Ukawsaw Gronniosaw

Last updated
Ukawsaw Gronniosaw
Bornc. 1705
Died28 September 1775 [lower-alpha 1]
Other namesJames Albert
Known forHis autobiography
Children5

Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (c. 1705 28 September 1775) [1] [lower-alpha 1] , also known as James Albert, was an enslaved man and is considered the first published African in Britain. Gronniosaw is known for his 1772 narrative autobiography A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince, as Related by Himself and which is the first slave narrative published in England. His groundbreaking autobiography recounted his early life in present-day Nigeria, and subsequent times under and after enslavement.

Contents

Life

Gronniosaw was born in Bornu (now north-eastern Nigeria) in 1705. He said that he was doted on as the grandson of the king of Zaara. At the age of 15, he was taken by a Gold Coast ivory merchant and sold to a Dutch captain for two yards of check cloth. [2] He was bought by an American in Barbados, who took him to New York and resold him to a Calvinist minister, Theodorus Frelinghuysen, based in New Jersey. [2] [3]

There Gronniosaw was taught to read and was brought up as a Christian. Gronniosaw said in his autobiography that he wanted to return to his family in Africa, but Frelinghuysen denied this request and told him to focus on the Christian faith. [4] During his time with Frelinghuysen, Gronniosaw attempted suicide, distressed by his perceived failings as a Christian. [5] When the minister died, he freed Gronniosaw in his will. [2] The young man worked for the minister's widow, and subsequently their orphans, but all died within four years. [2]

Planning to go to England, where he expected to meet other pious people like the Frelinghysens, Gronniosaw travelled to the Caribbean, where he enlisted as a cook with a privateer, and later as a soldier in the British army to earn money for the journey. [5] He served in Martinique and Cuba, before obtaining his discharge and sailing to England.

At first he settled in Portsmouth, but, when his landlady swindled him out of most of his savings, was forced to seek his fortune in London. There he married a young English widow, Betty, a weaver. She already had a child and bore him at least two more. She lost her job because of the financial depression and industrial unrest, and moved to Colchester. There they were saved from starvation by Osgood Hanbury (a Quaker lawyer and grandfather of the abolitionist Thomas Fowell Buxton), who employed Gronniosaw in building work. Moving to Norwich, Gronniosaw and his family again fell on hard times, as the building trades were largely seasonal. Once again, they were saved by the kindness of a Quaker, Henry Gurney (coincidentally, the grandfather of Fowell Buxton's wife, Hannah Gurney) who paid their rent arrears. A daughter died and was refused burial by the local clergy on the grounds that she was not baptised. One minister at last offered to allow her to be buried in the churchyard, but he would not read the burial service.

After pawning all their possessions, the family moved to Kidderminster, where Betty supported them by working again as a weaver. On Christmas Day 1771, Gronniosaw had their remaining children, Mary Albert (aged six), Edward Albert (aged four), and newborn Samuel Albert, baptised in the Old Independent Meeting House in Kidderminster by Benjamin Fawcett, a Calvinist minister and associate of Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon and a major figure in Calvinist Methodism. [3] At around the same time, Gronniosaw received a letter and a charitable donation from Hastings herself. On 3 January 1772, he responded by thanking her for her 'favour', which arrived 'at a time of great necessity', and explained that he had just returned from 'Mrs Marlowe's' in nearby Leominster, 'were I was shewed kindness to from my Christian friends'. [3] On 25 June 1774, Gronniosaw's fifth child, James Albert Jr, was baptised, again by Fawcett. [3]

Shortly after his arrival in Kidderminster, Gronniosaw began work on his life story, with the help of an amanuensis from Leominster, possibly the 'Mrs Marlowe' he had mentioned in his letter to Hastings. Gronniosaw's Narrative has been studied by scholars as a groundbreaking work by an African in English. It is the first known slave narrative published in England and received wide attention, with multiple printings and editions at the time.

