Faithful Bodies: Performing Religion and Race in the Puritan Atlantic

By Heather Miyano Kopelson | Go to book overview

PART II
Performing

His name was Adam. He was probably given a different name at birth, one that reflected his kinship ties to older living relatives, or created a link to a relative who had died and conferred some qualities of that ancestor on the new infant.1 Becoming a captive in the slave trade might have spurred him to cast off his old name in search of better fortune, but his purchasers would have been indifferent to any of his names, simply counting him as part of the cargo (or consciously failing to note his presence to ease upcoming port duties) in the shipping record that enshrined the documentary trace of his journey across the sea. Although nameless, he may have been included in an inked enumeration of “likely” or “lusty” or, if he had not done well on the voyage, “sickly,” one of a number of young boys crammed together.2 Only later, upon his arrival in the Caribbean, did someone dub him Adam. Or perhaps his stay in the Caribbean was too short for him to be called much more than “niño” or “boy” and it was only once an English man purchased him in Virginia or New England that he became Adam. A Boston-area merchant named John Saffin or one of his trading partners may have smuggled the boy who became Adam directly from Africa, or Saffin may have acquired Adam from a previous owner in the mainland colonies.3

Whatever Adam’s route, at some point before 1693 he ended up as a bondsman to Saffin. In 1694, they agreed to a contract

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