“This is the problem of history. We cannot know that which we were not there to see and hear and experience for ourselves. We must rely upon the words of others. Those who were there in the olden days, they told stories to the children so that the children would know, so that the children could tell stories to their children. And so on, and so on. But now we come upon the problem of conflicting stories. Kojo Nyarko says that when the warriors came to his village their coats were red, but Kwame Adu says that they were blue. Whose story do we believe, then?”
The boys were silent. They stared at him, waiting.
“We believe the one who has the power.
He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must always ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there, you begin to get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”
This is one of the most fascinating books I have read in years. The book investigates the lineage of a slave girl, Maame who started off from Fanteland & the Asante regions of the Gold Coast. It gave an intimate look covering 300 years into the lives of her two daughters and their children (spanning 7 generations). In looking at their lives, it explored their interaction with slavery, local customs & the loss of it, the influence of white people and their foreign cultures, but most importantly, the impact of slavery in the United States and the country of departure.
I think what I found most fascinating about the book was its ability to seamlessly position a person into a context in which slavery was the norm. By this I mean, people functioned as people knowing that other people were traded as slaves…slaves forged communities within their slave confines and adjusted to their harsh reality while dreaming up a future for their children. It also dismantled the myth that ‘black traded other black’. Rather what happened was, societies traded other people of other societies, as it looked at a time where the distinction between distinguished themselves not only by their race but more by their cultural heritage.