Friday, February 10, 2006

You Learn Something New Everyday

Georgia's Labor Commissioner, Michael Thurmond, wrote an interesting article on the founding of Georgia by Gen. James Oglethorpe, the former executive of a slave trading company who had since become an ardent opponent of slavery.

The genesis of Oglethorpe's anti-slavery advocacy can be traced to a young African prince named Job ben Jalla. Captured on the west coast of Africa in 1730, Job was subsequently enslaved on a Maryland tobacco plantation. Job's owner violated law and custom by allowing the prince to write a letter to his father, detailing the desperate circumstances surrounding his enslavement.

Written in Arabic, the letter passed through several hands until it was placed in the possession of Oglethorpe. Prior to the founding of Georgia, Oglethorpe served as deputy governor of the Royal African Co., a British enterprise that engaged in the African slave trade. After having the impassioned letter translated, he wrote Job's owner and promised to purchase the young man's freedom and pay for his passage to England.

In December 1732, Job's distant benefactor sold his stock in the Royal African Co. and severed all ties with the British slaving corporation.

The precocious prince arrived in London during the spring of 1733 while Oglethorpe was away in the New World. During his 12-month stay, Job became a "roaring lion" in British society. The following year, Job completed his miraculous journey back to his native country.

It's a pretty impressive story, one worth reading and posting about. Unfortunately, pro-slavery opponents engaged in efforts to destroy Oglethorpe politcally, judicially and financially. Though finally vindicated personally, Oglethorpe's efforts to keep Georgia slave-free failed, as you probably know. But the "rest of the story" is something I had never heard.

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