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 How Welsh immigrants passed on names to their slaves

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Date d'inscription : 28/05/2005

15102006
MessageHow Welsh immigrants passed on names to their slaves

How Welsh immigrants passed on names to their slaves

Oct 14 2006

Molly Watson, Western Mail

SERENA and Venus Williams, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice would be proud additions to the list of Welsh-connected superstars with their familiar-sounding surnames.

But a new S4C programme has laid bare the legacy of shame that led to many black Americans being burdened with Welsh names.

Along with other European immigrants, many of the early Welsh settlers in the US owned slaves.

And when they were freed, many of them took the last names of their former owners, which explains the widespread occurrence of Welsh-sounding names such as Morgan, Williams, Jones and Rice, a derivation of Rhys.

The theory is put forward in the programme America Gaeth a'r Cymry to be shown later this month, alongside alternative theories, for example that the link is down to the large number of Welsh ministers who looked after and helped protect slaves before and after emancipation.

Dr Jerry Hunter of the University of Wales, Bangor, helped research the series which examines how between 1619, when the first slaves were sold in America, and 1865, when the last slaves were freed, there was a huge shift in Welsh attitudes to slavery.

And he said many people are unaware about Wales' links to the slave trade.

He said, "Welsh involvement in slavery is both positive and negative. We went back through the history from the beginning to the end of the Welsh connection with slavery in America. In the early days a lot of people were involved in owning slaves and bringing slaves to America but by the time of the Civil War the Welsh population in America were overwhelmingly united in the belief that slavery was evil. In a way it's a history of moral evolution of attitudes."

Until the end of the 18th century even Welsh clergymen saw nothing untoward in owning slaves.

One of the best-known, perhaps, was cleric and poet Goronwy Owen who spent his latter years as a tobacco planter in Virginia, where he owned four slaves.

Welshman Thomas Phillips, who captained a Brecon ship that transported slaves from Africa to America, was the author of one of the most detailed accounts of slave journeys from the era.

However the S4C series shows a new political radicalism emerged at the time of the War of American Independence in 1776 and the subsequent French Revolution, giving Wales something to be proud of.

The US was split north and south on the question of slavery and one man in particular led the Welsh protest against its iniquities. Robert Everett was born in Flintshire but after moving to the US in 1823 he devoted more than 40 years as a preacher and publisher to changing Welsh opinion on slavery in America.

Ifor ap Glyn, presenter and producer of the series, said, "He's a forgotten hero and I hope this series goes some way to reminding us of his importance in the campaign to abolish slavery."

The series is produced by the same team who put together Cymry Rhyfel Cartref America (The Welsh and the American Civil War), which won the Bafta Cymru Gwyn Alf Williams Memorial Award for best history TV series.

Mr ap Glyn said, "We had dealt to some extent with the history of slavery in our previous series about the American Civil War, but it merited a more detailed analysis.

"While it's only right that we celebrate the American Welsh who campaigned to abolish slavery, we must not forget the earlier Welsh settlers who saw nothing wrong in buying and selling their fellow man."

America Gaeth a'r Cymry is on S4C on Tuesday, October 24 at 9pm

http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0200wales/tm_headline=-how-welsh-immigrants--passed-on--names-to-their-slaves&method=full&objectid=17929745&siteid=50082-name_page.html

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