The Chester Chronicle, Monday 2 October, 1775 Gronniosaw death notice The Chester Chronicle, Monday 2 October, 1775 Gronniosaw death notice.jpg
The Chester Chronicle, Monday 2 October, 1775 Gronniosaw death notice

Gronniosaw's Narrative concludes with its author still living in Kidderminster, having "appear[ed] to be turn'd sixty"; for a long time, nothing was known of his later life. [6] However, at some point during the late twentieth century, an obituary for Gronniosaw was discovered in the Chester Chronicle . The article, from 2 October 1775, reads:

On Thursday [28 September] died, in this city, aged 70, James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince, of Zaara. He left his country in the early part of his life, with a view to acquire proper notions of the Divine Being, and of the worship due to Him. He met with many trials and embarrassments, was much afflicted and persecuted. His last moments exhibited that chearful [sic] serenity which, at such a time, is the certain effect of a thorough conviction of the great truths of Christianity. He published a narrative of his life. [7]

The burial record for 'Chester St Oswald' - a church which met in the south transept of Chester Cathedral from 1448 [8] to 1881 [9] - includes an entry from 28 September for 'James Albert (a Blackm[an])'. [10] The record does not include mention of where Gronniosaw was ultimately laid to rest. However, a watercolour by A.R. Quinton of the cathedral, printed on postcards from c.1926, shows gravestones surrounding the south transept [11] ; the cathedral later used these gravestones, most of which date back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries [12] , as the paving for the 22nd Cheshire Regiment Garden of Remembrance, which was officially opened in 1952 [13] . As no gravestone baring his name has yet been found, it must be assumed that Gronniosaw was indeed buried in the grounds of the south transept, and that any gravestone he received has since been repurposed, with any trace of its owner having been eroded over the decades.

The autobiography

Gronniosaw's autobiography was produced in Kidderminster in 1772. [3] It is entitled A Narrative of the Most remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince, As related by himself. [4] The title page explains that it was "committed to paper by the elegant pen of a young LADY of the town of LEOMINSTER." It is the first slave narrative by an African in the English language, a genre related to the literature of enslaved persons who later gained freedom. Published in Bath, Somerset, in December 1772, it gives a vivid account of Gronniosaw's life, from his leaving home to his enslavement in Africa by a native king, through a period of being enslaved, to his struggles with poverty as a free man in Colchester and Kidderminster. He was attracted to this last town because it was at one time the home of Richard Baxter, a 17th-century Calvinist minister whom Gronniosaw had learned to admire.

The preface was written by the Reverend Walter Shirley, cousin to Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, who was the chief patron of the Calvinist wing of Methodism. He interprets Gronniosaw's experience of enslavement and his being transported from Bornu to New York as an example of Calvinist predestination and election.

Scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. has noted that Gronniosaw's narrative was different from later slave narratives, which generally criticised slavery as an institution. In his account, Gronniosaw referred to his "white-skinned sister," said that he had been willing to leave Africa because his family believed in many deities instead of one almighty God (which he learned more about under Christianity), and suggested that he became happier as he assimilated to white English society, through clothing but mostly via language. In addition, he described another black servant at his master's house as a "devil." Gates, Jr. has concluded that the narrative does not have an anti-slavery view, as was ubiquitous in subsequent slave narratives. [3] [14]

Until the recent discovery of an obituary published in 1775, and a manuscript letter written by Gronniosaw to Hastings, the Narrative was the only significant source of information for his life.

Adaptations

The short, 6-minute animation entitled "The Most Remarkable Particulars" draws from Gronniosaw's narrative and features him and his wife Betty as characters. It was written and directed by Jason Young. He published the short story "Annals of an Afro-Briton." Actors Grahame Edwards and Sarah Hannah voice the two leads. [15]

See also

Related Research Articles

The slave narrative is a type of literary genre involving the (written) autobiographical accounts of enslaved Africans, particularly in the Americas. Over six thousand such narratives are estimated to exist; about 150 narratives were published as separate books or pamphlets. In the United States during the Great Depression (1930s), more than 2,300 additional oral histories on life during slavery were collected by writers sponsored and published by the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal program. Most of the 26 audio-recorded interviews are held by the Library of Congress.

John Gabriel Stedman military officer and author

John Gabriel Stedman was a Dutch-born Scottish soldier who wrote The Narrative of a Five Years Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (1796). This narrative covers his years in Suriname as a soldier in the Dutch military deployed to assist local troops fighting against groups of escaped slaves. He first recorded his experiences in a personal diary that he later rewrote and expanded into the Narrative. The Narrative was a bestseller of the time and, with its firsthand depictions of slavery and other aspects of colonialism, became an important tool in the fledgling abolitionist movement. When compared with Stedman's personal diary, his published Narrative is a sanitized and romanticized version of Stedman's time in Surinam.

