From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

American/Brazilian Slaver "Kentucky" (ship)

In 1844, the slave ship Kentucky, which had been sold by Americans to Brazilians, sailed to Inhambane and Quelimane, Mozambique, Africa, under the American flag. The crew was made up of both Americans and Brazilians. Inhambane and Quelimane, located on the southeast coast of Africa, were off limits to the slave ship by treaty.  But the treaty was ignored; the slave trade had taken place in these ports for centuries.

Quelimane was one of the oldest settlements in the area,  founded by the Portuguese as a trading station in 1544; it was a slave market during the 18th and 19th centuries [source: Encyclopaedia Britannica online ].

Inhambane was much older, having existed in the 10th century. It was the southern port used for slave trade by the Arabs. Portugal claimed the bay in 1498, and it became a trading post in 1534 [source: A History of Mozambique, by Malyn Newitt; and Inhambane Province at Wikipedia].

The slave ship Kentucky arrived in 1844. Once the cargo of 530 adult Africans was shackled aboard the Kentucky, the Americans turned the ship over to the Brazilians, and all or some of the American crew returned to Brazil on another ship. The next day, the African captives attempted an unsuccessful revolt. Those thought to be guilty of participating in the revolt were tried by the ship captain, and 46 African men and one woman were hanged, then shot in the chest and thrown overboard. In addition, 20 men and six women were severely flogged.

When the ship reached Brazil, the entire incident was recounted and recorded at the U.S. Consul in Rio de Janeiro and forwarded to the U.S. Congress [House Ex. Doc. 61 & Senate Ex. Doc. 28, both in the 30th Congress].

In 1845, Consul Henry A. Wise of Virginia  appealed to President James K. Polk to take a stand against pirate slave ships sailing under the American flag as license for the types of barbarity exhibited on the Kentucky and the slave trade in general. No stand was taken. The ship Kentucky continued to be used in the slave trade, and it was eventually found by a British armed vessel, tucked away on the Angozha [Angoche] River in Mozambique. With no way to escape by sea, the crew of the Kentucky set the ship on fire and escaped by land. It is not known if the ship had African captives aboard.

For more see The American Slave Trade: an account of its origin, growth and suppression, by J. R. Spears (published in 1900); and An Exposition of the African Slave Trade: from the year 1840, to 1850 inclusive, by U.S. Department of State, Representative Meeting (1851) [both titles available full text via Google Books].

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“American/Brazilian Slaver "Kentucky" (ship),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 22, 2024,

Last modified: 2021-03-26 16:38:23