The October release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes the autobiography of an African prince; an account by an African American missionary, sailor, and minister; and an early 19th-century murder mystery.
A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw: An African Prince (1774)
By Ukawsaw Gronniosaw
James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw’s own Narrative was the only major source of his life story until an obituary dated October 2, 1775, was uncovered in a U.K. newspaper:
On Thursday died, in this city, aged 70, James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African prince, of Zoara. He left the country in the early part of his life, with a view to acquire proper notions of the Divine Being, and the worship due to Him. He met with many trials and embarrassments, was much afflicted and persecuted. His last moments exhibited that cheerful serenity which, at such a time, is the certain effect of a thorough conviction of the great truths of Christianity. He published a narrative of his life.
Gronniosaw’s “trials and embarrassments” included being sold into slavery and brought to New York via Barbados where he was sold again. He would eventually gain his freedom, serve in Martinique and Cuba as a soldier in the British army, and, upon his discharge, cross the Atlantic to England. Gronniosaw’s slave narrative is thought to be the first autobiography published by an African in Britain. He begins his chronicle by describing his early life and inquisitive nature: