Although the United States had only a short-lived involvement of the slave trade in Uruguay from 1797-1809, they took advantage of the hideous enterprise and served as a flagship for many clandestine voyages, including the sale of hides to Rhode Island as noted by historian Alex Borucki. Every coastal city, for that matter, in the Atlantic world was touched by slavery and every distinct place had a microhistory that translated into a larger national and global story. While the topics of the transatlantic slave trade, slavery, civil war, and questions related to various reconstruction efforts across the Americas predominantly cover the United States and Brazil, the issue of Uruguay offers an interesting case study and history. This essay provides the historiography of slave histories in the Americas and attempts to figure in Uruguay, to reimagine the transatlantic slave trade along coastal cities and regions like the Rio de la Plata and the city of Montevideo, from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries.
Leonardo Marques has pointed out “the role of wind ocean currents and the demand of rum that made possible a strong network connecting Rhode Island” to the coasts of the South Atlantic, Africa and the Americas. In what is perhaps another overlooked region of the slave trade concerning Rhode Island’s involvement is 1782-1807 Southeast Africa with “evidence of at least nine voyages organized by U.S. slave traders to Mozambique.” Marques’ revisions are also helpful when analyzing Uruguay, where he states that the U.S. purchased “548 enslaved people from Montevideo, Uruguay” and that overall “about 11% of all transatlantic slaves disembarked in Montevideo” in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. “This unusual connection” writes Marques, spanning the North and South Atlantic world was the consequence of the hostile participation of the enslavers of Rhode Island. James DeWolf’s vessel disembarked 95 slaves in Montevideo in 1805.