The Book of Negroes -- Synopsis
The Book of Negroes is the first novel to examine the story of African peoples who, after enslavement in the United States and escape to Canada, returned to Africa in the eighteenth century. Aminata Diallo begins the story of her tumultuous life with the words: “I seem to have trouble dying. By all rights, I should not have lived this long.” Aminata’s story spans six decades and three continents. Against the backdrop of British slavery and liberation in the U.S., Canada, England and West Africa, the Book of Negroes dramatizes one woman’s epic tale of survival and migration. Born around 1745 in Mali, Aminata is kidnapped as a child and sent across the Atlantic Ocean to South Carolina. She works on an indigo plantation and later as an urban slave before escaping her master in New York City on the eve of the American Revolutionary War. Aminata ends up serving the British as a midwife and then as a scribe, recording in a British military ledger called the “Book of Negroes”, the names and descriptions of thousands of fugitive slaves who are desperate to sail from New York City before George Washington and his American patriots take control of the city. At the end of the war, Aminata sails with thousands of blacks to Nova Scotia. In Shelburne, she discovers that freedom in the British colonies is illusory and in some respects just as dangerous as the slavery she fled in the American South. In 1792, Aminata joins the first "back to Africa” movement in the history of the Americas and sails with 1,200 Black Loyalists to Sierra Leone. After a decade in Africa, Aminata sails to England to advocate for the end of the slave trade and to write the life story that becomes this novel.
Let me begin with a caveat to any and all who find these pages. Do not trust large bodies of water, and do not cross them. If you, Dear Reader, have an African hue and find yourself led toward water with vanishing shores, seize your freedom by any...
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