Anne Arundel History

October 02, 2005

1767: KUNTA KINTE ARRIVES IN ANNAPOLIS

When Maryland was a thriving English colony, Annapolis was a receiving port for transatlantic slave ships.

One ship, Lord Ligonier, arrived from Gambia on Sept. 29, 1767. The ship had left West Africa with 140 Gambians on July 5, 1767, so the voyage took nearly three months.

Documents indicate the ship's cargo added up to 98 surviving captives "imported" and scheduled to be sold by John Ridout. One of them, 17-year-old Kunta Kinte, had a descendant who later told his tale. Alex Haley recounted Kinte's life in Africa and America in the bestselling book Roots.

To recover the story of Kinte's life, Haley did not only rely on documents. Oral histories passed down in his family proved invaluable. Haley also found some memory of Kinte left on Africa's shores.

The author heard a Gambian storyteller speak of a time in the village, as she put it, "when the king's soldiers came." Then, she said, "a young boy named Kunta went into the forest to cut wood one day and never came back."

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