Black Bart was one of the most successful pirates active during the Golden Age of Piracy, capturing over 400 ships all over the Atlantic Ocean in his brief and brutal career. Although Black Bart is not as well known as some other pirates from the same era, such as Blackbeard, his skills as a captain and pirate were quite formidable, and many pirate characters in film and fiction are based on Black Bart, who was known as Bartholomew Roberts during his lifetime.
Bartholomew Roberts was born in Wales in 1682 as John Roberts; “Bartholomew” is likely an alias taken at some point during his sailing career. John Roberts first took to the sea at the age of 13, and little is known about his career as a legitimate sailor, except for the fact that he was sailing as the third mate on a slave ship in 1719 when he was pressed into service on a pirate ship. Pressing valuable members of the crew of captured ships was a common practice among pirates, and Roberts was apparently a very accomplished navigator.
Within six months of being pressed into service, Roberts had been elected captain, and he embarked on a reign of terror which didn't end until 1722, when he was killed in battle off the coast of West Africa. As captain, Black Bart proved to be decisive, savage, and ruthless, keeping firm order among the members of his crew and being totally unafraid of going after ships of all sizes for their precious cargoes.
The total value of the treasure captured by Black Bart is not known, because much of it was never recovered, but it is estimated to be in the high billions. He operated in the Caribbean, an area rich in potential plunder thanks to heavily-loaded Spanish and Portuguese treasure ships, and he also worked off the coast of New England and Newfoundland, and off the coast of Africa.
Black Bart's character was rather curious. Although he was ruthless, he also imposed strong moral rules on members of his crew; by signing the ship's articles, pirates agreed to refrain from bringing women on board, for example, and they were also not permitted to play cards or fight on board ship. Black Bart himself was a teetotaler, preferring tea to coffee, and also a bit of a dandy, preferring to dress in clothing more befitted to a gentleman than a pirate.