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In honor of full emancipation in the British West Indies in 1838, Muhammad Kabā Saghanughu, a ninety-year-old formerly enslaved man in Jamaica, wrote an address using Arabic letters to represent English sounds (‘ajami) and submitted it to Sir Lionel Smith, governor of Jamaica, who kept it in his personal papers. Kabā Saghanughu is the only known author of a first-person slave narrative to have survived all phases of slavery, from his kidnapping in Africa in 1777 to emancipation sixty-one years later. This article describes the circumstances in which Kabā Saghanughu composed this newly discovered document and provides the first modern translation of the address. The translation reveals crucial differences between Kabā Saghanughu’s original text and the imperial translation of his address provided in official colonial documents. Omitted from the latter are words that refer vividly to physical and psychological suffering under slavery and apprenticeship. Though other addresses produced by former apprentices or by their ministers on this occasion promised obedience and offered gratitude for freedom, Kabā Saghanughu seized this moment of imperial self-congratulation to decry the enormous human suffering caused by slavery, to reflect on his condition, and to transmit a concise account of his own life to posterity.

MUHAMMAD Kabā Saghanughu, a ninety-year-old formerly enslaved man and apprentice, wrote an address in 1838 on the occasion of the complete emancipation from slavery in the British West Indian colony of Jamaica. This never-before-published address is written on a piece of paper about fourteen by fourteen inches square with the Arabic text centered in the middle (Figure I).1 The Arabic text comprises eight lines of nearly similar size, followed by a closing statement of two and a half lines and a signature. The document exhibits several rare qualities. First, Kabā Saghanughu is the only known author of a first-person slave narrative to have experienced all phases of the final half century of slavery in the British West Indies. He had suffered the Middle Passage from Africa to Jamaica, had been enslaved on the island of Jamaica for fifty-seven years, and had served another four years as an apprentice as part of Britain’s scheme to manage the emancipation process. Second, the document’s Arabic letters do not form Arabic words, but rather transliterate English. That is, when these letters are each voiced in Arabic, together they sound like English words. Third, Kabā Saghanughu ostensibly offers thanks to the Jamaican governor Sir Lionel Smith, Queen Victoria, and the people of England for [End Page 289] emancipation. However, the English translation produced by the British government and included in the Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper published in Boston, misrepresents Kabā Saghanughu’s message by leaving out key phrases about suffering under slavery that emerge in this article’s translation of the Arabic letters, including “on this day had the torture ended.”2 And finally, a comparison of the address with others written by emancipated apprentices on the same occasion reveals the author’s individual voice as unusual not only in its reference to the brutality of apprenticeship but also in two additional ways: he does not present himself as affiliated with a Christian congregation, and he references his African origins.

Figure I. Robert Peart [Muhammad Kabā Saghanughu], “Letter (in Arabic, with accompanying translation) from a grateful, 90-year-old, released slave to Sir Lionel Smith, Governor of Jamaica,” 1838. Courtesy of the Deputy Keeper of the Records, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast, D1584/7/4.
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Figure I.

Robert Peart [Muhammad Kabā Saghanughu], “Letter (in Arabic, with accompanying translation) from a grateful, 90-year-old, released slave to Sir Lionel Smith, Governor of Jamaica,” 1838. Courtesy of the Deputy Keeper of the Records, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast, D1584/7/4.

[End Page 290]

Together, the linguistic features of the address and the circumstances of its delivery portray a savvy man who must have known that his Arabic statement would be included in the historical record if he attached it to a moment of imperial celebration. The document he transmitted to posterity complicated the commemorative moment with a sobering reminder of the systemic suffering enslaved people endured in the British West Indies, including in Jamaica, the largest British slave colony. Put another way, Kabā Saghanughu’s statement disrupts the norms displayed in other addresses written for the occasion and exposes the intense pressure in the moment to perform gratitude for emancipation and thus gloss over centuries of human violation. Unlike other former slaves commemorating this moment, Kabā Saghanughu found a way to describe suffering under slavery, not just gratitude for freedom.

