Summary of the Novel
As an old woman, Aminata Diallo is brought to London, England, in 1802, by abolitionists who are petitioning to end the slave trade. As she awaits an audience with King George, she recounts her remarkable life on paper, beginning with her life in Bayo, in western Africa, prior to being abducted from her family at age 11, seeing the death of her mother and father, and being marched in a coffle of captives to the coast along with others from her village. Chekura, a boy of similar age who assists the slave catchers, is at the last minute abducted himself and forced to join Aminata on the slave ship. Despite suffering humiliation, witnessing atrocities, enduring squalor and languishing in starvation, Aminata survives the passage to America because she is able to apply the knowledge and skills passed on to her by her parents, especially the ability to “catch” babies and to understand some African languages. In South Carolina, Aminata is auctioned off to an indigo plantation, along with a man from her village who has lost his senses during the ocean crossing. She learns the language of the “buckra” through the teachings of Georgia, an American-born slave, as well as from Mamed, the overseer of the plantation. Daily, Aminata must navigate the new dangers of disease and the eye of the plantation master while she searches for a way to return to her homeland. As she carries Chekura’s child, she is warned that Master Appleby could take it away at any time. Sure enough, at ten months, Aminata’s son, Mamadu, is sold by Appleby and Chekura also disappears. Stricken with grief, Aminata falls into a depression and refuses to work on the plantation. Appleby sells her to Solomon Lindo, the indigo inspector of the region, and she departs for a new life in Charles Town where Lindo promises to treat her as a “servant” rather than as a “slave” in that she works for wage and pays rent to Lindo. During rioting in New York City that coincides with the outbreak of...
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