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From A Prominent Family In Timbuktu To Slavery, And Then Freed After 27 Years In 1834: Story of Abu Bekr es Siddik

Depiction of a caravan entering Timbuktu in 1853. Image via slaveryandremembrance.org

 

Millions of Africans were forcefully taken from their homes and sold into slavery during the years of the Transatlantic slave trade. African royals and high-status Africans were also not spared in the days of the Transatlantic slave trade. Several kings and queens, princesses and princes were captured or taken for one reason or the other.

Essentially, wealthy people or those from prominent families were also kidnapped and sold into slavery. Abu Bekr es Siddik was one of them. After experiencing the luxuries of life in Africa, he was suddenly captured during a local war and had to work on plantations as a slave for almost 30 years.

A Muslim born in about 1794, in Timbuktu, in Mali, West Africa, Siddik was from an influential family, but that couldn’t protect him from being taken as a slave when he was about 14. Somewhere in the early 1800s, the Sultan of Bondoukou and the Governor of Kolongzhwi (under the Sultan of Ghonah) were fighting in the area. A well-educated young Siddik was in Ghonah visiting his father’s grave when the Ghonah forces lost the fight and the town was raided.

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Siddik was captured and sold to European slave traders after being made to travel through Ivory Coast and Ghana. After being sold to the British, he was taken to the island of Jamaica in the Caribbean. This was around 1808, just before the British banned trading in slaves.

Siddik worked for 27 years as a slave in Jamaica. What helped get him his freedom was his intelligence. He had been well educated back home, setting him apart from his fellow slaves. A magistrate only identified by historians as Dr. Madden took notice of Siddik’s brilliance. And when he heard Siddik’s kidnapping story, he asked Siddik’s owner known as Mr. Anderson to free him.

Mr. Anderson initially refused because Siddik (then known as Edward Donellan) “was so valuable to him, being educated and completely trustworthy,” according to this report.

In the end, he freed Siddik around 1834 and he was able to leave Jamaica for his home country. During a stay in England while making his journey back home, Siddik wrote an account of his family life in Mali and how he ended up being enslaved in Jamaica after the war.

“A local war between the Sultan of Bondoukou and the Governor of Kolongzhwí, an official of the Sultan of Ghonah, led to the defeat of the Sultan of Ghonah and the sacking of the town] On that day I was made a slave. They tore off my clothes, bound me with ropes, gave me a heavy load to carry, and led me to the town of Bondoukou [now in Ivory Coast ], and from there to the town of Kumasi, the King of Ashantis town [now in Ghana],” he wrote.

“From thence through Asikuma and Ajumak, in the land of the Fanti, to Daghoh, near the Salt Sea. There they sold me to the Christians, and I was bought by a certain captain of a ship at that town. He sent me to a boat and delivered me to the land of Jamaica. This was the beginning of my slavery until this day. I tasted the bitterness of slavery from them [the Bondoukou, Asante and Fante people] and its oppressiveness.”

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Written by PH

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