Eric Roberts' Weblog

The Book of Negroes

Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes is a compelling read that leaves one questioning the brutality of humans, particularly when it comes to slavery.  Set mostly in the 1700’s, this book tells the life story of Aminata Diallo who in 1745 is an eleven-year old girl living with her family in an Islamic village in Africa.  Belying the stereotype of the African savage, Aminata is being taught mathematics by her father and midwifery by her mother before being captured by slavers and transported to America to work first on an indigo plantation.  The conditions on the transport ship are horrific and the conditions in America are not much better.  Because of her education and intelligence, during the course of her life Aminata manages to avoid some of the brutality and hardship, but still must endure rape, the kidnapping of her two children and extended separation from the one man she loves. There really was a “Book of Negroes”; it was used by the British to list all the Negroes moved from the United States to freedom in Nova Scotia during The American Revolution.

Thematically The Book of Negroes is a coming of age story, but more importantly, it explores the notion of the human spirit to endure, despite the hardship and heartbreak of fate.

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