The issues conveyed throughout the slave narrative novel, titled “The Book of Negroes”, are issues that are still extremely relevant in our society today.
Women in modern day are still fighting for what Aminata Diallo fought for; Liberty, strength, freedom from oppression, and most importantly power. For many women all over the world in particular third world countries, women’s lives are devalued and debased. Ironically still to this day, the lives of women are not seen as important as the lives of men. Furthermore, in today’s society, racial inequality is still extremely prevalent even among the most respected individuals of the African race. They still have to overcome many oppressive obstacles in order to get their name out there in some of the well-respected areas of society.
Aminata Diallo still manages to eradicate the restriction on women imposed by authority and achieve power, she also manages to make her name a familiar one and to earn a relatively respected place in society. Despite being a victim of circumstance. In The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill displays the protagonist Aminata Diallo as a woman who demonstrates the ultimate act of resilience by maintaining her racialized identity and putting herself into a role of power within an environment promoting her oppression. From her abduction in Africa, to working as a slave, and in her elderly life. Aminata continuously shows her strong sense of her racialized identity, which she predominantly uses to fight for the power of her and her people.
Aminata’s parents are strong role models that comprise a pivotal role in the development of her racial identity. Aminata begins to develop her identity as a young girl. Her father is a well-respected man in their community, he begins to teach Aminata about the religion of Islam as well as teaching her to read the Koran.
Aminata’s mother is a midwife who teaches her how to deliver babies. These intellectual teachings are what shape Aminata’s character. Aminata’s intellect overpowers her beauty. “Beauty comes and goes. But Strength, you keep forever” (19). Aminata defines herself through her character rather than through her beauty. Aminata hold on to these values and beliefs taught by her parents throughout her entire life and utilizes them during some of the appalling conditions faced by slavery.
“I could barely keep myself from falling to my knees. But I thought about my mother and my father outside my village and I kept standing” (63). Aminata is separated from her family in Bayo and sold into slavery to become a slave. She is sold to work as a slave at an indigo plantation. This is when her journey through the atrocities of slavery begin. Aboard the canoe that is heading to the plantation where Aminata will work, a “Homelander” says to Aminata “your mind is fierce like a trap.
But now you must eat and learn and make yourself valuable” (122). Her determination and guidance are what will help her be resilient. Aminata is raised by Georgia, an older women worker at the plantation who takes on a mother figure for Aminata by giving her guidance.
Georgia continues to help Aminata develop her identity and rise up against the owner of the plantation. Robinson Appleby. “Georgia took me everywhere she went, talking all the time, naming everything she did, it becomes possible for me to follow her speech, and talk to her… the lessons and instructions were neverending” (Hill, 128-129). Aminata acquires a number of skills from Georgia, she learns to speak, read, work, and most importantly survive by staying true to her identity. Aminata is deeply invested in the development of her literacy and knowledge of the world, as they help her in the development of her racialized identity.
Robinson Appleby is portrayed as a stereotypical white slave owner. Robinson Appleby continuously threatens Aminata but she uses her racialized identity as a strong African woman to stand up against him and not capitulating the pressure to his punishment. “I made a decision then he would do whatever he wanted, anyway. I was from Bayo and I had a child growing inside me and I would stand proud” (176). Her intelligence overpowers her physical beauty and ultimately shields her from sexual predation. In that day an age African slaves lacked education due to many social impediments. African slaves were taught that they were incapable of intelligence and that they were inferior to their white owners.
Aminata does not allow society’s social chains regarding education oppress her. She acquires outstanding skills, she learns to read, write, speak many languages and expand her knowledge of the world. She acquires these skills all while being amongst the most suppressed gender and racial group in the region.
There are constant remarks from the Englishmen regarding Aminata’s intelligence she is referred to as “the African who knows more books than the Englishmen” (531). “Worldly. Intelligent. Literate.” the white men implemented that “she is better read than nine out of ten Englishmen.” and lastly that “she is not stupid, but she is women”. People just couldn’t believe that a woman with African race had the capability to achieve this kind of power in society. But certainly, Aminata never allows herself to be degraded and proves them wrong.
When Aminata is living in Nova Scotia she still continues to face harsh treatments and extreme discrimination. Even though she is supposedly a “free women”. Aminata’s atrocious appalling conditions of her past are experiences she never forgets. Thus those experiences gave her assistance into shaping her into the women she truly is. “I talked to the baby growing inside me of my trials and tribulations… oh child of mine’ I said, “I will never indenture you or me to live, the first thing you are going to learn from me is where your momma comes from and who your people are,”(324). The relationships between a mother and her child were ruptured out of fear of bondage. African people were denied their humanity and therefore slavery ruptured the idea of a mother.
This is seen in particular with Fanta, on pages 103-104 her infanticide is described, she acted the way she did due to the fact that she didn’t want her child to go through the suffering and hardships she had to go through. She ultimately felt as if it was better if her child did not exist at all. Despite these obstacles Aminata never once loses her maternal spirit for her child, she desires to teach her child of her racialized identity. Aminata carries on her mother’s midwifery, as she follows in her footsteps and teaches her child about her values and beliefs.
Aminata is finally considered a free woman in the final stages of her life. Aminata stays true to her origins and what she believes in, she continues to have a strong racialized identity. Which she uses to stand up for what is right and pass her knowledge on to those whom still yet struggle to find their freedom. “The papers continued to run new reports about what I had told the committee.
Everyday people asked to speak to me. when reporters had had their fill, I began to receive requests to speak to school children and to literary and historical societies”. (461).
Aminata shares her life story in court to help stand up with other abolitionists to bring awareness to slavery. Aminata is truly a woman of resilience she manages to put herself into a role of power within several environments promoting her oppression. From her abduction in Africa, to working as a slave, and in her elderly life. Aminata continuously shows her strong sense of her racialized identity, which she predominantly uses to fight for the power of her and her people.