an essential addition to every history reader’s shelves.
Angela Sutton is an Assistant research professor at Vanderbilt University, where she has taught Seapower in History, the Golden Age of Piracy, and Comparative Slavery. She is director of Builders and Defenders, a database of the enslaved and free Black laborers and soldiers who built and defended Fort Negley, a Civil War fortification in Nashville on the UNESCO Routes of Enslaved Peoples, as well as the Fort Negley Descendants Project, an oral history archive of the stories of this population’s descendants.
“In her novel study of Golden Age pirates and slavery, Sutton engages the reader with the harsh reality and long-term consequences of a subject far too often romanticized, even by many scholars. Pirates of the Slave Trade provides a much-needed re-examination of fascinating historical events that profoundly affect our political and social cultures today.” – Benerson Little, author of The Golden Age of Piracy and The Sea Rover’s Practice, among others
"Angela Sutton deftly illustrates the ways in which the declining fortunes of golden age pirates shaped the very nature of enslavement in the Atlantic world. Filled with fascinating historical figures and comprehensively researched, Sutton’s narrative is both powerful and compelling. Pirates of the Slave Trade is a must-read for anyone interested in the development of Anglo-American chattel slavery, the influence of golden age pirates, and the broader impact of the intersection between the two." – Jamie L.H. Goodall, author of Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay, Pirates & Privateers from Long Island Sound to Delaware Bay, and The Daring Exploits of Pirate Black Sam Bellamy
“Pirates of the Slave Trade is a harrowing account of bloody battles on the high seas—and their lasting consequences. For agents of European empire, stamping out the pirates who prowled the West African coast was a crucial step toward gaining control of the transatlantic trade in human captives. For West Africans, the stakes were even higher. Angela Sutton vividly brings to life a chaotic world shaped by violent struggles that continue to reverberate today.” – Randy M. Browne, author of Surviving Slavery in the British Caribbean
“Pirates of the Slave Trade entwines the important though often separate histories of piracy and slavery, placing these significant stories at the center of tensions and contentions produced by expanding empires. Far from peripheral, the vibrant yet often overlooked individuals and events at the heart of this book tied together Africa, Europe, and the Americas at the Battle of Cape Lopez with actions that changed the contours of modern commerce, warfare, and race. Developed from unique Dutch and German sources, among others, Sutton’s approachable book should appeal to a wide audience seeking to appreciate how piracy, trade, and slavery influenced our world.” – Dr. Charlton W. Yingling, Associate Professor of History, University of Louisville, author of Siblings of Soil: Dominicans and Haitians in the Age of Revolutions
“A bold and riveting tale that takes readers deep into the fascinating world of Atlantic pirates, West African powerbrokers, and imperial agents. A must-read for anyone interested in the origins of chattel slavery and racism.” – Marjoleine Kars, professor of history, MIT, and author of Blood on the River: A Chronicle of Mutiny and Freedom on the Wild Coast
“Board the Royal Fortune and join Captain Black Bart on a swashbuckling journey as he leads his fleet of pirates in audacious assaults on the Atlantic slave trade, extorting ship captains, creating mayhem, and challenging the strength of European empires in this exhilarating history of piracy, power, and the struggle for authority on the high seas.” – Caree Banton, Associate Professor of African Diaspora History and author of More Auspicious Shores: Barbadian Migration to Liberia, Blackness, and the Making of an African Republic
Centering on three key figures, John Conny, Bartholomew Roberts, and Captain Chaloner Ogle, historian Angela Sutton provides a riveting look at the intertwined histories of piracy in the Atlantic and the transatlantic slave trade. Her work is richly detailed and filled with historical notes and references. Pirates of the Slave Trade is a remarkable narrative history of the waning years of the Golden Age of piracy and how it ushered in a new era of slavery that changed the course of history.