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A new display at the Museum of London Docklands explores the history of London’s slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries.
The new display tells the story of an African prince sold into slavery and his connection to one of the largest companies involved in the slave trade at the time, the Royal African Company.
Founded in 1672 as a joint venture between the Duke of York, who was to become King James II, and leading merchants in London, the Royal African Company held a monopoly over the slave trade in West Africa. The company shipped cloth, guns and alcohol to West Africa in exchange for enslaved Africans who were then transported to Barbados and Jamaica. The Company shipped more enslaved Africans than any other English organisation during the entire period of that trade – nearly 150,000 people.
This display focuses on the history of this company by telling the story of an African prince, William Sessarakoo, otherwise known as ‘The Royal African’. Sessarakoo was the son of the head of a leading family in West Africa. He grew up in the Royal African Company’s fort at Annamaboe which was located in present day Ghana.
He was sent by his father to London to be educated but he was tricked and sold into slavery in Barbados by an independent slave trader in 1744. He spent around four years in slavery until he was freed by the Royal African Company who wanted to keep good relations with his father and brought him to London. Learn more about his story.
London Sugar & Slavery gallery open