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

African American Slavery in Mexico - Tom West

According to author J. K. Turner, Tom West was born free in Kentucky and later became a slave in what was described as an experiment in Mexico. J. K. Turner met Tom West in 1908-1909.

In Kentucky, West had earned $2 per day in a brickyard. He left the U.S. for Mexico by way of Florida along with 80 other African Americans, all with the promise of earning $3.75 or 7.5 pesos per day working at coffee and rubber plantations in La Junta.

Once in Mexico the group was locked away at night, and armed guards watched over them as they worked during the day. Unbeknownst to West and the other African Americans, they had been sold as slaves to an American plantation owner and were forced to work off their purchase price before they would be paid for their labor. Those who escaped and were recaptured were beaten, and according to Turner, Mexico President José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori turned a blind eye to the whole affair.

African American slavery in Mexico was considered a failure, and Tom West was freed after two years on the plantation but remained in Mexico.

For more see Barbarous Mexico, by J. K. Turner.

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“African American Slavery in Mexico - Tom West,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 25, 2024,

Last modified: 2021-02-05 19:46:40