The Free Black Experience in Canada
From Canadian author, Lawrence Hill, his 4th novel, Someone Knows My Name--a breath-takingly beautiful and bitter-sweet memoir of Aminata Diallo, an African stolen from her West African homeland and sold into slavery. Hill is the author of three other novels, notably, Any Known Blood. Someone Knows My Name offers a rare insights into the plight of free blacks and escaped slaves in New York City and Nova Scotia, Canada where life was extremely difficult.
Aminata Diallo struggles and perseveres in her attempts to not relinquish her identity as an African in the New World. Her struggles are legion. Aminata watched both of her parents die at the hands of Africans and Europeans, who regarded them as property and chattel in the commerce of human lives.
Her ultimate salvation lies in the skills her parents passed along to her. Her father taught her to write in Arabic and to read parts of the Quaran. Her mother taught her the science of midwifery and natural plant medicine. A mixed-race overseer taught her to read and write English. These skills kept Aminata away from beatings and death at the hands of slave traders and plantation owners.
Hills characters are deeply human and multi-dimensional. The Africans are portrayed as greedy and skilled negotiators--not innocent, naive by-standers in the slave trade. The Europeans are arrogant, brutish and classless. Aminata determines to free herself. After escaping her Jewish “master,” she hides among the poor blacks in New York City. This provides her with an opportunity to use her skills as a midwife to eek out a meager living.
Hill does not make Aminata a pitiable character through the loss of ther wo children, Mustafa and May and her devoted husband Chekura. Her son is sold away from her; her daughter abducted by white “friends”; and her husband drowned on a capsized ship bound for Nova Scotia. For a brief period of time, Aminata wishes for her life to end, but her love for her people and her compassion for seeing new life enter the world, renews her will to live.
Through Aminata, we see the abolitionists in their fervor and single-mindedness. Although they need Aminata to tell her story to a parliamentary committee on abolition in London, and to his royal highness himself, King George III, they want to control her autobiography to suit their needs. Aminata does not relinquish her right to tell her own story her own way.
Prominent in this novel, is the history of the The Book of Negroes. It is a real document of the free blacks who left New York City to settle in various British colonies. Aminata Dialla, in the telling of this tale, wrote the names and descriptions of three thousand black men, women and children. It is said to be “The largest single document about black people in North America, up until the end of the eighteenth century.”
Sounds like a great read..the struggle of being stolen from your homeland and forced into slavery; couldn’t image such a hard life.Posted by mmo on 03/17 at 10:23 PM
This book is food for the soul...thank you for feeding me so well.
Twin from another TribePosted by Sade Ali on 04/06 at 11:05 AM
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