Graham Trust tells a horrific story relating to slavery

Resource Type: Audio | Posted on 5th August 2011 by Liam Physick

John Moss and his family owned slaves on Crooked Island in the Bahamas, and Graham Trust here recounts a truly shocking story of how one slave was treated by Henry and Helen Moss, John’s brother and sister-in-law (and of the ludicrously lenient punishment they received). Graham insists that the Mosses were not involved in slavery “in a sinister way”, and makes a suggests that the culprit was not, in fact, John Moss’s brother. Graham also mentions from the trial transcript that Kate was confined in stocks: however, it is in the pillory, not the stocks, in which the head is confined (in the stocks it is the legs which are confined).

Interviewee: Graham Trust

Interviewee Gender: Male

Date of Interview: 16th November 2010

Interview Transcript

Graham: Moss was heavily involved in slavery as well, not in a, in a sinister way . . . of course, slavery itself is, is sinister . . .

Jenny: Yeah.

Graham: . . . we view it as sinister, in the modern age, it wasn’t viewed as quite so sinister in those days, our, our views have been shaped by the passing of a century, a couple of centuries, but it’s undoubtedly true the Moss family were connected with Crooked Island in the Bahamas, Moss’s uncle James was the owner of 1000 slaves on Crooked Island, but in 1826, there was a Henry Moss, who it was said was the nephew of Uncle James, and Henry Moss was John Moss’s brother, so, yes, he was the nephew of James and this, this guy, what happened was, there was a slave girl called Kate, a domestic servant – slave – who, for whatever reason, had steadfastly refused to do her duties to carry out her duties and, they tried to – Henry and his wife, Helen Moss – tried to persuade her to do her duties, and she kept on refusing, and eventually, that had her locked in . . . what do they call them?

Jenny: Shackles?

Graham: Yeah, what do they call those things that they put around your head? Stocks.

Jenny: Stocks.

Graham: They locked her in, in stocks, and she was flogged, not just be people under the supervision of Henry and Helen Moss, she was actually flogged by her own father as well, and no matter what punishment was meted out to her, she refused to carry on with her duties, she had read, there was some Capsicum, I think, which is red chilli or something, rubbed in her eyes, which you, make, make you think you were going blind, and it would be very . . . it doesn’t actually make you go blind, it was a, a punishment, which apparently came from Africa, that was one thing they used to do to punish their children and, you know, very unpleasant, but not . . . not so much that you would lose your eyesight. Anyway, she still, despite several days in, in the stocks, and all the punishment that was meted out to her, refused to co-operate and she was released from the stocks and sent into the fields to work with the gangs, that was in, at, at, in the early morning, and by midday, she collapsed and died, and Henry and Helen Moss spent two or three months in prison in the Bahamas. But, the implication is that was John Moss’s brother, and I’ve set out a case in the, in the appendix that it wasn’t him, but I can’t be absolutely sure it wasn’t him.

Tagged under: john moss, slavery

Categorised under: The Station & Railway Pioneers

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By Graham Trust on 26th August 2011

Hi Liam,

Thank you for your thoughts on this extract from my interview with Jenny. I do appreciate your views and your opinions, although I do not agree with them. If you were to read my book, you would almost undoubtedly agree that this Henry Moss was not John Moss’s brother. You would be surprised, if you were to undertake such an exercise as I have, how many John Mosses, Henry Mosses and all sorts of other Mosses abound in history.

The stated purpose of my interview was to discuss Moss’s involvement with the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. I touched only briefly on his slave owning activities, so I should explain a little more about them:

John Moss actually inherited 1,000 slaves in 1822, and his views on slavery at that time concurred with those of both his Uncle William Roscoe (arguably Liverpool’s foremost Abolitionist) and William Wilberforce (the Abolitionists’ foremost parliamentarian), whom he met and admired. My comment about Moss not being involved in slavery “in a sinister way” is borne out of the fact that he was within his rights to sell those slaves (a community of grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, children, friends etc), pocket a tidy profit and wash his hands of the whole affair. He chose not to do that as he viewed selling them to a multitude of American or West Indian slave masters (of whose character he could not be sure) as an act of inhumanity. Instead, he strove, throughout the 1820s, to improve working conditions on his estate and to prepare his slaves for emancipation. However, you are perfectly entitled to be cynical. Moss was not a saint (none of us are); he was a businessman who undoubtedly hoped to profit by the sugar which these slaves were put to work on in Demerara.

I thoroughly agree with you that the institution of slavery was / is intrinsically EVIL, but to regard all those involved in it (regardless of their peculiar motives or circumstances) as evil or even sinister is a gross simplification.

I have re-read the full transcript of the trial of Henry and Helen Moss, and I can assure you that the slave girl “Poor Black Kate” was held in STOCKS. If you would like to read the transcripts for yourself, please let me know. I will gladly make them available to you and even meet up with you at Metsl to discuss Moss and slavery, railways or even banking!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Graham Trust

By ROSALEEN TOHER-GINTY on 8th April 2012

I am particularly interested in the history of Slavery and I admire the way Graham Trust has written this story.

By Susanna M. Moss on 2nd August 2013

Being a Moss from The Bahamas, I am particularly interested in the author’s work. My great-grandfather was born in the late 1800s and his name was also John William Moss. My grandfather (his only son) was born in 1925. They lived a long time in True Blue, Crooked Island and Acklins Island.

By Vera Chase on 24th November 2015

Thank you for this informative post, I am interested in your research of the slave girl “Kate”, known in Bahamian History as “Poor Black Kate”.

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