The Remarkable Story of Cuff Slocum
By David C. Cole
Cuff Slocum until now has been known for essentially one thing, being the father of Paul Cuffe. This has earned him a few lines in articles about his famous son and a few pages in the more extended biographies of Paul Cuffe. These note that he had been brought to New England as a young slave, gained his freedom somehow, married a Native American woman and, together with her, conceived and raised ten children, one of whom was Paul Cuffe.
This paper represents a first attempt to explore various sources of information – some old and some new – and to present a more complete and accurate story of Cuff Slocum. We seek to demonstrate why he should receive much greater recognition for his remarkable accomplishments. In many respects he provided a launching pad for his son, Paul, and his daughter, Mary. Mary became the wife of Michael Wainer, Paul Cuffe’s long-term partner. They together had five sons who became captains on Cuffe/Wainer ships.
We still know essentially nothing about Cuff Slocum’s early life in Africa except that his first name (a version of the name Kofi) indicates that he was from the Ashanti area of West Africa and that he was brought to Newport on a slave ship. But after he arrived in North America the picture changes. Three deeds and a will provide critical reference points for this story, but there is much more to be gleaned from his own records, the records of those with whom he interacted as well as various studies that give insight into the conditions of the times and places in which he lived. All of these provide us with a fascinating and inspiring story.