This week’s American Stories features the second part of Herman Melville’s story, “Benito Cereno.” We learned in the first part of the story that the ship Melville called the San Dominick was carrying slaves from Chile to Peru in 1799. This was part of the slave trade that took place in the Spanish colonial empire. The slaves took charge of the ship one night. They asked the captain to take them to a place where they could be free.
In the second part of the story, another ship finds the San Dominick. The captain of that ship came aboard to see what was wrong. He noticed the disorder on the ship.
Reading this story, I felt sympathy for the slaves. They were sold in Africa and brought across the Atlantic Ocean to South America. They were forced to work for the Spanish colonists. Life must have been very hard for them.
So who is at fault here? The sailors who agree to transport slaves or the slaves who want to be free? Are the slaves pirates for trying to take the ship, or are they fighting for the freedom they deserve? Should the sailors take the slaves to freedom or turn them in to continued enslavement?
This story may remind you of a situation in your country’s history. Write to us in the comments section.