Mystery about Zong Slave-Ship solved

Travis Moody, Staff Reporter

Many questions about documents regarding the Zong Slave-Ship that had been proposed to students were answered for a crowded audience during a lecture Tuesday night in the Doudna Fine Arts Center Lecture Hall.

“The Zong Slave-Ship Massacre: A New Discovery in the British Library” was an hour-long presentation by Michelle Faubert, an English, film and theatre professor at the University of Manitoba.

The number of audience members was so high the limit of people allowed in the hall reached the allowance of the fire code.

During her past two presentations, Faubert has alluded to a letter she discovered in The British Library during her research. The letter she found is based off a draft copy, written by Granville Sharp, which is a manuscript at the National Maritime Museum.

“I’m arguing, through my research, that Sharp sent (the letter) to his publisher, William Baker, for publication,” Faubert said. “When Baker died, John Copley bought Baker’s library and hired a book binder to bind his collection of pamphlets and other loose papers.”

Faubert said from there, the book binder put the manuscript between other unrelated medical pamphlets. Then, the library was bequeathed to the British Library.

This document tied into Faubert’s earlier lectures about the possible meanings of suicide.

“There’s a section in the letter where Sharp doesn’t really know how to talk about (ten slaves who threw themselves overboard a ship),” Faubert said.

Throughout the letter, Sharp keeps changing the reference to these deaths from “murder” to “suicide” and back again.

The idea of suicide as a sort of political statement rather than a sad loss of life began to emerge during the Romantic period, and Faubert has focused much of her research into looking into this idea.

Emily Oldham, a junior English major, said she heard of the lecture through English professor Suzie Park’s class, but she also enjoys studying the Romantic period herself.

“Of course, what Dr. Faubert talked about today takes place during that era, but it also is in regard to some of the ideas that were flourishing in the era,” Oldham said.

Oldham said she found it fascinating that Faubert was able to find the manuscript in a volume of unrelated work, and was intrigued the impact that it may have on the history of the Zong Slave-Ship Massacre.

“I’m not one of those people who believe the digital age is going to bring about the end of the world, but this is one major example of the importance of physical copies of literary works,” Oldham said.

Oldham said she thought the seminar was very fascinating, and enjoyed being able to talk about the topics with Faubert and her classmates.

“I think this lecture went very well,” Faubert said. “I was delighted with the turnout, and people in the audience were paying close attention and were engaged.”


Travis Moody can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].