Let me begin with a caveat to any and all who find these pages. Do not trust large bodies of water, and do not cross them. If you, Dear Reader, have an African hue and find yourself led toward water with vanishing shores, seize your freedom by any means necessary. And cultivate distrust of the colour pink. Pink is taken as the colour of innocence, the colour of childhood, but as it spills across the water in the light of the dying sun, do not fall into its pretty path. There, right underneath, lies a bottomless graveyard of children, mothers and men. I shudder to imagine all the Africans rocking in the deep. Every time I have sailed the seas, I have had the sense of gliding over the unburied. Some people call the sunset a creation of extraordinary beauty, and proof of God’s existence. But what benevolent force would bewitch the human spirit by choosing pink to light the path of a slave vessel?” The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
This being Black History Month I thought I would share with you a book I read two summers ago. My sister gave me the book to read, she told me it was one of her favorite books she's read in awhile. I had my doubts, but those doubts were soon shed within the first few moments of reading the first page. I spent every moment I could reading The Book of Negros, it went with me to Sandhills, and as the kids played on the beach, I was immersed in this book...almost transported back to the late 18th century, taking the unimaginative Journey with Aminata Diallo from her African Village to a plantation in the United States to refuge in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, to the coast of Sierra Leone.
Although this book is based on a fictional character created by author Lawrence Hill, there is an actual Book of Negroes. It is a hand written ledger which details the names, ages, backgrounds and often degrading physical descriptions of black people in North America. More specifically, the 3000 freedom seekers who left New York for Nova Scotia and other British colonies near the end of the American Revolutionary War for a promise of freedom and land. What they received when they got there wasn't much better than they had left behind; poverty, hunger, disease and slavery.
In schools throughout Canada we have been taught about Canada's part in the Underground Railroad, but we have not been taught much about our part in slavery or that we were the site of North America's first race riot. That in 1784 large gangs of out of work white men attacked the black settlement of Birchtown, NS and destroyed 20 homes. Disappointed and angry at the British for abandoning them, 1000 Black Loyalists sailed to Sierra Leone undertaking the world's first return to Africa transit.
The Globe and Mail says this of The Book of Negroes:
"The Book of Negroes is a masterpiece, 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."
The Globe and Mail
You can learn more about the Black Loyalists by visiting the Black Loyalist Heritage Society in Birchtown, NS or by visiting their website at:
Black Loyalist Heritage Society
You can also learn more of The Book of Negros in this feature article Freedom Bound by Lawrence Hill:
If you haven't yet read The Book of Negroes (or also called Someone Knows My Name in the USA, Australia, and New Zealand) pick it up today, you won't regret it, and I promise you, you won't be able to put it down until it's done.
3 years ago