The Last Slave Ship: The Wanderer Logbook

The Wanderer Logbook. Image credit: Paige Knight

In 1858, the American schooner, The Wanderer, sailed along the Eastern coast of the United States. The vessel’s log, written by an unknown sailor, contains simple and brief entries that record the weather, speed, and course of the yacht. There are a few details concerning other ships and visitors on the Wanderer scattered throughout the log. However, the log neglects to mention its true cargo, enslaved Africans. Purporting to be on other business, the vessel carried 487 kidnapped Africans to the United States (against U.S. law), and delivered them to South Carolina and Georgia as enslaved labor. Some of the enslaved were sold on Jekyll Island, Georgia, where the Wanderer made a stop. Although it was illegal, the names of persons who conspired to import Africans to the United States were never established or brought to justice. However, the schooner, the largest built in the United States up to that time, was seized, condemned, and sold at auction as a result of its involvement in transporting enslaved individuals.

Image of the written log for the Wanderer Logbook. Image credit: Paige

Wanderer (Schooner) records, 1838-1859 contains records of the ship manifests, which are likely from two different ships named the Wanderer. The manifest from 1858 records the cargo aboard the “Schooner Wanderer” before a voyage from Havana, Cuba to Savannah, Georgia in June of 1859. This ship was owned by Charles A. L. Lamar and is the same ship as the one for which the logbook was kept. The other manifest probably belonged to a different ship of the same name. It gives an account of the cargo for a voyage in December 1838 from Charleston, South Carolina to Savannah, Georgia, well before the Wanderer that journeyed from New York to Africa was built.

Emory University professor, Dr. Kimberly Wallace-Sanders, Associate Professor of American and African American Studies and Dr. Kweisi De Graft Hanson, Director of OCEANS Inc, will discuss the Wanderer and more at Emory’s In the Wake of Slavery and Dispossession: Emory, Racism, and the Journey towards Restorative Justice Symposium. Their panel discussion: “I Looked Out onto the Water and Saw Hands Beckoning Me”: The Wanderer, the “Weeping Time” and the Powerful Black Hands of Unnamed, Unpaid, and Unappreciated Black Women as Caretakers of White Children,” connects Emory’s history to the last ship (the Wanderer) that brought enslaved Africans to Georgia, the largest slave sale in American history and to the anonymous labor of African American women serving as caretakers for White children. The Wanderer’s ship manifest, held by the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, will be on display for the first time for this symposium.

The Wanderer will be on display from Sept. 29-Oct.14 on the 2nd floor of the Woodruff Library, located at 540 Asbury Cir, Atlanta, GA 30322.