The Golden Age of Piracy had its fair share of Black Pirates who were dubbed Black Caesars.
One of the effects of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was the destruction of Pre-Colonial African Kingdoms followed by the enslavement of Africans from all classes within African Society who would otherwise have pursued their happiness as free men.
It is in this context that the opportunity for advancement and independence presented by Pirating can be understood.
It’s estimated that nearly 50% of Caribbean Pirates were Black during this Golden Age of Piracy between 1680-1725.
On Plantations Africans worked as Slaves, but at Sea they were considered equals.
The first Black Caesar was an African Ruler who was a prominent Slave Trader in Africa.
His success worked against him however, as European Slave Traders found it increasingly difficult to deal with him financially as equals, and so they tricked him into boarding a Slave Ship where he was captured and shipped off to the New World.
Luckily, a severe hurricane struck the Ship along the way, and he managed to escape with a band of followers who floated along with the wreck until they found themselves on the Southern Coast of Florida where they established a Pirate community and began attacking Merchant Ships in the area.
Black Caesar was so successful he is remembered and credited for first using the phrase “dead men tell no tales”.
He subsequently moved his operation to what are now known as the Islands of Sanibel and Captiva where he built a village for his 100 women and established a base, trading actively with the Native American Indians in the area.
In 1718 he formed an alliance with the infamous Pirate Blackbeard, but when Blackbeard’s ship was captured, both were taken prisoner, tried and executed in Virginia.
Henry was born in 1767, and he was enslaved with his family on a large Plantation in Haiti where he worked doing household duties.
However, by age 16, due to his enormous build, Henry was assigned to work outside in the lumber yard. He resented the change which was compounded by a cruel Overseer who loved to whip the Slaves and draw blood from them while they were cutting Mahogany Logs.
Henry took part in the Haitian Slave Revolt, and he spent nine years as a leader in the jungles attacking French Patrols and Forts.
In 1804 Haiti gained independence, however Henry was not impressed with the new Revolutionary Government and turned to Pirating.
His operation centred on attacking Merchant Ships off the Coasts of Cuba and the Bahamas.
Like the first Caesar, Henry and his Pirates were successful, and for the next 10 years he adopted the moniker Caesar The Great.
However, following the purchase of Florida by the United States, Black Caesar was forced to abandon his lucrative base, moving into the Gulf of Mexico where he also established a settlement on Sanibel Island.
He continued raiding, but in 1829 Henry was eventually captured by the Spanish off the coast of Cuba and he died shortly afterwards.
All in all, the History of Black Pirates is a story of self-determination, and most of all dignity in a hostile world.
For this reason, it can be said that Black Pirates were a direct product of the Historical conditions of the time with Piracy being one of the few occupations in which Blacks could be treated as equals and also pursue their happiness as free men.