Book of Negroes

“The Book of Negroes is a master piece, daring and impressive in its geographic, historical and human reach, convincing in its narrative art and detail, necessary for imagining the real beyond the traces left by history. ” I completely agree with The Globe and Mail’s interpretation of this story. One could almost see the desolate conditions of the slave boats and feel the pain of every person brought into slavery. Lawrence Hill created a compelling story that depicts the hard ships, emotional turmoil and bravery when he wrote The Book of Negroes.
In the exposition of The Book of Negroes one does not realize the amount of emotional turmoil the African people are about to face. At first glance the village of Bayo seems to be a felicitous place to live. People were working, children playing; life was normal to them. Aminata, the main character in this story, describes hers and others pain intentensively, “I lived in terror that the captors would beat us, boil us and eat us, but they began with humiliation: they tore our clothes off our backs. ” (pg. 9) Not once did the captors show any regard for these people, “As I began my long march from home, I discovered that there were people in the world who didn’t know me, didn’t love me and didn’t care whether I lived or died. ” (pg. 29) They were treated no differently that rapid animals. Children were forced to grow up faster than they should have. They were forced to do a man’s work load, and think quickly to avoid being beaten. There is a sincere feeling of pathos for every last person who lost everything and were treated so poorly. People were separated from family and sometimes friends.
Aminata first had her son taken away and sold by one of her masters, “My heart and body were screaming for Mamadu. But my baby was gone. Sold, sold, sold. Appleby would not say where. ” (pg. 184) Years later she suffered the loss of her daughter, who was stolen by the family whom she was working for. Even when they felt they were a little closer to freedom, they were once again knocked down. When Aminata was no longer an owned slave she sailed into Shelbourne, where she and many others were still treated with contempt, “Inside the Merchant’s Coffee House, I asked for information about lodging and work.

A big man took me by the arm and pulled me to the door. “We don’t serve niggers. ” He said. ” They were all stripped of their dignity, hope and faith. The Book of Negroes portrays a very vivid sense of realism throughout the entire story. As one follows Aminata through the excruciatingly painful journey she calls life, her pain, suffering and fears can be felt and seen by the reader. The hardships felt by the African people are heart wrenching. They lost everything that was ever home to them and taken to a world that treated them unfairly.
These poor people suffered at the hands of the toubab, “white man. ” Aminata herself watched her mother die in front of her, “But another man intercepted her, raised high a big, thick club and brought it swinging down against the back of her head. Mama dropped. I saw her blood in the moonlight, angry and dark spilling fast. ” (pg. 26) Losing family was not the only devastating occurrences they endured. They were shackled together, stripped of their clothing, rarely fed and at times they were caged like wild animals and branded.
Many did not make the trip to Sullivans Island. There was so much death due to the poor conditions they were forced to live in. Once they were bought by the slave owners the treatment of them became much worse. They did get clothing, a place to live and food in their stomachs but the beatings were more frequent. The female slaves, children to adult, were raped, told they were completely owned by their masters, and made to do unthinkable things, “He owned my labor, but now he was bursting to own all of me. ” (pg. 61) The poor slaves could not have anything nice and if they did it must be hidden, as punishment their possessions would be taken from them, “Your clothes,” he said to me when I hesitated, he tore them off and threw them down into the pile that Georgia had brought. “We have a law in the Province of South Carolina, “ he said “Niggers don’t dress grand. ” (pg. 176) Every one of the slaves in the 1700’s suffered so much and lost everything they once were. The amount of bravery it would have taken to survive as an African slave is unimaginable.
They had to do whatever they could to stay alive. They had to hide their fear so they would not appear weak. Aminata made herself useful to everyone, from her fellow people to the white man. She put herself on the line, acting as a translator between her people and their captors, “She speaks his language, and she speaks Maninke. ” She instructed many Africans and saved them from beatings and humiliation. Being only 11 years old, Aminata was valuable to her master and her people. She learnt as much as she could, she always kept her eyes and ears open and her mouth shut.
The African people did not dare question the toubab or bukra. The entire book is full of man vs. man conflict, the Africans constantly fighting for their freedom and the right to be treated like people by the white man. Aminata’s persistence to learn and her hard work pay off for her. She is recognized as a useful person in society and finally treated not equal, but much better than her previous master had, “You don’t have to be afraid to speak properly Meena,” he said “I already know that you can read and speak well. ” (pg. 88) In the denouement, Aminata earns her right as a respected African woman. She supports herself by teaching other African people how to read and catching babies. Word of her bravery travels, a lieutenant recruits her to help in compiling a list of all African people wanting to go to Sierra Leone, a safe haven for freed slaves. She is also asked to tell the story of her life, which would take a lot of courage to relive all the pain and suffering, to end slavery, “The abolitionists say they have brought me to England to help them change the course of history. (pg. 2) after her constant battle throughout life Aminata gets the best reward she could ask for, her daughter sought her out and found her, “The rain did not bother me. What were a few hours of standing in line? Mama, I have been waiting for years. ” (pg. 465) The Book of Negroes captures the emotional turmoil, hard ships, and bravery through perfect imagery. The emotional turmoil suffered by the African people is horrendous, they lost everything; their family, friends and homes. They were treated so poorly.
The hard ships they had to suffer through would make ones skin crawl and stomachs turn. They lived in dreadful conditions, with the dying and dead, in rooms full of human waste. They were beaten and worked harder than any human should be. The African people had to be brave if they wanted to survive. They could not show any sign of weakness in fear of what would happen to them, their family or friends. They had to use any means they could to survive such a terrifying time. The Fight for Freedom; the Fight for Rights Mindy Godlien Mrs. McKay ELA30 November 5th, 2012

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