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Esek Hopkins was born on April 26, 1718 in Scituate to a prominent Rhode Island family. Hopkins became a merchant and sea captain and in 1764, was in command of the slave ship Sally, known for a disastrous 15-month voyage that resulted in the death of 109 out of 196 slaves on board. The tragedy led many in Rhode Island (including Moses Brown) to become opponents of the slave trade.
In December 1775, he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy. Hopkins served in that position until 1778, when he was relieved of command due to reports that he tortured British prisoners. He later served in the Rhode Island General Assembly.
His brother Stephen Hopkins was a Rhode Island Governor and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Hopkins was in the news recently when the Providence School Department voted to rename Esek Hopkins Middle School due to his involvement with the slave trade and the tragic voyage of the Sally.