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Jesus of Lübeck: How Africans Were Lured into England’s First Slave Ship

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John Hawkins urged the Africans to enter his ship “Jesus of Lubeck,” also known as “The Good Ship Jesus.” for salvation, those who entered soon found they were barred from disembarking.

Jesus Of Lübeck: How Africans Were Lured into England’s First Slave 'Jesus' Ship

Jesus of Lübeck was a sailing vessel built in the City of Lübeck in the early 16th century. Around 1540 the ship, which had mostly been used for representative purposes, was acquired by Henry VIII, King of England, to augment his fleet.

The ship which saw action during the French invasion of the Isle of Wight in 1545 was later chartered to John Hawkins in 1562 by Queen Elizabeth I after it foundered during a Battle.

Jesus of Lübeck became involved in the Atlantic slave trade and smuggling under John Hawkins. He successfully organized four voyages to West Africa and the West Indies between 1562 and 1568.

Early in his career, he led an expedition in which he violently captured 300 black Africans in Sierra Leone and sold them to Spanish plantations in the Americas.

Jesus Of Lübeck: How England’s First Slave Trader Lured Africans Into His ‘Jesus’ Ship
John Hawkins

An account holds that Hawkins who claimed to be a devout Christian and missionary found the Sierra Leoneans harvesting their crops.

He then proceeded to tell the natives of a God named Jesus and of heaven and hell, afterwards he asked those among them who sought to have Jesus as their saviour to enter his ship “Jesus of Lubeck,” also known as “The Good Ship Jesus.”

Those who entered soon found they were barred from disembarking as they were transported to Spanish plantations in the Americas. There Hawkins traded them for pearls, hides, and sugar.

Jesus Of Lübeck: How England’s First Slave Trader Lured Africans Into His ‘Jesus’ Ship
Jesus Of Lubeck

Hawkins’ slave-trading path involved sailing for the West African coast and, sometimes, with the help of other corrupted African chiefs, he kidnapped villagers.

Hawkins regarded the slaves as cargo to be transported to the Americas as quickly and cheaply as possible, there to be sold to work on coffee, tobacco, cocoa, sugar, and cotton plantations, gold and silver mines, rice fields, the construction industry, cutting timber for ships, in skilled labour, and as domestic servants.

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While several other Englishman had already taken slaves from Africa by the mid-15th Century, John Hawkins effectively set the pattern that became known as the English slave trade triangle.

He was considered the first English trader to profit from the Triangle Trade, based on selling supplies to colonies ill-supplied by their home countries, and their demand for African slaves in the Spanish colonies of Santo Domingo and Venezuela in the late 16th century.

His missions were so lucrative that Queen Elizabeth I sponsored his subsequent journeys and provided ships, supplies and guns. She also gave him a unique coat of arms bearing a bound slave.

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Jesus Of Lübeck: How Africans Were Lured into England’s First Slave 'Jesus' Ship
Queen Elizabeth I gifted John Hawkins gave a unique coat of arms bearing a bound slave

During the last voyage, Jesus, along with several other English ships, encountered a Spanish fleet off San Juan de Ulúa in September 1568. In the resulting battle, Jesus was disabled and captured by Spanish forces.

The heavily damaged ship was later sold for 601 ducats to a local merchant.

Hawkins died on the 12 November 1595 in San Juan, off the coast of Puerto Rico on his way to rescue his son Richard who was held in captivity by the Spanish in the South Atlantic.

Hawkins gained notice again in June 2006, more than four centuries after his death, when a supposed descendant, Andrew Hawkins, publicly apologised for John Hawkins’s actions in the slave trade.

Andrew and 20 friends from the Christian charity Lifeline Expedition knelt in chains before 25,000 Africans to ask forgiveness for his ancestor’s involvement in the slave trade at Independence Stadium in Bakau, the Gambia.

“Jesus of Lubeck,” also known as “The Good Ship Jesus.”

The group apologised in French, German and English – the languages of the nations responsible for much of the African slave trade.

The Vice-President of the Gambia Isatou Njie Saidy symbolically removed the chains in a spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness.



Talk Africana
Fascinating Cultures and history of peoples of African origin in both Africa and the African diaspora

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