Face to Face with a Face of the Middle Passage


Portrait of Diallo by William Hoare (1733)

A Face of the Middle Passage

Slave ships carried at least 11,000,000 captive Africans across the Atlantic, but we know the faces of hardly any of these people. Portraits of individual Africans who were enslaved and brought to the Americas are incredibly rare, and in virtually all instances the portraits were done long after those individuals had endured the horrors of the Middle Passage. There is one clear exception to this rule, however, a famous victim of the slave trade named Ayuba Suleiman Diallo.

Recently American Revolution Museum had the good fortune to acquire a portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, a Fulbe merchant and scholar who in 1731 was seized by his enemies in Senegal, sold to an English slaver, and transported to Colonial North America. Through a remarkable combination of luck, individual effort and social networking, Ayuba Suleiman’s Middle Passage turned into a round trip. Not only that, but along the way he managed to have his portrait painted.


Ayuba Suleiman Diallo’s transatlantic odyssey ends happily enough. He returns to Africa, resumes his place in society, and lives almost another 40 years as a free man. This, of course, sets him apart from almost everybody else who experienced the middle passage. Some might say that his experience is so different from that of the 11,000,000 others that it lacks general relevance. The reality is, though, that every slave was an individual with his or her own story to tell. There were 11,000,000 unique stories, and just as many unique faces to go with them. Let’s be happy that we still have Ayuba Suleiman Diallo’s face.

Read complete article @ Huffington Post



~ by eneryvibes on 1,August 10, 2014.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: