West African Narratives of Slavery

West African Narratives of Slavery

Texts from Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Ghana
Sandra E. Greene
Distribution: World
Publication date: 1/31/2011
ISBN: 978-0-253-00505-2
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A Choice Outstanding Academic Book of 2011
Slavery in Africa existed for hundreds of years before it was abolished in the late 19th century. Yet, we know little about how enslaved individuals, especially those who never left Africa, talked about their experiences. Collecting never before published or translated narratives of Africans from southeastern Ghana, Sandra E. Greene explores how these writings reveal the thoughts, emotions, and memories of those who experienced slavery and the slave trade. Greene considers how local norms and the circumstances behind the recording of the narratives influenced their content and impact. This unprecedented study affords unique insights into how ordinary West Africans understood and talked about their lives during a time of change and upheaval.

Author Bio

Sandra E. Greene is Professor of History at Cornell University. She is author of Sacred Sites and the Colonial Encounter (IUP, 2002).


"Greene's analysis is as valuable as the documents themselves." —Martin Klein, University of Toronto

"These rare examples . . . compellingly reveal the chaos left behind. Greene sensitively reveals the human experiences of warfare, scattering of communities, and capture of the survivors that wracked the Gold Coast region." —Joseph C. Miller, University of Virginia

"What makes this book tremendously valuable, particularly for undergraduates, is how Greene examines the historical, literary, and cultural contexts in which each narrative was produced. ... A must have for academic libraries supporting an undergraduate curriculum in Africana studies. ...Essential." —
Choice , October 2011

It is an important contribution to the expanding literature on African enslavement during the decline of trans-Atlantic transportation and its displacement by 'legitimate' commerce, and essential reading for those seeking to understand the lived experience of African slaves." —Biography

"The book not only sheds light on a little understood but pervasive aspect of Ghanaian history and culture, it also invites and makes possible the comparative study of North American slave narratives with those that represent the experience of slavery for Africans who remained in Africa." —African Studies Review

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Table of Contents

A Note on the Translations
A Note on Ewe Orthography


Part 1. Aaron Kuku: The Life History of a Former Slave
1. Enslavement Remembered
2. The Life History of Aaron Kuku

Part 2. The Biographies of Lydia Yawo and Yosef Famfantor: Life in Slavery/Life after Abolition
3. To Stay or Go: Exploring the Decisions of the Formerly Enslaved
4. Come Over and Help Us! The Life Journey of Lydia Yawo, a Freed Slave
5. Yosef Famfantor

Part 3. Paul Sands's Diary: Living with the Past/Constructing the Present and the Future
6. Open Secrets and Sequestered Stories: A Diary about Family, Slavery, and Self in Southeastern Ghana
7. The Diary of Paul Sands: Excerpts

Part 4. A Kidnapping at Atorkor: The Making of a Community Memory
8. Our Citizens, Our Kin Enslaved
9. Oral Traditions about Individuals Enslaved