In order to make best use of overwhelming force, pirates liked to use ships that were large and fast. So pirates liked to capture these slave transport ships. (Presumably the cargo could be fenced somewhere for a little extra cash.)
And so the Whydah became a pirate ship, as detailed in the traveling exhibit on pirates currently at Milwaukee Public Museum. The ship's bell was found, making this the (so far) only fully verified pirate wreck excavated. (They're pretty sure of some others, but don't have 100% proof.)
A fellow named Bellamy decided to seek his fortune salvaging a foundered pirate wreck (contra the introductory movie!), and then switched to piracy himself when that turned out to have already been salvaged by the time his team arrived.
He racked up quite a list of hits, captured and outfitted the Whydah for his personal use, and when he felt he had a sufficient haul headed his small fleet back to New England to cash in.
The description quoted on this site adds a few details the traveling exhibit omitted:
About the latter end of April, there came upon the Coast a Ship called, The Whido, whereof one Bellamy was Commander: A Pirate Ship, of about 130 Men and 23 Guns. These Pirates, after many other Depraedations, took a Vessel which had Wines aboard; and put Seven of their Crew on Board, with Orders to Steer after the Whido. The seven Pirates being pretty free with the Liquor, got so Drunk, that the Captive who had the Steering of the Vessel, took the opportunity of the Night, now to run her ashore, on the backside of Eastham.They slew their prisoners once they reached shore so these victims would not testify against them. The pirates didn’t elude capture, though, and were tried in Boston by a Special Court of Admiralty. Six were found guilty and sentenced to death: John Brown of Jamaica, Thomas Baker and Hendrick Quintor of the Netherlands; Peter Cornelius Hoof of Sweden; John Shaun of France; and Simon Van Vorst of New York. Carpenters Thomas South and Thomas Davis, who was tried separately, were deemed not guilty because they had been forced to join the pirates. John Julian, a sixteen-year-old Miskito Indian, wasn’t brought to trial, but was sold into slavery.
A Storm was now raised and raging; and the Whido ignorantly following the Light of her Stranded Prize, perished in a Shipwreck, and the whole Crew were every on of them drowned, except only one Englishman, and one Indian, that were cast on Shore alive.
During the prayer that followed, the minister included a “Supplication” for seafarers.
That they may more generally Turn and Live unto GOD; That they may not fall into the hands of Pirates; That such as are fallen into their Hands, may not fall into their Wayes; That the poor Captives may with Cries to GOD that shall pierce the Heavens, procure His Good Providence to work for their Deliverance; And That the Pirates now infesting the Seas, may have a Remarkable Blast from Heaven following of them; the Sea-monsters, of all the most cruel, be Extinguished; and that the Methods now taking by the British Crown for the Suppression of these Mischiefs may be prospered.
Cotton Mather ended his account with the words, “Behold, Reader! The End of Piracy!”
The item in red above is a rather interesting sidelight: I wonder why it was omitted?
Another item makes me a little angry; quoting from the the Field Museum's page again:
All six men repented in the presence of Mather, but they still hanged, the tide lapping at their feet and the skyline of old Boston rising in the distance. Mather published their story and confession in a pamphlet called "The End of Piracy"—a prophetic title soon to be realized.
Note the illiterate interpretation of Mather's phrase. Perhaps this comes from the general allergy to teleology, or perhaps both the writer and editor were ill-read (and enamored of the slave theme of the exhibit).
On a happier note, the exhibit had a life-sized mockup of the ship we toured. It showed artifacts and described how they worked (lots of details about cannon I'd never heard before), had actors representing pirates fielding questions. The exhibit was quite interesting and worth seeing.
But they didn't go into what privateers were and what they were used for, which left sort of a large gap in understanding why piracy would be attractive/acceptable to so many people.
A somewhat more detailed analysis goes into the political use of pirates, and also how they organized themselves, in quite a bit more detail than (and sometimes contradicting) the exhibit.
Most piracy historians agree that 25-30% of pirate crews were African.
These Anglophonic men were usually picked up on the Sierra Leone coast, or were Angolans and Coromantee taken from the cargo holds of merchant slavers. While some historians like Ken Kinkor have made an expansive case for pirates as a race-blind workforce, my research finds a mixed record. While it is clear that certain pirate crews would accept Africans as highly motivated crewmates, others had few Africans who signed the articles. Nearly all made a sharp distinction between Anglophone Africans and “outlandish” people, whom they suspected of cannibalism. Evidence suggests that they would go to great lengths to ransom crewmates from West African communities and crewmen reported that no one could blame them for not deserting on the coast of Sierra Leone because they were scared of the Negroes “who did live in that place.” Others pled that they could not escape because “there was always a report that the Negroes would kill them.”
Men frankly admitted that they were more scared of the Africans of Sierra Leone than they were of pirates; clearly, they expected the Admiralty court to sympathize and forgive them for not running away to prove their reluctance to be pirates.
With such a low opinion of outlandish Africans (and a clear understanding that Africans could be readily commodified as slaves), it strains credulity to imagine a racially egalitarian workplace.
Moreover, African men captured aboard pirate ships never made it to trial in Admiralty courts; one assumes that they were consigned to slavery or summary execution on capture, though more investigation is called for into the fate of these men.
The exhibit repeatedly claimed that black men made up large fractions of the crew, suggesting that this was probably an attractive alternative to becoming slaves. It also suggested that the pirates coveting slave ships and interrupting slave trade was the main reason the British mounted a major campaign against them (no mention of looting of India-bound ships?). That makes for a nice tight "narrative" but misses a lot of what was going on.
One poster described two female pirates, who appear to have been perfectly representative of all (2) female pirates of the era.
Eldest Son burst into song during the tour. The actors professed not to have heard of the opera.
Worth seeing, but do your own research first. I didn't pick the audio tour, and have no comments on that.