Zong Massacre Horror Story

Zong Massacre is the infamous historic event that took place in the and of 18th century when the slave trade had reached its peak. Zong was the name of the ship that departed from the coast of Africa on 6 September 1781. The slave ship was carrying 470 slaves to America. This trade relation was also known as the Atlantic Slave Trade that was mostly based on lower northern American south need for free labor strength on cotton plantations.

How and Why Did the Zong Massacre Happen?

Before the slave trade act from 1788 that had put limitations to the allowed number of slaves tying it to the tonnage of the ship, there were no prescribed limits. Therefore, the ship owners and captains would resort to cramming as many slaves as possible below the deck. They would chain them to the floor and walls, underfeed them and submit them to the long array of brutal treating that made history dedicate its whole section to the conditions on slave ships. Due to extremely harsh conditions, the death rate of human chattel was high. These were the factors that made way for the massacre to happen. Zong ship was running low on drinking water. Captain Luke Collingwood had made navigational mistakes and pushed the vessel into the part of the Atlantic ocean known as “the Doldrums.” These were parts of waters know for long periods with little or no winds at all. As the ship sat stranded 50 salves and 17 crew members died due to diseases and lack of water. Then the captain decided that something had to be done in order to preserve not just lives, but the profit too.

Picture of Zong Massacre
Slaves being thrown off the ship

Cashing the Insurance

Not just by white people, but also by the law, slaves were considered as a chattel and treated as such. Therefore there were insurance companies that slave owners would go to before sending ships overseas. They would make a contract encompassing the conditions in which the loss of slaves would be compensated and lower the risk of losses. This fact was the reason that pushed the captain Luke’s decisions into the direction of throwing slaves to the water. They left more than 130 slaves to drown. In addition, 10 more slaves had jumped self willingly which was later spoken of as an act of defiance. As soon as ship came back to Black Riverport in Jamaica claims that slave owners considered to have over insurance companies brought them to court.

The Court of Zong

Court Document
Zong Case Court Document

The ship owners, in this case, it was only one, James Gregson, sued the insurance company for denying him his money. The owner’s arguments in favor of justifying captain’s decisions to throw out slaves were that drinking water was running low. Thomas Gilbert, the representative of the opposing side, tried to dispute James’es arguments claiming that when the ship came back there were 420 gallons of drinking water. 1782 the court decided the outcome in favor of the owner. But it wasn’t over. In the next year, the insurers appealed. 1783 the case of the Zong massacre attracted a lot of attention. Slave abolitionists had a special interest in helping the insurance company win the battle. They used public attention to promote awareness of slave trading brutality and prepare the ground for complete abolition. This time, the court decided in favor of the insurance company and concluding the debate over the Zong massacre.

Zong Trial Shocking Moments

Here you can read a few statements that Zong’s captain made during the trials. It is both sad and valuable to know how malformed human psychology used to be.

What is this claim that human people have been thrown overboard? This is a case of chattels or goods. Blacks are goods and property; it is madness to accuse these well-serving honorable men of murder… The case is the same as if the wood had been thrown overboard.

While the insurance companies got their money back no one was condemned for murder and brought to justice.

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