Revolutionary War Privateers and the British Slave Trade

John Brown of Providence was a wealthy and powerful merchant. He had financed slaving voyages. He also had experience financing privateers— privately-owned vessels licensed by the government to capture and sell enemy vessels and their contents.

After the Continental Congress prohibited importation of African captives, Brown sent a privateer to the coast of Africa, where British slavers continued to operate but where Great Britain, otherwise occupied with the war, was unable to protect her merchant ships. His aim was to inflict harm on the British economy while making money for himself.

In early 1777, Brown commissioned the construction of the privateer he named the Marlborough, a 250-ton, square-rigged brig with twenty guns. In late December of 1777, the Marlborough, commanded by George Waite Babcock of North Kingstown, ran the Royal Navy blockade of the Sakonnet Channel and began its maiden voyage to Africa.

Mr. McBurney’s new book, Dark Voyage: An American Privateer’s War on Britain’s Slave Trade, tells the story of the Marlborough. On Monday, October 10 at 7:00 p.m., the author will be in our Museum Gallery to tell us about the contribution the Marlborough and other American privateers made to the Revolutionary War effort, and the effect American privateers had on the British slave trade.

We’re back in the Museum Gallery!

Our Fall 2022 Lecture Series will take place in-person in our Museum Gallery. The programs will also be live-streamed and recorded. Our members and friends will be able to watch the programs live on a computer or other device. Each program also will be available to view later by opening a link that will be posted on our website. If you would like to watch a program from home, please send an e-mail to Julie Wardwell, our Museum Administrator, at She will send you the link to the live stream.

Our 2022 Fall Lecture Series opens on Columbus Day, Monday, October 10 at 7:00 p.m., with a presentation by Christian McBurney.

Battlefield Archaeology of King Philip’s War

Thursday, April 7 at 7:00 p.m. ZOOM
Battlefield Archaeology of King Philip’s War:
Discoveries at the Site of the Second Battle of Nipsachuck
Dr. Kevin McBride
Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Connecticut

View the recording of this fascinating lecture on our YouTube channel

King Philips’s War (1675-1676) inflicted greater casualties in proportion to population than any other war in American history. One of the final battles of the war, and the one believed to have effectively ended the Narragansett resistance, took place in North Smithfield on July 3, 1676. For centuries, the exact location of the battle was unknown. Dr. McBride, who led the archaeological investigation of the site, will describe the methods used to discover and identify 17th century battlefield artifacts and discuss the historical significance of the battle. The program will be offered on Zoom. To register, send an e-mail to the museum office at