Although most pirates had served on the middle passage and thus had been a part of the slave trade, the pirates displayed remarkably little of the racial prejudice that was being developed at that time in order to justify the trade. Whilst pirates were known to take, and sell on, slave cargos, black former slaves made up a considerable portion of pirate crews (over 40% of Blackbeard's crew were black). Pirates would often describe themselves as Maroons, copying the name adopted by the escaped Jamaican slave gangs. On one occasion, Marcus relates, the captain found himself handed back control of his slave ship only after the pirates had released all the chains and provided the slaves with a knife each. That the captain and his 'cargo' would be able to discuss their respective situations on a more equal basis would have appealed to the pirates' sense of justice.
It was the threat that the pirates made upon the profits of the slave trade that determined their fate. The seaboard coasts of both Africa and the Americas were swamped with navy ships; the pirates were hunted down and hanged by the dozen. The pirates themselves responded to state terror with a terror of their own. More merchantmen were burnt; towns that hanged pirates were blockaded. The pirates themselves declared "No surrender" and vowed to blow themselves and their ships to kingdom come rather than be captured. But the writing was on the wall, and the dwindling bands of pirates either dispersed or died fighting, or upon the scaffold.
These pirates who, facing a world full of horror and brutality, rebelled and challenged the conventions of class, race and gender. Laughing in the face of authority as they laughed in the face of death, their rebellion created an alternative to the dour hypocrisy of our 'betters', which has given hope and inspiration for over 300 years. (source: Libcom.org)