Ann During, Black Recaptive Missionary Sampler

Ann During, Black Recaptive Missionary Sampler

Gloucester, Sierra Leone, West Africa, 1843

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sampler size: 9¾” x 13” • framed size: 13¼” x 16½” • price: $9000.

As we all know, the vast majority of samplers was made by white schoolgirls in the United Kingdom or the United States. Samplers known to have been made by Black girls, American or English, are extremely rare. A fascinating subgroup are samplers made by the Black girls known as “Recaptives,” and their colony-born descendants living in missionary settlements and attending mission schools within the British colony of Sierra Leone, on the west coast of Africa.

These settlements were established shortly after 1807 when the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed by England. Beginning then, British warships patrolled the African coast, seeking ships illegally containing captured and enslaved Blacks bound for the Western Hemisphere. When found, these ships were confiscated, and their human cargo taken to the British Colony of Sierra Leone. Between 1808 and 1863 nearly 100,000 Africans were removed from slave ships and forced to settle in the missionary villages in Sierra Leone – they are the Recaptives.

The Church Missionary Society, under the Church of England, administered the missionary villages and established its first overseas mission in Sierra Leone in 1804. For decades they converted and baptised Africans and provided a religious education for their children. Upon their baptism, many Blacks were named after a prominent, local CMS missionary or superintendent.

Dr. Silke Strickrodt published an extensive article, African Girls’ Samplers From the Mission Schools in Sierra Leone, 1820s to 1840s (History of Africa, Vol 37, Cambridge University Press, 2010), and much of what we now know comes from this article and the samplers that have surfaced since its publication. Fewer than two dozen of these samplers are known. Two samplermakers included the phrase “Liberated African” in their inscription (one of these, made by Charlotte Turner in Bathurst, Sierra Leone in 1831, is now in the collection of the Seattle Art Museum) but the accurate descriptor is now understood to be “Recaptive.”

Ann During’s sampler is one of these more recent discoveries and, at our request, Dr. Strickrodt has written a page about this sampler; this is included in the file that accompanies the sampler. One other Gloucester missionary sampler is known, worked in 1836 by Charlotte Bell, published in Dr. Strickrodt’s 2010 article and in the collection of Museum der Kulturen, Basel, Switzerland.

Our samplermaker, Ann, was most likely a colony-born Black, the daughter of Recaptive parents. The surname, During, came from Rev. Henry During, a German missionary with the Church Missionary Society, who arrived in Sierra Leone in 1816 along with his wife. They were assigned to Gloucester where Rev. During was superintendent and Mrs. During functioned as schoolmistress, according to published records of 1819. In 1823, while the Durings were returning to England, their ship was lost at sea. Dr. Strickrodt alerted us to another Black person who had been living and working at the Gloucester mission. Daniel During, possibly the father or brother of Ann, was the “Native Assistant Catechist” in 1844.

Ann’s sampler exhibits unusually tight and delicate needlework and is, technically, the finest one by far of the known group of Sierra Leone samplers. The verse is one favored by a great number of samplermakers and the sampler features the classic, English, mirror-image format. Worked in silk on fine wool, the sampler is in excellent condition with some very minor loss at the lower left corner. It has been conservation mounted and is in a mahogany frame.

 

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