Aminata Diallo, an 11-year-old child, is taken from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle a string of slaves. Eventually, she arrives in South Carolina where she begins a new life as a slave. Years later, she finds freedom, serving the British in the American Revolutionary War and having her name entered in the historic “Book of Negroes.”
This book, an actual historical document, is an archive of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the United States in order to resettle in Nova Scotia, only to discover that this new place becomes one that is also oppressive and unyielding. Aminata eventually returns to Sierra Leone passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America – but eventually finds herself crossing the ocean one more time to England to present the account of her life so that it may abolish the slave trade.
This book is a hand-written list of Black passengers leaving New York on British ships in 1783. It gives a name, age, physical description, and status (slave or free) for each passenger, and often an owner’s name and place of residence. Three copies of the Book of Negroes exist: one in England, at the Public Records Office, Kew. one in the United States, at the National Archives, Washington; and one in Canada, at the Nova Scotia Archives, Halifax. Knowledge of the Black Loyalists begins with this list, made by British and American inspectors.