Newsletters

Why were more Africans forced into slavery after U.S. importation was outlawed?

This is part of our daily newsletter series. Want this in your inbox? Subscribe here.

By Debra Adams Simmons, HISTORY Executive Editor

The U.S. Congress banned importing slaves "into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States ... from any foreign kingdom, place, or country” in 1808. The act was deemed punishable by death in 1820. But the practice continued, with as many as 10,000 Africans brought to the U.S. in the next four decades.

The slave ship Clotilda, whose discovered remnants in Mobile Bay were confirmed earlier this year, smuggled 109 Africans into the country in 1860. Importantly, Clotilda was not an isolated incident.

The smugglers took advantage of a massive need for labor. America’s brutal dispossession and ejection of Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Seminole Indians from their homelands in the South opened up new areas for labor-intensive cotton fields.

In August 1860, one month after Clotilda arrived in the U.S., the slave ship Erie was caught by U.S. naval authorities off the West African coast transporting 897 captives. The captain of that ship, Nathaniel Gordon, was the only person ever tried, convicted, and hanged for smuggling slaves into the U.S.

View Images

The discovered wreck of the Clotilda has yielded important artifacts. National Geographic Society technology engineer Arthur Clarke uses an XRF machine to scan a square-cut nail brought up from the wreck—and to determine the elements of the artifact.

Do you get this newsletter daily? If not, sign up here or forward to a friend.

Today in a minute

Fighting Amazon destruction. Another defender of the massive deforestation of the Amazon has been killed following death threats. Paulo Paulino Guajajara, 26, had spoken out against the criminals who have been stealing timber and endangering the lives of the Awá, a tribe living apart from the modern world for centuries. Two years ago, Guajajara told Nat Geo that his wife had been worried about his work. “I tell her I’m defending our land for our children and our future grandchildren.”

Freedom. From a medieval Byzantine church in the town of Kalamata, Greeks in 1821 declared their independence from the Ottomans—and had the first Greek Orthodox Mass on free soil in Greece for more than 460 years, Atlas Obscura reports. It took another 11 years, but the Greeks moved far beyond Kalamata to achieve full independence.

Hidden city. The ancient community of Mrauk U thrived in the 1600s in modern-day Myanmar, welcoming Buddhists and Muslims alike. Now, the anti-Muslim drives by Myanmar officials, labeled genocide by human rights groups, are threatening efforts to solve its mysteries, Smithsonian reports.

Justice. William Monroe Trotter made money in real estate before he turned to journalism. The Harvard-educated Trotter began the Boston-based Guardian, which in the early decades of the 20th century pressed for racial equality and mobilized against racist works such as Birth of a Nation. Trotter, the subject of a new biography, went to the Versailles peace conference in 1919 to let “the world know that the negro race wants full liberty and equality of rights as the fruit of the world-war,” The New Yorker reports.

Your Instagram photo of the day

View Images


Preserved. Russia’s Karelia region is a mix between the raw nature and the preserved wooden traditional houses. In the picture: the pogost of Kizhi (i.e., the Kizhi enclosure) is located on one of the many islands in Lake Onega. Two 18th-century wooden churches, and an octagonal clock tower, also in wood and built in 1862, can be seen there. These visionary buildings perpetuate an ancient model of parish space and are in harmony with the surrounding landscape.

Are you one of our 126 million Instagram followers? (If not, follow us now.) +

Overheard at Nat Geo

Not jaw-dropping. Nat Geo’s Taryn Salinas was fact-checking an article for February's magazine about beauty industries worldwide recently and heard about a segment that seemed unusual even to our collagen-crazed, Botox-injecting, keto-dieting society. Double jaw surgery, it is called. Fascinated, Salinas discovered the procedure, a part of South Korea’s $13 billion beauty market, shaves and rearranges the upper and lower jawlines to create the desired V-line look. The surgery is popular in a nation where some teens get double-eyelid surgery for birthday or graduation presents. To hear other behind-the-scenes stories from National Geographic, listen to our podcast, Overheard. Subscribe here, or get tickets to our live podcast in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 5.

The big takeaway

The road to atonement. Until the new HBO series Watchmen portrayed it earlier this month, much of America did not know about the deadly 1921 attack by white mobs on black residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The city itself is preparing to open a $25 million museum dealing with the attack, which killed as many as 300 black people and destroyed a prosperous business district dubbed Black Wall Street. The city also has begun searching for mass graves. The museum will provoke dialogue about an incident that hadn’t been taught in schools, said historian Hannibal Johnson. It’s part of a three-pronged effort to move forward, Johnson told the Christian Science Monitor. “That is acknowledgment—acknowledging these traumas that existed in our communities all throughout the country. Apology where necessary and appropriate for the harms caused to the people victimized by these tragedies. And then atonement."

Did a friend forward this to you?

Come back tomorrow for George Stone on travel. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Victoria Jaggard on science, Rachael Bale on animal news, and Whitney Johnson on photography.

One last glimpse

View Images

A forever pet. An Egyptian queen's pet gazelle was readied for eternity with the same lavish care as a member of the royal family. In fine, blue-trimmed bandages and a custom-made wooden coffin, it accompanied its owner to the grave in about 945 B.C. The gazelle was just one of many animals mummified by the ancient Egyptians. (Speaking of mummified animals, eagle-eyed readers noted our newsletter item last week on Egypt’s mummified ibises had a typo in its second reference to the birds. Many thanks!)

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard. Have an idea or a link? I'd love to hear from you at david.beard@natgeo.com . And thanks for reading!