African Pearl Divers

Many pearl divers had been kidnapped from Africa as boys and forced to dive to bottom of the sea for pearls. Although the Renaissance witnessed a slight revival in swimming, sources indicate that most whites remained reluctant to swim,making them less adept than many blacks.

African Per Divers Black Slaves

Melchisédec !evé- explained

Enslaved Swimmers and Divers in the Atlantic World



“it is most certain that the Indians, and the Negroes,excel all others in these Arts of Swimming and Diving.It is to them the Ladies are obliged for their Ornaments of Pearl;
they are the Divers who fish for them;they are also very useful for recovering Anchors and Merchandizes that have been cast away.”16
Slaves’ expertise in underwater diving, moreover, was one of the first African
skills that New World slaveholders exploited, in the process generating consid-
erable profit. At the turn of the seventeenth century Pieter de Marees explained
that Venezuelan slaveholders sought Gold Coast Africans to employ as pearl
divers, noting:
[t]hey are very fast swimmers and can keep themselves un-
derwater for a long time. They can dive amazingly far, no
less deep, and can see underwater. Because they are so good
at swimming and diving, they are specially kept for that pur-
pose in many Countries and employed in this capacity where
there is a need for them, such as the Island of St. Margaret in
the West Indies, where Pearls are found and brought up from
the bottom by Diver.

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Poppies in an old sink


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