Cover image for The wreck of the Henrietta Marie : an African-American's spiritual journey to uncover a sunken slave ship's past
The wreck of the Henrietta Marie : an African-American's spiritual journey to uncover a sunken slave ship's past
Cottman, Michael H.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harmony Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxiv, 242 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F319.K4 C68 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
F319.K4 C68 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

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When prize-winning journalist and avid scuba diver Michael Cottman participated in an underwater expedition to survey the sunken wreck of a slave ship off the coast of Florida, he was overwhelmed by powerful feelings of kinship and oneness with his African ancestors. As he held in his hands the very shackles that once had bound men, women, and children in their tortured passage from their African homeland to America, Michael Cottman became determined to tell their stories and the story behind the ship that had carried them away from all they knew and loved. The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie is a fascinating look at one man's quest to reconstruct the journey of a British slave ship with all the detail and accuracy available to us at the end of the twentieth century.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Pulitzer Prize^-winning journalist Cottman traveled back through time and across three continents to translate his "passion for the sea, adventure, and African American history into a journey to uncover a slave ship's past." Determined to conduct a comprehensive historical investigation into the cruel mission and the dismal fate of the Henrietta Marie, a British slave ship that sank off the coast of Florida in 1700, the author visited England, where he meticulously researched both the slave trade and the lives of the shipbuilders and the crew of the Henrietta Marie; West Africa, where he paid tribute to the countless numbers of African men, women, and children who fell victim to the barbaric and mercenary slave hunters; and the Caribbean, where he and other members of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers explored the actual wreckage of the Henrietta Marie. In addition, Cottman offers a trenchant analysis of the scientific, cultural, and social significance of the discovery and the salvage of the sunken vessel. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist and scuba diver Cottman (The Million Man March) gives readers a very personal account of how diving to see a wreck inspired him to dive deeper into the history of the slave trade and still deeper into his own relationship to the memory of those who were brought to America as slaves. In the summer of 1700, the Henrietta Marie, a ship sailing from Port Royal, Jamaica, where the captain had just delivered 190 African slaves, hit a storm and sank not far from Key West. In 1993, 20 years after the wreck had been discovered, Cottman and other black divers made an underwater pilgrimage to the ship and deposited a memorial with a bronze plaque honoring their enslaved ancestors. Cottman's further exploration into the history of the Henrietta Marie took him to London, where he researched the slave trade, and to Jamaica, where he met the descendants of slaves who may have been on the ship. Cottman expresses a spiritual connection with the enslaved human cargo, a feeling that peaked during his second visit to Goree Island, off the coast of West Africa, to see the remains of a slave house where captured Africans were held before export. His book is primarily a meditation on his spiritual solidarity with his enslaved forebears and works best when he resists his impulse toward didacticism and easy uplift: "You didn't have to attend the Million Man March to carry the spirit in your heart," he reports telling a Senegalese acquaintance. Photos not seen by PW. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In his new book, Washington Post writer Cottman takes the reader on a journey from England to Jamaica to Nigeria, following his research into the fate of the slave ship Henrietta Marie. Cottman's passion for African American history is evident‘the book reads like a novel that is hard to put down. The story opens with Moe, a deep-sea diver who stumbles upon shackles at the bottom of the ocean, pointing to the existence of the Henrietta Marie. It ends with Cottman on a deep-sea dive actually finding the ship itself. In between, excerpts from sources found in libraries around the world are interspersed with tales of deep-sea dives and foreign travels, as the history of the slave trade is slowly pieced together. George Sullivan's Slave Ship (Cobblehill, 1994), a YA treatment of the Henrietta Marie story, doesn't begin to have the emotional impact that Cottman's story delivers. An excellent piece of work on an obscure and important part of history; highly recommended.‘Stephanie Papa, Baltimore Cty. Circuit Court Law Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-In 1770, the English slave ship Henrietta Marie sank off the coast of the Florida Keys after unloading 190 African slaves in Port Royal, Jamaica. Cottman traces the ship's history back nearly three centuries and across three continents. He begins his journey in England where he researches the lives of the shipbuilder and crew; he travels to Jamaica where he talks to descendants of slaves on the Fuller plantation. On Goree Island, off the coast of Senegal, he tours the slave castle called "The Door of No Return" and ends his journey as he and other black divers make an underwater pilgrimage to the site of the Henrietta Marie. This is a powerful book, documented with black-and-white photographs. Teens will not only get a general overview of the history of the slave trade but will also see how the author gathered primary resources for his research.