Monday, March 2, 2015

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Reading The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, I thought a lot about my trip to Ghana last summer. For awhile I had been wanting to see those slave castles, and it finally happened.

At a slave castle in Ghana

The Book of Negroes is the story of a fictitious African woman named Aminata Diallo who was captured in West African at the age of eleven and sent to what we now know as the United States to be turned into a slave. The novels starts with Aminata as an old lady working with abolitionist telling her incredible story of survival.

Lawrence does a great job of helping the reader to visualize what may have happened on a ship that carried precious people who would later be turned into slaves.

When I was inside of those castles in Ghana, and I think that it is quite ironic that they are called castles, my mind could not even began to wrap around the idea of human beings being kept in such small quarters until it was time for them to be forcibly shipped out of their country and their lives changed forever.

The inside of a slave castle

I didn't think about what those ships must have smelled like, and that is one of the many things that struck me about this book... Lawrence talked about the smell of the ships and how people could smell the ships from very far away. Not sure why, but this really left an imprint on my mind and magnified the horrors of enslaving human beings.

The Door of No Return

When we hear of slavery in the states, we often hear or read about slavery in the southern states, but in this novel, Lawrence takes us to South Carolina, New York, Novia Scotia, Sierra Leone, and England through the eyes of Aminata. We also get to see glimpses of what may have happened during the American Revolutionary War.

Entrance to the river where Africans took bathes
before they were taken to slave ships.

The most fascinating thing about this novel is that The Book of Negroes is an actual historical document that is an archive of freed African American slaves who requested permission to leave the United States in order to settle in Nova Scotia. According to Lawrence, parts of the Book of Negroes can be found in the Novia Scotia Public Archives, the National Archives of the United States, and in the National Archives in Kew, England. (I'll be making my way over to the National Archives of the US soon.)

Memorial inside of s slave castle.

When I finished this novel, I felt joy that many of my people went through the horrors of slavery and survived.... I AM STILL HERE!

My people, read this book and learn.

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