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True Caribbean Pirates

Black Bart

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Ann Bonny

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True Caribbean Pirates: Sunday, July 9th, 2006 at 8pm/7c, Only on the History Channel.


NEW YORK, — Until the recent attack on a cruise ship off the coast of Somalia, pirates terrorizing the high seas have been mostly the stuff of legend and Hollywood fantasy. But piracy, particularly in the Caribbean, was at one time a very real and dangerous problem. Men with names such as Blackbeard, Calico Jack, and Black Bart pillaged and plundered ships and seaport towns, offering violent retribution to those who resisted and seizing fortunes at will. Viewers get to know the real characters, fight the battles they fought, watch nations rise up to stop them, and separate fact from fiction in the world premiere TRUE CARIBBEAN PIRATES on Sunday, July 9th, 2006 at 8pm/7c on The History Channel.

After Christopher Columbus landed in the West Indies in 1492, Spain and its powerful navy established a dominating presence in the region. Vast riches in gold and silver were mined in the New World — wealth that soon drew the attention of England, France, and Holland. The Caribbean would become a free-for-all as these competing nations advocated “privateering,” basically the use of freelancing private sailors to fight battles, disrupt trade, and harass the Spanish — all in an effort to establish a presence in the Caribbean without having to pay for a real navy there.

The temptation of Spanish treasure stretched the thin line between privateer and pirate to a breaking point. One of the most famous privateers to cross into piracy is Sir Henry Morgan. Tapped by the British Governor of Jamaica to command more than 1,500 buccaneers, he responded by becoming one of the first true great pirates, leading daring attacks and conquests of Spanish colonies at Portobello and Panama and gaining a reputation for brutal acts such as hanging men by their genitals to get them to give up their possessions.

The cycle of privateers and quasi-legal pirates continued for decades, until an extraordinary event changed everything in the Caribbean. Peace. Suddenly, tens of thousands of privateers and sailors were out of a job, and thus began the age of the outlaw pirates. TRUE CARIBBEAN PIRATES follows the lineage of maritime crime from Morgan to Calico Jack, and even on to female pirates such as Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who were far more sensational, and every bit as dangerous, as their male counterparts.

Using the historians’ input, dramatization, animation, expert interviews, and archival imagery, and filmed in historic locations, TRUE CARIBBEAN PIRATES is the true story of piracy's Golden Age.

Highlights of TRUE CARIBBEAN PIRATES include:

  • Tale after tale of pirate lore that brings to life their unique reality—a brazen flouting of almost every societal rule, disrespect for governmental authority, and unmatched thirst for adventure and brutality, all motivated by a true desire to be free and live their way, and only their way.
  • Understanding the pirates’ true motives and methodology for plying their trade, and dispelling time-honored myths such as those of treasure maps and buried booty.
  • The pirates’ unique ability to intimidate their targets into surrender, practiced uniquely by Blackbeard, who would tuck burning lengths of rope (called “slow match”) beneath his hat to create a cloud of smoke that observers swear made him look like Satan himself.
  • Blackbeard’s blockade and hostage crisis at Charlestowne, South Carolina, which sent ripples of pirate fear through the colonies and helped to galvanize support to take the pirates down, once and for all.
  • The establishment of all-pirate playground at Nassau, Bahamas, the city which became the home to seafaring outlaws after they’d been cast out of other areas.
  • The emergence of the unique and legendary Black Bart Roberts, the last of the great pirates and an anomaly in his own world… refusing to drink alcohol and conducting religious services aboard his vessel, and then hanging an Island Governor from the yardarm of his own ship.
  • The brutal exploits of female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read, and their promiscuous liaisons aboard the ship captained by Calico Jack Rackham.

Executive Producer for The History Channel is Carl H. Lindahl. TRUE CARIBBEAN PIRATES is produced for The History Channel by GRB Entertainment. Executive Producer for GRB Entertainment is Gary R. Benz. Writer, producer and director is Tim Prokop.

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Updated: 04 September 2022