Juneteenth And The Transatlantic Slave Trade

While 45 of 50 states recognize Juneteenth as either a state holiday, ceremonial holiday, or day of observance, many things we take for granted today such as the coffeehouse, tea rooms and the international city of London are examples of things that once flourished off the backs of enslaved labor through the transatlantic slave trade.

Juneteenth is a holiday that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas. On June 19, 1865, nearly three years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, it served as the culmination of news concerning the end of the Civil War and freedom finally reaching an estimated 250,000 enslaved Africans in Texas after centuries related to the transatlantic slave trade.

The transatlantic slave trade was a triangle of trade shaped by the journey of ships from slaving ports traveling between Europe, West Africa and the Americas. The initial part of the route left cities such as London with manufactured goods such as cloth, guns and glassware to trade for enslaved African men, women and children in western Africa. The ‘Middle Passage’ was the second part, involving the carrying of human cargo from the western Africa for enslavement in the Americas and Caribbean. Those who survived the journey were sold to work on plantations. The final voyage of this triangle of trade was the return of these ships to Europe with goods cultivated on plantations such as sugar, rum, tobacco and coffee.

Believing it had a right and duty to ‘police’ the world, many European countries interfered in the affairs of other cultures by taking complete control or colonizing other countries. During the 18th century, the drinking of coffee became popular resulting in a high demand for sugar. With a mass supply of free available labor to dramatically increase profit, a factory style of farming - the plantation, was heavily financed by British merchants and financiers. As a result, profits from London’s connections with the transatlantic slave trade were central to the development of the cosmopolitan atmosphere that many people associate with the city today.

For example, William Beckford, the Lord Mayor of London in 1762 and 1769, owned over 22 plantations in the Americas. In addition, Northeast Florida links to London include Patrick Tonyn, Francis Levett and Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. Tonyn served as the last British governor of East Florida from 1774 to 1783. A favored British officer, Tonyn owned a plantation in present day Clay County, the Peña-Peck House in St. Augustine and 1,000-acres along the Nassau River in Nassau County. He also owned Fort George Island for a short period of time.

Kingsley Plantation