James W.C. Pennington American activist

James William Charles Pennington was an African-American orator, minister, writer, and abolitionist active in Brooklyn, New York. He escaped at the age of 19 from slavery in western Maryland and reached New York. After working in Brooklyn and gaining some education, he was admitted to Yale University as its first black student. He completed studies and was ordained as a minister in the Congregational Church, later also serving in Presbyterian churches for congregations in Hartford, Connecticut; and New York. After the Civil War, he served congregations in Natchez, Mississippi; Portland, Maine; and Jacksonville, Florida.

Slavery in Canada

Slavery in Canada includes both that practised by First Nations from earliest times and that under European colonization.

Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano (/əˈlaʊda/), known for most of his life as Gustavus Vassa, was a writer and abolitionist from, according to his memoir, the Eboe (Igbo) region of the Kingdom of Benin. Enslaved as a child in Africa, he was taken to the Caribbean and sold as a slave to a Royal Navy officer. He was sold twice more but purchased his freedom in 1766.

Albert G. Brown

Albert Gallatin Brown was Governor of Mississippi from 1844 to 1848 and a Democratic United States Senator from Mississippi from 1854 to 1861, when he withdrew during secession.

Ottobah Cugoano African abolitionist in England

Ottobah Cugoano, also known as John Stuart, was an abolitionist, political activist and natural rights philosopher from West Africa who was active in Britain in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Captured in the Gold Coast and sold into slavery at the age of 13, he was shipped to Grenada in the West Indies. In 1772 he was purchased by a merchant who took him to England, where he learnt to read and write, and was freed. Later working for artists Richard and Maria Cosway, he became acquainted with several British political and cultural figures. He joined the Sons of Africa, a group of African abolitionists in Britain.

Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen Dutch-American theologian

Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen was a Dutch-American Dutch Reformed minister, theologian and the progenitor of the Frelinghuysen family in the United States of America. Frelinghuysen is most remembered for his religious contributions in the Raritan Valley during the beginnings of the First Great Awakening. Several of his descendants became influential theologians and politicians throughout American history.

Venture Smith Colonial American enslaved African and author

Venture Smith was an African-American farmer and craftsman. Smith was kidnapped when he was six and a half years old in West Africa and was taken to Anomabo on the Gold Coast to be sold into slavery. As an adult, he purchased his freedom and that of his family. He documented his life in A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa: But Resident above Sixty Years in the United States of America, Related by Himself. This autobiography is one of the earliest known examples of an autobiographical narrative in an entirely African American literary vericas, only about a dozen left behind first-hand accounts of their experiences.

Moses Roper African-American survivor of slavery, abolitionist and writer

Moses Roper was an African American abolitionist, author and orator. He wrote an influential narrative of his enslavement in the United States in his Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper from American Slavery and gave thousands of lectures in Great Britain and Ireland to inform the European public about the brutality of American slavery.

George Washington and slavery George Washingtons relationship with slavery

The history of George Washington and slavery reflects Washington's changing attitude toward enslavement. The preeminent Founding Father of the United States and a slaveowner, Washington became increasingly uneasy with that longstanding institution during the course of his life, and provided for the emancipation of his slaves in his will.

History of slavery in New Jersey

Slavery in New Jersey began in the early 17th century, when Dutch colonists trafficked African slaves for labor to develop their colony of New Netherland. After England took control of the colony in 1664, its colonists continued the importation of slaves from Africa. They also imported "seasoned" slaves from their colonies in the West Indies and enslaved Native Americans from the Carolinas.

Solomon Bayley was an African American freed slave who is best known for his 1825 autobiography entitled A Narrative of Some Remarkable Incidents in the Life of Solomon Bayley, Formerly a Slave in the State of Delaware, North America. Published in London, it is among the early slave narratives written by slaves who gained freedom before the American Civil War and emancipation. Bayley was born into slavery in Delaware. After escaping and being recaptured, he later bought his freedom, and that of his wife and children. He worked as a farmer and at a sawmill. In their later years, he and his wife emigrated in 1827 to the new colony of Liberia, where he worked as a missionary and farmer. His short book about the colony was published in Delaware in 1833.

<i>The Slave Community</i> 1972 book by John Wesley Blassingame

The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South is a book written by American historian John W. Blassingame. Published in 1972, it is one of the first historical studies of slavery in the United States to be presented from the perspective of the enslaved. The Slave Community contradicted those historians who had interpreted history to suggest that African-American slaves were docile and submissive "Sambos" who enjoyed the benefits of a paternalistic master–slave relationship on southern plantations. Using psychology, Blassingame analyzes fugitive slave narratives published in the 19th century to conclude that an independent culture developed among the enslaved and that there were a variety of personality types exhibited by slaves.

