Angela from Jamestown

Today we move from royalty to slavery. Earlier this week the Washington Post published an article about an African woman (girl?) named Angela. She was forcibly removed from West Africa to Luanda in present-day Angola. From there she was crammed into a slave ship and sent towards Spanish colonies in the Caribbean. Before she arrived, however, her ship was intercepted by English pirates that took her and several others as their spoils to sell to English colonists.

The article is a fascinating read and for our purposes it makes use of two graphics. The one is a bar chart plotting the Atlantic slave trade. It makes use of annotations to provide a rich context for the peaks and valleys—importantly it includes not just the British colonies, but Spanish and Portuguese as well.

My favourite, however, is the Sankey diagram that shows the trade in 1619 specifically, i.e. the year Angela was transported across the Atlantic.

Too many people took similar routes to the New World.
Too many people took similar routes to the New World.

It takes the total number of people leaving Luanda and then breaks those flows into different paths based on their geographic destinations. The width of those lines or flows represents the volume, in this case people being sold into slavery. That Angela made it to Jamestown is surprising. After all, most of her peers were being sent to Vera Cruz.

But the year 1619 is important. Because 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the first slaves being brought into Jamestown and the Virginia colony. The Pilgrims that found Plymouth Bay Colony will not land on Cape Cod until 1620, a year later. The enslavement of people like Angela was built into the foundation of the American colonies.

The article points out how work is being done to try and find Angela’s remains. If that happens, researchers can learn much more about her. And that leads one researcher to make this powerful statement.

We will know more about this person, and we can reclaim her humanity.

For the record, I don’t necessarily love the textured background in the graphics. But I understand the aesthetic direction the designers chose and it does make sense. I do like, however, how they do not overly distract from the underlying data and the narrative they present.

Credit for the piece goes to Lauren Tierney and Armand Emamdjomeh.

Why the Civil War?

Yesterday, President Trump asked why there had been no discussion about the causes of the Civil War.

No, that is not a joke.

Well, Mr. President, turns out that there has been quite a bit of discussion over the last few years. And the broad consensus?

Do I even have to?
Do I even have to?

Note the above, with the darker shaded counties representing those with greater percentages of the population held in slavery. What do most of those states have in common with the Confederacy? That they are in the Confederacy.

To be clear, the Union was not perfect. Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri remained part of the Union, but were states where slavery was legal. In fact both Kentucky and Missouri had two governments. Kentucky provides a great example of the fault line with the pro-Union capital of Frankfort situated in the low-slavery east whereas the Confederate capital was located in western, high-slavery Kentucky.

But the point stands. Slavery was the link between Confederate states and Confederate-aligned parallel governments in Union states. So, Mr. President, when you are asked about the cause of the Civil War, now you know the answer.

Credit for the piece goes to E. Hergeshimer of the US Census Bureau.