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


During the Transatlantic slave trade, millions of Africans were forcibly removed from their homes and sold into slavery. During the Transatlantic slave trade, African royals and high-status Africans were not spared. Several kings and queens, princesses and princes were captured or abducted for various reasons.

Wealthy people or those from notable families were essentially kidnapped and sold into slavery. One of them was Abu Bekr es Siddik. After experiencing the comforts of life in Africa, he was unexpectedly abducted during a local war and forced to work as a slave on plantations for nearly 30 years.

Siddik, a Muslim born in 1794 in Timbuktu, Mali, West Africa, came from an influential family, but it couldn’t keep him from being kidnapped as a slave when he was approximately 14 years old. The Sultan of Bondoukou and the Governor of Kolongzhwi (under the Sultan of Ghonah) were battling in the area in the early 1800s. A well-educated young Siddik was visiting his father’s tomb in Ghonah when the Ghonah soldiers were defeated and the town was raided.

After being forced to travel through Ivory Coast and Ghana, Siddik was caught and sold to European slave dealers. He was brought to the Caribbean island of Jamaica after being sold to the British. This happened approximately 1808, right before the British prohibited slave trade.

Siddik was a slave in Jamaica for 27 years. His intelligence was important in obtaining his freedom. He was well educated back home, which put him apart from his other slaves. A magistrate only identified as Dr. Madden by historians took notice of Siddik’s intelligence. When he learned of Siddik’s captivity, he asked Siddik’s owner, Mr. Anderson, to release 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.

He eventually liberated Siddik in 1834 and allowed him to return to his own country. Siddik published an account of his family life in Mali and how he ended up being enslaved in Jamaica after the war while visiting England on his way back home.

“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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