Interpreters and translators played a central role in the transatlantic slave trade in the nineteenth century. Some helped traffickers. Others aided in the suppression of the slave trade. On land, Mixed Courts of Justice for the Suppression of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (1819–71) employed interpreters and translators. Courts in Havana and Rio de Janeiro along with seven other Courts situated throughout the Atlantic Basin heard more than six hundred cases and “liberated” some 100,000 Africans taken off captured slave vessels. At sea, interpreters interviewed enslaved Africans on board captured slave ships to provide information to British naval officers. Numerous interpreters and translators were Africans or African descendants. Using language skills and knowledge of the Atlantic world, these “Atlantic Creoles” defended personal freedoms and the human rights of others during the Age of Revolutions (1760–1850). Two episodes are noted in which enslaved blacks spoke fluent Eng lish as a means to convince British and United States officials that they merited immediate emancipation.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.