The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie: An African American's Spiritual Journey to Uncover a Sunken Slave Ship's Past

Michael H. Cottman, Author Crown Publishing Group (NY) $23 (272p) ISBN 978-0-517-70328-1
Journalist and scuba diver Cottman (The Million Man March) gives readers a very personal account of how diving to see a wreck inspired him to dive deeper into the history of the slave trade and still deeper into his own relationship to the memory of those who were brought to America as slaves. In the summer of 1700, the Henrietta Marie, a ship sailing from Port Royal, Jamaica, where the captain had just delivered 190 African slaves, hit a storm and sank not far from Key West. In 1993, 20 years after the wreck had been discovered, Cottman and other black divers made an underwater pilgrimage to the ship and deposited a memorial with a bronze plaque honoring their enslaved ancestors. Cottman's further exploration into the history of the Henrietta Marie took him to London, where he researched the slave trade, and to Jamaica, where he met the descendants of slaves who may have been on the ship. Cottman expresses a spiritual connection with the enslaved human cargo, a feeling that peaked during his second visit to Goree Island, off the coast of West Africa, to see the remains of a slave house where captured Africans were held before export. His book is primarily a meditation on his spiritual solidarity with his enslaved forebears and works best when he resists his impulse toward didacticism and easy uplift: ""You didn't have to attend the Million Man March to carry the spirit in your heart,"" he reports telling a Senegalese acquaintance. Photos not seen by PW. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 12/01/1998
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