Many Black Pirates Were Feared on the High Seas
Many black pirates rose to prominent status aboard their ships. Many of these high-ranking black pirates’ names have been lost to history, but we still know of a few of them. Perhaps the most famous black pirate was Blackbeard’s lieutenant Black Caesar, who was a high-ranking chieftain in Africa before being kidnapped into slavery. After surviving the wreckage of the slave ship and pretending to be shipwrecked to take control of a ship, Black Caesar soon had a large crew that attacked ships at sea. He eventually joined Blackbeard’s pirate crew aboard Queen Anne’s Revenge, becoming one of the most high-ranking crewmembers, second only to Blackbeard himself.
There was another famous black pirate named Black Caesar, and the two men are often confused, although they were operating decades apart. Henri Caesar, also known as Black Caesar, was a Haitian pirate that played a role in the Haitian Revolution. Like Blackbeard’s lieutenant, much of his life is a combination of fact and legend. When Toussaint L’Ouverture allowed slaveowners to leave the island in the beginnings of the revolution on Saint Domingue, Henri Caesar helped transport them off of the island.
One of the most successful pirates of the late seventeenth century was a Dutch pirate named Laurens de Graaf. He started his career as a French privateer, and the Spanish greatly feared his crew that grew to about 2,000 pirates at one time. Many accounts record that he was tall with blond hair and blue eyes, but his nickname tells another story. He was known as El Griffe, which was a common name given to men and women who had both European and African ancestry, which indicates he may have been a mulatto. After being enslaved by the Spanish in his early life, he spent the rest of his life being a thorn in their side. He attacked Spanish ships and settlements, and the Spanish frequently referred to him as the Devil.