The Book of Negroes

The Book of Negroes Analysis

Lawrence Hill's novel The Book of Negroes is a fictional captivity story centered around the life of Aminata Diallo. She's captured from her village in Africa as a child and sold into slavery in the States. Her narrative is one of hope, repeated frustration, and justice. As a child, she made friends with a boy named Chekura on the ship. They continue to try and reconnect throughout the years because they truly love one another and even have a child together. In her later years Aminata gains her freedom and becomes involved with a movement to return many Africans to their original home countries. After her own plans to return home fall through, she agrees to live in London as an abolitionist speaker with her daughter.

The Book of Negroes is a story of the enduring human spirit, defying all odds. It's a fairly classic captivity tale. Aminata is a somewhat unique character, however, because she doesn't want to escape from America completely. She despises the place and all that it stands for, but she wants to go home. Consequently she dedicates herself to helping as many African former slaves return to their homes as possible; she does a lot of good. She is a figure of perseverence and resilience because she had the option to become embittered by her horrible life experiences as a slave and even after as a persecuted black woman. Instead she chooses to fight for her people and people like her, whose voices have been systematically silenced.

It is also interesting to note that Aminata dies in England. She's present for the formation of the United States, declaring it a hateful place not deserving the title of unity. As far as Aminata is concerned, she believes America is the filthiest moral hideout in the world. So when Africa fails her, she chooses to continue on to Europe. Her friend Clarkson proves invaluable at advancing her cause. He garners her the right publicity to make her stories public. She even testifies in Parliament and meets the king and queen. Despite a lifetime of having things taken from her, she is finally returned her daughter, May. May cares for her aging mother in the comfort and safety of their own home. After her death, Amita's written memoirs are published by May's fiance.

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