Port Elizabeth of Yore: Slavery and the Dom Pedro Jetty

The last of the jetties to be built in Port Elizabeth, before the construction of the harbour in the 1930s, was this jetty. The story of how this jetty obtained its non-English name is fascinating as it conjures up images of an era when the scourge of slavery prevailed and the endeavours to eradicate it were in progress.

Port Elizabeth played its part in its elimination in the person of Captain Francis Evatt, commander of Fort Frederick. But that is another story.

Main picture: Dom Pedro Jetty being used to build the breakwater in 1923

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Slavery-Born Free, Life of Servitude

Whilst the Cape Colony might well have possessed slaves, the establishment of Port Elizabeth came at the culmination of the emancipation efforts by the British government. Hence the prevalence and practice of slavery was not of such great importance as it was closer to Cape Town. 

In 1807 the British government banned the slave trade to all her colonies, including the Cape. This meant that no more slaves (from any destination) could be sent to work in the Cape. However, those who were already in the Cape continued to work as slaves until 1834 when all slaves in the British Empire were to be emancipated. Many of the slaves chose to remain on with their owners while some started a new life in and around Cape Town working as tradesmen. Gradually these people became absorbed into the Cape community.

Main picture: The reality of slavery

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