Advanced students may wish to read this narrative in its entirety. In this unit, however, I suggest that the teacher focus upon the kidnapping and enslavement of the speaker (Being Chapter II of The Interesting Narrative) (Brawley, pp. 57-74).
1. Describe daily life of Olaudah among his family.
2. How did Olaudah plan to escape his African captors?
3. What character traits do we notice about the narrator?
4. Describe Olaudah’s first recollection of a slave ship and of the European captors on board.
5. Describe life in the hole below deck.
6. How effective do you feel is Olaudah’s appeal to the conscience of his Christian readers?
1. View video from
by Alex Haley on the capture of Kunta Kinte.
2. Reenact household slavery as practiced by the Igbo people.
3. Make a list of major differences between slavery in Africa and slavery in the New World.
II. Slave Narratives Upon Arrival
Slaves born in Africa could not directly tell their tales of how it felt to be snatched from their homeland where they were free and suddenly to realize that their new lives in slavery would be wrought with endless pain. Language was a barrier, for few could speak even the most rudimentary European tongue.
John Blassingame in
provides an 1847 third person interview with a John Homrn, age twenty-four (24) who was born in Sierra Leone in 1823. John apparently was English speaking. According to the interview:
His parents, though ranked amongst the humbler class, lived in comfort and respectability. At an early age he was placed at school, and was grounded in the rudiment of knowledge; hence he was able to read and write well . . . . [H]is father intended that he should learn his business, which was that of a carpenter. (Blassingame, 254.)
The story further tells that John’s father entrusted his son’s care to a gentleman Paul Fevre, a native of the United States who was in need of a valet. Unsuspecting the underlying treachery, John left with the merchant for Cuba where he was enslaved. John became the slave of a Franciso Solen, a brutal man. Information taken from John revealed that:
[T]he nature of the labour generally performed by slaves is of the most arduous description . . . The usual hours of labour on the estates were from six in the morning until ten at night, without any intermission, save a half hour devoted to meals. During crop time, the hours were from three o’clock in the morning until eleven at night. A driver was placed over them to watch their proceedings, and the slightest cessation was punished with severity . . . The punishments inflicted on these slaves are of the most horrifying characterthe whip, the stocks, chains, gags, and other instruments are employed. There is a severe mode of punishment adopted, called “bucking,”the hands of the poor victim are first tied together, and then passed over the knees; a stick is then passed between the arms and knees, and the sufferer being rendered helpless, the castigation is administered. (Blassingame, 257.)
Above quoted passages reprinted by permission from
But not only are the slaves overworked and cruelly punished, but they are ill-fed. Their food never varies throughout the year: a little corn flour and salt fish is their only nourishment . . . . (Blassingame, 260).
Slave Testimony ©
1977 by Louisiana State University Pres
Fortunately for John Homrn, he was able to escape his cruel fate by boarding a ship bound for England. With the help of a sympathetic sea captain, Homrn reached the office of the British and Foreign Antislavery Society where he was able to convince the authorities that he was a free born man. He returned to Sierra Leone. (261)