The Story of John Blossom, a Black Man At the Court of Kalākaua

One of the figures of Black history in Hawai’i that I had done research on was Ioane Mōhala. I had to rely heavily on newspapers and oral histories for this. Ioane Mōhala was the Hawaiian name for John Blossom.

John Blossom was born in Jamaica and was the son of British plantation owner and an African slave. He was initially a slave and became freed in 1833 as Britain abolished slavery. Upon that time he joined the crew of a merchant ship and was enslaved in the US before escaping and ending up in Hawaiʻi in 1850.

John Blossom ended up meeting Caesar Kapaʻakea where he was his valet. Kapaʻakea already was married and had a family with Analea Keohokālole. Eventually Blossom became the estate manager for Keohokālole.

Two of the children would become monarchs–David and Lydia. Blossom was well liked by Kamehameha III and was welcomed at court. This was in sharp contrast to the US and Europe. He also was given an honorary commission in the Hawaiian army.

His relationship with the Kapaʻakea family was such that he ate with the family as equals and was called an uncle. Blossom would go back to Jamaica and married a Black woman by the name Marea. They moved back to Hawaiʻi and had several children. One of the children would be the godchild of David Kalākaua and would work in the household of William Lunalilo and later the Crowningburg family. A daughter worked in the household of Queen Emma.

In 1886, a protracted campaign to oust Kalākaua was started. Among the things spread was that Kalākaua was the son of John Blossom because Black and royalty could not inhabit the same body. When Queen Lili’uokalani began to question American hegemony, that rumor was recirculate by the Calvinist missionary newspaper, The Friend.

There was no truth that these rumors as all of Kapa’akea’s children were born after John Blossom’s arrival. But because of prejudices at the time, this was used to demonstrate how unfit Kalākaua and Lili’uokalani were to rule. Nevermind how educated and accomplished the two monarchs were, any ounce of Black blood was cause to get rid of them.

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