Tendaji is a Swahili word meaning “hardworking.” But for many years, Mr. Ganges didn’t have any idea where his last name came from. Traveling around the country and checking phone books, he knew only that there weren’t many other African-American families with that name.
Then, a few years ago, he and his younger twin brothers, Kelly and Larry, were contacted by Kenneth Finkel, former executive at WHYY-TV in Philadelphia. That’s when they learned that they are likely descended from slaves who were captured off the coast of Cuba in 1800 by a Navy warship, the USS Ganges.
The captain of the Ganges sent the captured “cargo” to Philadelphia, where a judge decided that they had been illegally captured, and gave them into the care of the Philadelphia Abolition Society to place as indentured servants. Indentured servants were indentured for a fixed period of time (commonly seven years–my degree is in history, remember) at the expiration of which they were released from servitude. Many early immigrants came as indentured servants, working off the cost of their passage in a fixed period of servitude–not in servitude for the duration of their lives and of the lives of their issue.
The story points out that, as officers and gentlemen,
Most naval captains who captured slave ships would take them to ports such as Charleston, S.C., where they could make a handsome sum from selling the slaves as “salvage,” he (Marcus Rediker, a distinguished professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh–ed.) said.
Read the rest. Learn more about America’s original sin, chattel slavery and (the continuing sin) theft of labor.