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“Egyptian” slaves and bond servants in South Carolina

Their existence was erased from the history books!

This is a developing story.  More thorough research will follow.

Many of you, like myself, have had African-American friends, who are extremely tall and gracile. They have a regal appearance that seems to belong to ancient murals in Ethiopia, Nubia or Egypt – but often as not becomes the front cover of a fashion magazine, Sports Illustrated or Forbes.  They do not look like the people of West Africa, where the diabolical slave industry obtained most of its victims.  How could this be?

Many others of you have discovered North African, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Middle Eastern or Turkish DNA markers in the genetic profile that was mailed back to you from the lab.  You can find no record in your family’s memory when an ancestor came to America from those regions.

Principal Chief Lonzado Langley of the Savannah River Band of Uchee had found yet another example of America’s hidden history.  South Carolina’s slave codes contained three classes of slaves – Native Americans, Africans and Egyptians.   The “Egyptians” were specifically imported because of their knowledge of growing coastal (salt tolerant) varieties of rice and what is now called “Sea Island cotton” along the remainder of the Nile River Valley.   How did these unfortunate people, living so far from the Atlantic Ocean become slaves in North America?    Blame it on the Ottoman Turks.

Beginning around 1350 AD, the Ottoman Turks launched repeated invasions by land and sea of eastern Europe, with the goal of capturing the Vatican.  The presumption was that if the Pope was captured and executed, all Christiandom would fall into the hands of Islam.  Mohammed had predicted this military victory.  The Sultan of the Ottoman Turks was merely fulfilling the words of the Qu’ran.

Initially, one Christian country after another fell to Islam. Within a century, a greatly weakened Constantinople fell.  However,  by the late 16th century, the rivers of gold and silver that the Kingdom of Spain was a obtaining in the New World tipped the balance of power.  Increasingly superior European military technology and the resulting self-confidence on the battlefield eventually brought repeated disasters to the Turks from which they never recovered.  The last attempted Turkish invasion of Europe occurred in 1718.

Hedging his bets, the Sultans filled the “grunt ranks” of their 16th and 17th century armies and navies with Christian conscripts and  slaves captured in Sub-Saharan Africa. Win or lose, thousands of “infidels” would die because of each military campaign.  At that time, a third of the population of the Ottoman empire was Christian.  Egypt and Turkey were 1/3 Christian.  Palestine and Lebanon were about 90% Christian.  The Muslim slave trade in West Africa began around 700 AD and only ended in the mid-20th century – hence the reason that so many underclass citizens in Saudi Arabia are obviously Africans.

However, staggering casualties from these invasions, combined with repeated massacres of Christians in eastern Anatolia, Armenia and Assyria  (3 million dead or enslaved) drastically reduced the number of Christian men available as cannon fodder.  In order to meet their quotas,  Muslim generals began raiding poor Muslim villages in the Nile Delta for sailors and the Upper Sudan for soldiers.  Southern Sudan was Christian and had been protected by tenacious soldiers of the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia for 1200 years.

The exact 1680s time period when Virginia was switching to the use of African slaves and Carolina was beginning to trade Native American slaves for African slaves, was when Turkey launched its largest land and sea invasion of Europe.  Over 100,000 prisoners of war from the defeated Turks fell into European hands.   It is quite likely that most of the African slaves imported into North America up until the 1700s, were actually prisoners of war.  Female Native American slaves were used as breeders for more slaves.

The Egyptian farmers who knew how to grow rice in salt marshes and the Sudanese cotton farmers were the most valuable slaves of all.   Because they were bred to exceptional Native American women, their offspring had physical features and assets that made them stand out among those enslaved.  They were the Mercedes-Benz’s of the slave markets.  It was economics that especially caused these people to have a separate legal identity in South Carolina and Virginia.

It is not clear how many Christian prisoners of war from Egypt and Sudan were enslaved in North America.   Probably most Sudanese and Ethiopian Christians were kept in bondage.  Lighter skinned Egyptian Coptic and Anatolian-Armenian Orthodox Christians were definitely imported as indentured servants.  After seven years, they were free to go elsewhere, take a wife and perhaps are the “Christian Turks” encountered by early explorers of Tennessee and North Carolina such as the Gabriel-Needham Expedition in 1674.

