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July 7, 2010

Ayuba Suleiman Diallo

Ayuba Suleiman Diallo (1701–1773), also known as Job ben Solomon, was a famous Muslim slave who was a victim of the Atlantic slave trade. Born in BonduSenegal West Africa, Ayuba's memoirs were published as one of the earliest slave narratives, that is, a first-person account of the slave trade, in Thomas Bluett's Some Memories of the Life of Job, the Son of the Solomon High Priest of Boonda in Africa; Who was a Slave about two Years in Maryland; and afterwards being brought to England, was set free, and sent to his native Land in the Year 1734.
He came from a prominent Fulbe family of Muslim religious leaders. His grandfather had founded the town of Bondu, and he grew up with Sambo the heir to the Kingdom of Futa. In 1730, while on a trip to the Gambia River to sell two slaves and to buy supplies like paper, Ayuba was captured by a group of Mandingoes.  Ayuba became a victim of the ever-growing slave exploitation of the Senegambiaregion. Before being boarded on his ship to the New World, Ayuba attempted to negotiate a slave exchange with the captain. However, the word did not reach his father in time, and Ayuba was taken aboard. Ayuba was transported to Annapolis, Maryland, where he was purchased by Mr. Tolsey of Kent IslandMaryland. Ayuba was initially put to work in the tobacco fields; however, after being found unsuitable for such work, he was placed in charge of the cattle. While in captivity, Ayuba used to go into the woods to pray. However, after being humiliated by a child while praying, Ayuba chose to run away. He was captured and imprisoned at the Kent County Courthouse. It was there that he was discovered by a lawyer, Thomas Bluett, traveling through on business.
The lawyer was impressed by Ayuba's ability to write in Arabic. In the narrative, Bluett writes the following:
Upon our Talking and making Signs to him, he wrote a Line or two before us, and when he read it, pronounced the Words Allah and Mahommed; by which, and his refusing a Glass of Wine we offered him, we perceived he was a Mahometan, but could not imagine of what Country he was, or how he got thither; for by his affable Carriage, and the easy Composure of his Countenance, we could perceive he was no common Slave.
When another African who spoke Wolof, a language of a neighboring African ethnic group that Ayuba understood, was able to translate for him, it was then discovered that he had aristocratic blood. Encouraged by the circumstances, Mr. Tolsey allowed Ayuba to write a letter in Arabic to Africa. Eventually, the letter reached the office of James Oglethorpe, Director of the Royal African Company. After having the letter authenticated by John Gagnier, the Laudian Chair of Arabic at Oxford, Oglethorpe purchased Ayuba for ₤45.
Bluett and Ayuba traveled to England in 1733. Ayuba learned English, and when he reached England, he was in the company of many prominent people, including the royal family. In July 1734, Ayuba returned to Gambia and later returned to his homeland. His homeland was ravaged by war, but being a prosperous individual, he was able to regain his old lifestyle, which included owning his own household slaves. His memoirs were published by Bluett in English and French. Ayuba was an extremely rare exception in the slave trade. Due to his intelligence and monetary prowess, he was able to legally escape the hardships of slavery and return back home to Africa.


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