David George (Baptist)

David George was an African-American Baptist preacher and a Black Loyalist from the American South who escaped to British lines in Savannah, Georgia; later he accepted transport to Nova Scotia and land there. He eventually resettled in Freetown, Sierra Leone. With other slaves, George founded the Silver Bluff Baptist Church in South Carolina in 1775, the first black congregation in the present-day United States. He was later affiliated with the First African Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia. After migration, he founded Baptist congregations in Nova Scotia and Freetown, Sierra Leone. George wrote an account of his life that is one of the most important early slave narratives.

The Silver Bluff Baptist Church was founded between 1774-1775 in Beech Island, South Carolina, by several enslaved African Americans who organized under elder David George.

Thomas Jefferson and slavery

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, owned more than 600 African-Americans during some periods of his adult life. Jefferson freed two of his slaves while he lived; seven others were freed after his death. Jefferson consistently spoke out against the international slave trade and outlawed it while he was President. He privately advocated gradual emancipation and colonization of slaves already in the United States, rather than immediate manumission.

Slavery was legally practiced in the Province of North Carolina and the state of North Carolina until January 1, 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Prior to statehood, there were 41,000 enslaved African-Americans in the Province of North Carolina in 1767. By 1860, the number of slaves in the state of North Carolina was 331,059, about one third of the total population of the state. In 1860, there were nineteen counties in North Carolina where the number of slaves was larger than the free white population. During the antebellum period the state of North Carolina passed several laws to protect the rights of slave owners while disenfranchising the rights of slaves. There was a constant fear amongst white slave owners in North Carolina of slave revolts from the time of the American Revolution. Despite their circumstances, some North Carolina slaves and freed slaves distinguished themselves as artisans, soldiers during the Revolution, religious leaders, and writers.

References

  1. The Chester Chronicle, or Commercial Intelligencer, Monday 2 October 1775.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Gates, Henry Louis; Higginbotham, Evelyn Brooks (2004). African American Lives. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 364. ISBN   9780195160246.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Hanley, Ryan (2015). "Calvinism, Proslavery and James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw". Slavery & Abolition. 36 (2): 360–381. doi:10.1080/0144039X.2014.920973. hdl: 10871/40464 . S2CID   144840319.
  4. 1 2 Gronniosaw, James Albert Ukawsaw (1772). A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince, as related by himself. Bath, Somerset, England: W. Gye. p. 12.
  5. 1 2 Fuentes, Marisa J., White, Deborah Gray (2016). Scarlet and Black: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. p. 61. ISBN   9780813591520.
  6. Fryer, Peter (2018) [1984]. Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain . London: Pluto Press. pp. 92–93. ISBN   978-0-7453-3830-9.
  7. "Chester Chronicle | Monday 2nd October 1775 | Page 3 | British Newspaper Archive". www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk. Retrieved 2020-07-21.
  8. "NUMBERS 32 AND 34 STREET THE OLD MUSIC HALL, Cheshire West and Chester - 1376350 | Historic England". historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  9. Richards, Raymond (1947). Old Cheshire Churches: A Survey of their History, Fabric, and Furniture with Records of the Older Monuments. London: B.T. Batsford. p. 95. OCLC   719918.
  10. 'James Albert (a Blackm)', Chester St Oswald Burial Record, 28 September 1775. Retrieved from Chester Record Office.
  11. "A R QUINTON "THE CATHEDRAL, CHESTER" SEPIO SERIES USED 1926 BLACK & WHITE". eBay. Retrieved 2021-08-04.
  12. Williams, Prof. Howard M.R. (8 February 2018). "Memorials Around Chester Cathedral and Town Hall – The Contemporary Past Field Trip 6". ArchaeoDeath: Death & Memory - Past & Present. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  13. "22nd Cheshire Regiment Garden of Remembrance WW2". Imperial War Museums. Retrieved 2021-08-04.
  14. Henry Louis Gates, Jr, The Signifying Monkey , Oxford University Press, 1988, pp. 133–40.
  15. "The Most Remarkable Particulars"

Notes

  1. 1 2 Gronniosaw's death was reported on Monday 2 October 1775 in The Chester Chronicle. It stated he died the Thursday before.

Additional sources