And now you know . . .

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    Mr. Thornton, First of all, I love your website. This is one of those websites where one has to take his or her time to “soak it all in”. Seriously, this is a treasure trove of information.
    I have a question. Is there a specific Native American tribe that descends from these Egyptian indentured servants? This caught my eye because a lot Egyptian mythology was about Sun / Moon worship and the Euchee called themselves Children of the Sun. I imagine a lot of Native American tribes have/had Sun / Moon god beliefs. I was just wondering if there was a connection here with the Euchee, by any chance. Thank you for your help.
    (Disclaimer: My knowledge on the subjects is not extensive as I’m sure you can tell. I look forward to learning more on your site.)


      Thank you, sir! I just read your response. I didn’t know you had posted one. I thought I had checked the box to notify me. Hmmmm. Anyway, thank you again for a terrific site!



    Thank you for this information. I took three DNA tests that gave me Egypt, Spanish, Native American, Banjara (India), and Amazigh. The NA group was the Arawak, the Amazigh group was the Djarawa (Queen Kahina). My siblings and I have been mistaken for Ethiopian (we live in 3 different states, but originally from SC dating back to 1790). I have traced back to the Beja (specifically the Ababda and perhaps the Bisharin tribes). There is a link to Beja, Portugal and Egypt. I believe it was the Beja tribe that founded Beja Portugal, I could be wrong, though).

    My question is this, the Arawak NA tribes that I found linked to SC were the Lucayan (Bahamas) and the Timucuan (N. Florida) that were taken from FL during the Yamassee War and sold as slaves to SC. Research into them revealed they did not call themselves “Arawak”. One researcher stated they called themselves Jarawa which is a variation of the Amazigh name Djarawa. Are you familiar with this?

    Again, I love your post and can’t wait for more information. Hope to hear from you soon.



      If I may ask? Which can test did she take to give certain tribal references? I myself have taken a Dna test and placed my results on gedmatch to get a better glimpse to a specific area. I also have Turkish, Egyptian, Ethiopean, Morroccan, Algerian, Tunisian. Results plus some West African , lil percent of Anerindian, plus European particular Hungarian, Russian, Irish. It’s still all new to me. Thank you


        Lol, thanks. I said they same thing myself. I’m of every aspects of genetics . Plus the percentages aren’t too much of one kind it’s like a spinning wheel of colors. Thank you for the information.


    I couldn’t agree more about how much history has been swept under the rug because of political and ideological views. Sad. Glad you’re fighting the good fight!


    One of my wife’s ancestors was listed as Ethiopian on the census. We were as surprised as anyone could be as we never heard of the Ethiopians being here. We found out her name is Amharic/Hebrew, also. True history is amazing!!!!!! 🙂


    @Richard Thornton . My DNA results from 8 years ago pointed me to Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. I am also considered Moorish American. I sent for a new DNA test because of the advancements in science since then. I’d love to speak with you about this. I’d love to collaborate with you on some projects.


    Hello I’m trying to find more info and references on this do you have any Sir TY

    • We don’t, but you might try contacting the University of South Carolina library.


    I am very interested in this aspect of American history. I have been researching my family and I have hit a dead end with one side of the family. I Have been told stories of my great-grandmother who was bought out of bondage by my great-grandfather. She was “sold” in Cherokee, NC. My grandmother’s baby book has listed her parents, but I can find no connections. Something happened to her mother and her father was a traveling shoe cobbler and put her in an orphanage. My great-grandmother did have some striking Native American features. I was wondering if you could direct me in my search for her roots. Any help would be great.

    • When was she sold? After 1763, the land where the current reservation is located was 45 miles outside the Cherokee Nation. Until the US Postal Service gave it a zip code, the reservation was officially known as the Qualla Boundary. However, the Cherokees were heavily involved in the Native American slave trade until 1752.


        It would have been between 1900-1916, That is what stumps me.


    Richard, I am an avid reader of your blogs and this blog about Egyptians in America in colonial times
    just perked my love of genealogy that much more. Thank you and Chief Langley for teaching us and
    sharing so much we never would have learned if it had not been for you both. A thirst for knowledge
    and history is what keeps us charged. Thanks


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