-Jamie L. Turner, Oakland Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One The talking drums echo through the village of stalks and thickets as fireflies sprinkle the darkness shortly before sunrise. On the swampy banks along the West African coast, where the shoreline is often swollen by heavy rains, young women, in the early-morning sun, wade through a marsh thick with mosquitoes to bathe their babies. Teenagers with bare feet walk slowly down dirt roads with stacks of firewood on their heads as old women with wrinkled hands sit in the shade weaving mats from large palm leaves. The men, mostly fishermen with heavy silver bracelets adorning their upper arms, walk across soggy soil to the coast, where they climb into slender wooden canoes to fish the waters of West Africa. Some of the villagers are also farmers, working the land to harvest corn and cotton. Life was the same in most of the coastal villages throughout West Africa in the early decades of the fifteenth century. There, quiet settlements of African families prospered among the rows of thin bamboo shoots that towered over low thatched-roofed houses. Then, as now, children tossed twigs onto hot stones to hear the crackling of wood. The villages of West Africa were peaceful, structured societies of tightly knit, stable families who all worked to provide for the village where they lived. This was a hardworking, resourceful civilization, and it remains so today. There are communities of craftsmen and artists, masters of gold, copper, and bronze, painters and sculptors of detailed hand carvings; educators and thinkers; fishermen and blacksmiths; weavers and potters; priests who perform religious services, including weddings and funerals; dancers and musicians who pluck the soothing strings of the kora; poets who sit on log benches and tell mesmerizing stories; and men who heal the sick with pouches fat with herbs and words of faith. Elegant women wear hand-dyed robes of vivid reds and vibrant oranges. Everyone helps to educate and raise all of the children. This is a society where the senior members share their wisdom and are revered and cherished like royalty until their last breath. There are systems of government, hierarchies of power; village elders and community councils preside over meetings and help to settle differences. There are judges and senators and chiefs, each marked with a distinguishing scar of leadership above his eyebrows. Such scars are the result of a hot knife cutting into the flesh. It is these leaders who help prepare the boys for their rites of passage, help them to become men, and, in some cases, warriors. The boys are taught to shoot bow and arrows, to fight with double-edged swords, and to master the art of throwing a javelin. The wise men assemble the people of the village for weekly religious services and preach to them of decency to neighbors, cleanliness in the village, and honor among men and women. This is a community built on trust. ********* For as long as anyone could remember, life in the villages along the shores of West Africa was simple and safe. Then one day, without warning, the wind brought violence to the villages, and no one slept in peace anymore. In 1441, according to historians, two Portuguese ships sailed the coastline of West Africa looking for opportunities to exploit the fishing banks and to steal gold from the African people. When the ships dropped anchor, the African villagers, their curiosity aroused, approached the pale men with stringy hair who had rowed ashore. The seamen quickly overpowered at least a dozen people, loaded them into longboats, and sailed away. These strong-arm raids didn't last long. They ultimately evolved into the more routine capturing and trading for Africans, as Europeans were fast to establish a formal system by persuading some African kings and chiefs to capture their own people and sell them into slavery. For long periods after the abductions, some of the children from the villages would climb the tallest trees to watch for the return of the great Portuguese ships that had snaked their way along the Rio Real--ships with long guns aimed at the shore; ships with tall sails that snapped in the breeze; dark ships that creaked in the tide; ships that brought chaos and fear and always left death in their wake. Calm would become only a memory for the people of the West African villages. Lives would be lost in this steady state of terror called slavery. A life of peace had been stolen from these African families. Those taken were stripped of their titles and even their names, snatched away from everything familiar. No one was safe from slavery--not the smallest child, not the mightiest warrior. And so, the people of these villages along the west coast of Africa could only embrace their children, comfort each other, pray, and wait for the ships to come. Excerpted from The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie: An African American's Spiritual Journey to Uncover a Sunken Slave Ship's Past by Michael H. Cottman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.