Great African Reads discussion

Books, Books, Books > Recommendations? Slave narratives

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message 1: by Alex (new)

Alex I'd like to read a first-person account from someone who lived in Africa and was captured and sold into slavery; a book that moves from Africa to America. (I know, that sounds horribly morbid.) I have no idea if such a book exists, or how it would even come to be written...but if it does, I bet one of you knows of it. Any ideas?

(Yeah, yeah, I know, Roots. That story is mostly made up though; Haley's believed to have falsified his research. Doesn't make it a bad book, but if I could find an actual first-person account, that'd be even cooler.)

message 2: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
ummm...i don't have a good answer for you, but our co-member Manu might. he wrote a novel along these lines and seems very knowledgeable about sources. he recommended Agotime to us, which is also a novel, but based on a real woman. it was an amazing book. but not easy to read at all. it definitely takes a bit of commitment. it has stuck with me, though. i'll definitely be curious to see what recommendations come back to you and i'll keep my eyes peeled.Agotime: Her Legend
AMA: A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade

message 3: by Manu (new)

Manu (manuherb) | 166 comments My apologies for being so scarce.
Alex, there's only one text that complies with your description. That is Equiano's Travels, available in various editions - I have the one edited by Paul Edwards, but I'd suggest getting Vincent Carretta's Penguin edition. You might then like to read James Walvin's biography, An African Life, The Life and Times of Olaudah Equiano 1745-1797.
Equiano may or may not have been born in Africa - Carretta has raised doubts - but if not, he must have had first-hand contact with some who had, so his story has unique value. One must take into account, however, that he wrote as a somewhat anglicized Christian, to a frankly propagandist agenda in support of an English campaign for abolition. (That doesn't of course diminish the worthiness of that cause.)
What I did in Ama was to profit from access to the academic research of the two centuries after Equiano to tell a similar story but with more weight at the African end. Incidentally, I'm still hoping for some comments from Great African Reads members. Don't be shy!
Last May I was in Toronto to share a novelists' platform at an historians' slave trade narrative conference with Lawrence Hill, whose The Book of Negroes tells a similar story again. (The title was unacceptable to the U.S. publisher - you'll find it there as Somebody Knows My Name.) I'd be interested to hear someone compare the two novels.
I've just finished reading historian Marcus Rediker's The Slave Ship - good popular history. Also worth a look is his previous work, with Peter Linebaugh, The Many-Headed Hydra subtitled Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic.
For a moving and fascinating contemporary take on slave trade heritage try Saidiya Hartman's Lose Your Mother, A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route.
Finally, I'm just re-reading, after over 30 years, Yaw Boateng's The Return, published in 1977 in the African Writers Series. Yaw was briefly my colleague in an engineering office in Accra in the early 70s. I've tried to locate him but failed. The Return tells a story set in the time of the slave trade in Asante.

message 4: by Katy (new)

Katy | 81 comments You might also try Charles Johnson's The Middle Passage, although it's a novel, not a firsthand account. It won the National Book Award in 1990.

message 5: by Alex (new)

Alex Wow, Manu, that is incredibly helpful. I can't thank you enough. I will look into all these books, including yours. That's the kind of post that makes me really grateful I found this site.

And thank you too, Katie. :) I've heard good things about The Middle Passage.

message 6: by Mike (new)

Mike (steakbone) The Bondswoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts, a novel written by an escaped woman slave from North Carolina, the story of which is more interesting than the actual book.

Obi; or, The History of Three-Fingered Jack is not written by a slave, but it draws on history and narrative from the slave community.

message 7: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Manu--it's wonderful to see you back here! My deepest apologies that I have yet to read Ama. It's high on my to-do list and hopefully we can open a discussion about it shortly. I remember well that you are keen to discuss! :D

To add to Steakbone's and Katy's recommendations-- there has been a bit of scholarly activity in recent years regarding Islam and slavery...maybe some of you already know about Prince among Slaveswhich was made into a documentary for PBS. I have not read the book or seen the film. a friend of mine also found this resource when I asked him to remind me about Muslim slaves in the U.S.

message 8: by Mahriana (new)

Mahriana Rofheart | 84 comments I can think of several fictionalizations, but I'm with Manu on Equiano. :)

message 9: by Shovelmonkey1 (last edited Apr 20, 2011 03:55AM) (new)

Shovelmonkey1 I'd also support the recommendation of Equiano and also recommend African Voices of the Atlantic slave trade by Ann Bailey. It is an analysis of narratives and oral histories relating to the slave trade which is an often overlooked and under represented aspect of slave trade history.
African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade by Anne Bailey

Another book which is a bit off topic but which you may enjoy is The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
This book is a well researched fictional account of slaves on a plantation.
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James

message 10: by Alex (new)

Alex Oh snap, those are really interesting suggestions Shovelmonkey! Thanks a ton. I'll definitely check them out.

message 11: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Alex wrote: "Oh snap, those are really interesting suggestions Shovelmonkey! Thanks a ton. I'll definitely check them out."

Alex, you should go to the new topic thread too...a new member posted some excellent looking book titles you might be interested in!

message 12: by Alex (new)

Alex Will do. Still playing catch-up here, but that sounds promising.

message 13: by Shovelmonkey1 (new)

Shovelmonkey1 Alex wrote: "Will do. Still playing catch-up here, but that sounds promising."

Hi again Alex, i thought of another one while I was browsing some of my African History books at home.

A Congo Chattel: The story of an African Slave Girl by Henry D Campbell - told by a missionary who went to Africa and witnessed many of the events told in the book. Again not quite what you're looking for but i guess it all adds to the perspective.

A Congo Chattel - The Story Of An African Slave Girl by Henry D. Campbell

message 14: by Alex (new)

Alex Nice! Thanks again.

message 15: by Tinea, Nonfiction Logistician (last edited Apr 25, 2011 12:43PM) (new)

Tinea (pist) | 406 comments Mod
Henry Louis Gates Jr. put together a few anthologies of slave narratives. I read his 1000 page tome Slave Narratives in a really short while, it was so compelling. I think the first few narratives collected in that book are from enslaved African people telling the stories of their capture and Atlantic crossing. Equiano mentioned already is included in it. But I bet you can find most of these narratives online, too, if you just search for those listed in the table of contents.

We talked about Segu by Maryse Condé in another thread on African empires and their fall to colonialism. That book's a novel, but very well-researched, and includes a pretty substantial subplot that follows someone from capture in West Africa to life on a plantation in the Caribbean.

message 16: by Sea (new)

Sea (sgsr) I known one that is fictionalized. It's Someone Knows My Name and it's also known under the title of The Book of Negroes. I enjoyed it quite a lot :)

message 17: by Alex (new)

Alex Segu's but on my list for ages.

Man, i have a lot of reading to do. :)

message 18: by Sharon (new)

Sharon (goodreadscombookslinger1) | 47 comments How about The Amistad Mutiny by Kohn (1971)? I see plenty of newer tellings are available, but I like this simple kid's book for sketches, pictures, bibliography and use of primary sources. This is not a a slave narrative; however, the incident provided a spotlight on new sugar plantation slaves thrown off-course in a storm. They landed in Long Island. We never would have met them or heard about their lives had it not been for the storm, the mutiny and the subsequent court case.

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