In 1670 a native American tribe decided to travel to Europe to sell pelts after being scammed by colonists. They built a fleet of canoes, as they thought that England lay just over the horizon so they could easily row there. And the ship that found them and rescued them was a British slave ship. The British who then sold them into slavery.
John Newton was the captain of a slave ship. In 1748 he encountered a severe storm and, although being non-religious, prayed out to God for safety. This event changed his life. He later became a clergy member, an abolitionist, and wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace” about his experience.
Ben Franklin was a slaveowner for much of his life, but after a friend took him to visit a school for black children. He wrote that African ignorance was not inherently natural but come from lack of education, slavery and negative environments. And he petitioned Congress to end slavery.
A slave, Nathan “Nearest” Green, taught Jack Daniels how to make whiskey and was credited as the first master distiller.
The process of dry cleaning was invented in 1821 by an African American business owner named Thomas Jennings. He was one of the first African Americans to be granted a patent. He had to use the proceeds from his invention to buy his wife and children out of slavery.
Henry “Box” Brown escaped slavery in the American south by mailing himself to freedom. He had friends pack him into a small box, and ship him as cargo from Richmond to Philadelphia. He survived, and went on to work as a magician.
Abram Gannibal was a black African-born Russian nobleman in the 18th century. Sold into slavery, he was eventually freed by Peter the Great and adopted into the Emperor’s household as his godson. His great-great grandson is the celebrated author and poet Alexander Pushkin.
Up to 25 percent of cowboys in the West during the later 19th century were black. Former slaves or born into a formerly enslaved family, they worked in an industry that despite facing inevitable racism was a generally less discriminatory than other industries at the time.
Roman slaves wore collars of iron with messages like a modern dog collar, for example this one, which reads “I have run away; hold me. When you shall have returned me to my master, Zoninus, you will receive a solidus”