The Life and Adventures of Zamba
December 11, 2007 1:28 PM   Subscribe

"It will no doubt be deemed a strange circumstance that an African negro should attempt to write a book, and that he should presume to offer his production to the enlightened people of Great Britain."

The Life and Adventures of Zamba, an African Negro King; and His Experience of Slavery in South Carolina. Written by Himself.
posted by borkingchikapa (16 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
That's pretty cool.
posted by chunking express at 1:48 PM on December 11, 2007

I HAVE said that my father had much intercourse with white men.

Well. No wonder they would have found it so offensive in Charleston.
posted by GuyZero at 1:55 PM on December 11, 2007

I've only had time to give this a cursory scan, but it seems like an incredible glimpse of the times. I'm printing it out now (sorry, trees), and can't wait to give it a solid readthrough. Great post!
posted by evadery at 1:55 PM on December 11, 2007

Just so we're clear, this is fiction; from John Hebert Nelson's Negro Character in American Literature:
In 1847 there was published in London The Life and Adventures of Zamba, an African King; and His Experiences of Slavery in South Carolina, in some ways the most readable—of the fictitious narratives. The book contains sweep of action and a background striking enough to hold the attention of readers.
The author was a Scotsman who had visited America a couple of decades previously; you can read about him here (right-hand column).
posted by languagehat at 2:12 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Damn, "in some ways the most readable" should read "in some ways the most successful—certainly the most readable." Sorry.
posted by languagehat at 2:14 PM on December 11, 2007

Thanks for clearing that up, languagehat. It's still a fun read, though. Or at least what I've read of it so far is.

Can anybody more knowledgeable in these matters than me comment on the typeface that's used on most of the title page? It kind of looks like Caslon to me but what the hell do I know.
posted by sveskemus at 2:16 PM on December 11, 2007

Brings to mind Olaudah Equiano (depicted by Youssou N'Dour in the recent film Amazing Grace) who wrote a popular autobiography: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, published in London in 1789. Audiobook available here.
posted by ericb at 2:17 PM on December 11, 2007

At least one reviewer at the time bought it.

Other fictional memoirs of this sort include the 1836 The Slave; or the memoirs of Archy Moore.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:22 PM on December 11, 2007

As Olaudah Equiano's slave narrative had a direct impact on the abolishionist movement in England, so too did the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845), and those of Moses Roper (1838), Lunsford Lane (1842), Moses Grandy (1843), and the Reverend Thomas H. Jones (1854) in the United States.

Worth mentioning -- The Cambridge Companion to the African American Slave Narrative.
posted by ericb at 2:31 PM on December 11, 2007

That's not Caslon. Not sure what it is, but it looks an awful lot like Fashion.
posted by JBennett at 2:53 PM on December 11, 2007

You can find a number of the WPA's slave narratives online over at Project Gutenberg. These are interviews done during the depression with former slaves.
posted by fings at 3:05 PM on December 11, 2007

Reminds me of the 'Dappa' Character in the Baroque Cycle
posted by delmoi at 4:00 PM on December 11, 2007

Fascinating stuff. Thank you.
posted by cmyk at 4:03 PM on December 11, 2007

Delmoi just pointed out what I was about to say. Dappa's clearly drawn from this story.
posted by rokusan at 4:09 PM on December 11, 2007

This was truly a compelling read, and I am sorry to find it isn't really the autobiography of Zamba, because the Scots author made him sound like such an incredible character.
posted by misha at 4:16 PM on December 11, 2007

fings - thank you for that link, too! I can't stop reading these stories. The one from Boston Blackwell is fantastic, it's about running away to join the Yankee army during the Civil War.

Makes history a bit more alive, you know, when you're reading the stories of people who lived it.
posted by cmyk at 5:26 PM on December 11, 2007

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