Clipper ships did not play major role in slave trade

Clipper ships did not play major role in slave trade

I wholeheartedly support the idea that monuments that honor traitors who fought to preserve slavery or racial stereotypes that serve as mascots are inappropriate and offensive in our society. However, I disagree with Mr. Jackson’s contention that Cumberland High School should replace the clipper ship mascot (Cumberland Should Lose the Clipper Name 7/23/20).

Clipper ships played a minimal role in the slave trade. They were developed in the mid-1800s, decades after the importation of slaves was prohibited in the United States in 1808. They were built for speed, with sleek, narrow hulls and limited cargo space. The large crews they required to man the extensive sails cut down on the number of passengers they could carry. Slave ships on the other hand were typically slow, bulky freighters which, shamefully, were designed to maximize the amount of human cargo.

From an economic standpoint clipper ships made poor slave ships. They were built to carry lightweight, time sensitive, high value cargo such as tea from China.

Although some clipper ships, particularly Baltimore clippers (which were technically different ships than the “true” clippers that succeeded them) smuggled slaves into the United States after the 1808 embargo, that was not their intended purpose or primary function. Although I agree with Mr. Jackson’s sentiment, I think he is misinformed from a historical perspective. To say that clippers were symbolic of slavery is a stretch.

Perhaps what is more problematic about the use of the clipper ship as a school mascot is that they were frequently used to smuggle opium. But that is a topic for another time.

While on the subject, it is worth noting that Woonsocket High School’s mascot, the Villa Novans, were a culture from ancient Italy that practiced slavery extensively.

Maybe that is a change Mr. Jackson should look into.

Conor Geary Class of ’97

Cumberland