Book of Negroes a fact of history

By Gerald V. Paul

Award-winning author Lawrence Hill’s best selling novel The Book of Negroes premiered as a six-part miniseries yesterday on CBC. The critically acclaimed show will be available on DVD April 7. Preorder date is March 3.

Abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle (a string of slaves) Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. But years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic Book of Negroes.

In an interview with Now magazine, director Clement Virgo, said, “The original U.S. publisher is reissuing the novel as The Book Of Negroes. When the BET network has the b—s  to show a miniseries called The Book of Negroes, that gives it legitimacy.

“The word ‘negro’ conjures up images because it’s connected to that other n-word. But we still use the word. There’s the United Negro College Fund, a great organization that gives scholarships to Black students.

“Once people see the episode about where the title comes from (a book used as a record of Black slaves leaving America for Nova Scotia), I think we‘ll be okay.”

That book, an actual document, provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the U.S. for resettlement in Nova Scotia, only to find the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression of its own.

Aminata’s eventual return to Sierra Leone – passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America – is an engrossing account of an obscure but important chapter in the history that saw 1,200 former slaves embark on a harrowing back-to-Africa odyssey.

Gerald V. Paul
Gerald V. Paul