Raymond Seitz

Freedom in Freetown

Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution


BBC Books 448pp £20 order from our bookshop

On 9 January 1792, John Clarkson, a 27-year-old lieutenant on leave of absence from the Royal Navy, set sail from Halifax, Nova Scotia, as ‘commodore’ of what is surely the most peculiar fleet ever to have crossed the Atlantic. The flotilla was made up of fifteen small ships – altogether not more than 2,000 tonnes – and carried 1,196 people. The crews were mainly white. The passengers were black, all former slaves from Britain’s lost American colonies. 

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