Creolizing Currents: Bambara

Whydah (also called Juda, or Ouidah), Guinée, 1725
Jean Baptiste Labat, "European Trading Posts at Savi, 1720s," Voyage du Chevalier des Marchais en Guinee (Amsterdam, 1731). In Thomas Astley, A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels (London, 1745-47). Image Reference 3-064, as shown on, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library. See also Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-106828.

This plan includes the European slave compounds and illustrates the African town the French called Juda. The French compound is the large one in the center left of the picture, between the smaller Portugese and English establishments, with a Dutch compound in the right foreground.

Governor Bienville in New Orleans designated Judah as the port for the first French ship sent by the Company of the West from France to purchase slaves for lower Louisiana in 1718. Bambara purchased from their captors, the Mandinga, were taken to the compound to await embarkation to Louisiana. The captifs, are seen in front of their arms-bearing captors, being marched to the compounds.

The Company of the West wrote instructions to the captain of the Aurore, Sieur Herpin. He was to sail from St. Malo and head to the coast of Guinea to carry on the trade in negres there. He was instructed to make landfall between Cape Mount and Cape Mesurade, now the western coast of Liberia, then to continue to Juda, trading for both negres and rice. Along the way Herpin was to trade for negres who knew how to cultivate rice and speak French. Besides trading for three or four hogsheads of rice suitable for planting, he was instructed not to trade for any negre or negresse more than thirty years of age or less than eight.

The vessel was large enough to contain four hundred negres, according to the Company officials. Herpin was also to trade for the corn the negres would need on the voyage. Sieur Herpin, all his officers and the surgeon were directed to take great care of the health of the cargo. Herpin was to find Portuguese vessels on the coast of Guinea, to trade with them for Brazilian tobacco to the amount of two or three hundred pounds. The letter said:

On his arrival at the [French Louisiana] colony Sieur Herpin will cast anchor at Ile Dauphine [off the coast of Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico east of the French settlement at Mobile]. He will first send his ship's boat ashore to inform the directors of his arrival; next he will deliver his negres to them, and he will follow in everything the orders that they give him.

Reference: "Documents Covering the Beginning of the African Slave Trade in Louisiana", 1718, translated at the Library of Congress by Albert Godfrey Sanders and published in The Louisiana Historical Quarterly.

New Orleans from the West Bank, 1726
Jean Pierre Lassus, "Veüe et Perspective de la Nouvelle Orléans." Archives Nationales d'Outre-mer.

The New Orleans African American Museum (NOAAM) is located in Faubourg Treme, at 1418 Governor Nicholls Street, phone (504) 566-1136.

Generous assistance provided by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation.