James Riley (captain)
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Sufferings in Africa
Riley led his crew through the Sahara Desert after they were shipwrecked off the coast of Moroccan Western Sahara in August 1815, and wrote a book on their ordeal detailing his memoirs. The book was published in 1817 and was originally titled "Authentic Narrative of the Loss of the American Brig Commerce" by the "Late Master and Supercargo" James Riley, modernly republished as Sufferings in Africa, ISBN 1-59048-108-9. It struck the nineteenth century reader because it was a startling switch on the then-usual master-slave relationship, which was white owners and black slaves.
This true story describes how they came to be shipwrecked, and their travails in the Sahara Desert.
Lost in this unknown world, Captain Riley felt responsible for his crew and their safety. He told of the events leading to their capture by marauding Sahrawi natives who kept them as slaves. Horribly mistreated, they were beaten, sun-burnt, starved, and forced to drink their own and camel urine. A slave would be worked until close to death, and then either traded or killed.
Riley devoted himself back on shore to the politics of anti-slavery work, but eventually returned to a life at sea, where he died of sickness in his sixties. The lives of his crew were foreshortened, no doubt from complications caused by their hardships in the African desert. The last surviving crewman was the cabin boy, who lived to be eighty-two.
Riley was the founder of the midwestern village of Willshire, Ohio, which he named for William Willshire, the man who redeemed him from slavery. [King, Dean (2004). Skeletons on the Zahara. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-83514-5.]
- Suffering Africa - Astonishing Enslaved African book at Amazon
- Skeletons on the Zahara: A True story of survival
- History Matters article about Captain James Riley
- Recently[when?] published Book strongly based on the original - rewritten to modern standards with additional explanation
- Winchester, Simon (2010). Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories. Harper. p. 239. ISBN 978-0-06-170258-7.
- Life of Riley and later antislavery work in Ohio
- Slavery in North Africa - The Famous Story of Captain James Riley article by Robert C. Davis in The Public Domain Review, 2011.