Date: Mon, 22 Dec 1997 05:04:58 EST


Subject: Blackbirds

This term--"blackbirds"-- goes with, but perhaps appeared too late for,

the period of AMISTAD. OED has "blackbird" (cant name for a captive negro or

Polynesian on board a slave or pirate ship) to 1881, "blackbirder" to 1883,

and "blackbirding" to 1873. RHHDAS has a dubious "blackbird" for 1832, and

then one for 1865.

I was going through the New York Morning Express:

10 July 1860, NY Morning Express, pg. 2, col. 2.

THE BUSINESS IN "BLACKBIRDS." (...) The sailors were examined, in turn,

but every one of them was an intense "know-nothing." The whole party in fact

were in a lamentable condition of ignorance touching the particular use to

which said "Kate" was to be put as soon as the Coast of Africa was reached.

To be sure one or two of these innocents confessed that they had heard some

mysterious whispering about "blackbirds," etc., but as nobody seemed to know

what was meant by "blackbirds," the Commissioner ordered the entire gang to be


25 July 1860, NY Morning Express, pg. 1, col. 3.

We are delighted to see the Tribune giving its attention to "the Greeks"

at our own doors. (...) The Tribune sees a "blackbird Line" of slavers here

now,--among them, the Bark Kate, opposite Castle Garden...

9 August 1860, NY Morning Express, pg. 1, col. 4.

"THE BLACKBIRD FLEET"--as the New York Yankee Slavers are called, we

rejoice to see, yet attracting Northern Abolition attention. When we can make

the Abolition Journals see "the Greeks are at home," not all in the Cotton

States, then there will be hope for peace in the country.

15 August 1860, NY Morning Express, pg. 2, col. 3.

STILL ANOTHER BLACKBIRD--Arrived at this port last (Tuesday) night...