This act of resistance—calling out the British Empire for torturing human beings—gains significance in light of the context of the address: Britain’s self-congratulation for having granted freedom to those formerly enslaved by the empire. The apprenticeship period, a gradual transition to freedom chosen by most of the British West Indian colonies, was brutal and not easily forgotten by those who suffered through it. Although slavery in the British West Indies was terminated by the Act for the Abolition of Slavery, passed by Parliament in 1833, individual British colonies, each with its own governing assembly, had until August 1, 1834, to decide whether to grant complete emancipation to the enslaved or to establish a period of apprenticeship. A few colonial governments, such as that of Antigua, chose full and immediate emancipation, but most—including the Jamaican assembly—instituted a two-tiered, intermediate period of apprenticeship. During this period, the unpaid labor of apprentices was limited to 40.5 hours per week. For work beyond these hours, apprentices were to be paid wages. Field laborers were meant to be apprenticed for six years and domestic laborers for four years before being completely emancipated. However, Parliament brought the apprenticeship period to an end after four years. Though the slave owners in the British West Indies were compensated by the British government for their loss of “property,” formerly enslaved people were not compensated for their suffering under slavery.3

The apprenticeship period was, by many accounts, harsher than the era of slavery because owners had little motivation to preserve the lives of their former slaves. For example, many masters failed to provide food, shelter, medical services, support for the elderly, or care for children under six, who had been immediately freed in 1834. In addition, protecting an apprentice’s long-term productivity was less of a priority under apprenticeship than under slavery, and thus corporal punishment was more harsh. Abolitionists [End Page 291] Thomas Harvey, J. Horace Kimball, Joseph Sturge, and James A. Thome, who visited Jamaica and other British colonies in 1837, detailed the conditions apprentices faced, concluding that apprenticeship was simply slavery by a different name.4 Sir Lionel Smith (1777–1842), an army officer who was appointed governor of Jamaica in September 1836 in order to implement full emancipation in the colony, described apprenticeship as a “coercive system of labor”; in his letters to the Colonial Office, he detailed the widespread abuse of apprentices by their masters.5 Under pressure from abolitionists, Parliament ended the apprenticeship period in all British colonies in the West Indies as of August 1, 1838.

After full emancipation was announced in Jamaica, former apprentices, evangelical ministers, and free people of color commemorated the long-awaited event by assembling, giving addresses in individual parishes, and even composing a hymn.6 Governor Smith traveled around to parishes delivering a proclamation in the month prior to the event: “The 1st of August next is the happy day when you will become free—under the same laws as other freemen, whether white, black, or coloured.” The proclamation included advice to the apprentices that they remain peaceful, work hard, and stay with their former masters as employees if possible. It also promised them that they would be treated fairly. In letters to British Colonial Secretary Charles Grant, Baron Glenelg, Smith described these visits to parishes at the time of emancipation. He noted that he enclosed “various Addresses presented to me on my late Tour, particularly ones from Apprentices read and presented by themselves.”7 Kabā Saghanughu’s address [End Page 292] belongs to this group of documents, many of which are transcribed in the colonial record and held in the Colonial Office records in the National Archives of the United Kingdom, Kew.

The ninety-year-old author wrote the address above, and he likely delivered it orally on the day of emancipation in Jamaica. Scholars have not discussed the original copy of Kabā Saghanughu’s statement, perhaps because it is not held in the National Archives with other colonial documents. Though the printed translation is in the Colonial Office correspondence along with the transcriptions of other addresses from the occasion, the original Arabic document in Kabā Saghanughu’s hand is located in Governor Smith’s papers in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. Smith not only sent a copy of the translation of the address to the colonial secretary in London but also saved the original document with his other personal papers—including sketches of the governor’s mansion and of West Indian flora by his daughter and sheet music of the hymn written to celebrate emancipation in Kingston. The Arabic document written by Kabā Saghanughu is the only original address by a former slave retained in this collection of Smith’s papers. Smith’s decision to keep the original document in his personal effects suggests his awareness of the document’s and the author’s significance.8

Identified in the translation as Robert Peart (and also as Mahomed Cover) but referred to in the recent secondary literature as Muhammad Kabā Saghanughu, the man who penned this address is known to scholars through abolitionist Richard Robert Madden’s account of having met him.9 Scholars have discussed Kabā Saghanughu’s correspondence with [End Page 293] other Muslims in Jamaica, including letters to Abu Bakr al-Ṣiddīq that are reprinted in Madden’s account.10 In addition, scholars have identified Kabā Saghanughu as the author of Kitāb al-Ṣalāt, or “The Book on Praying” (ca. 1820), mistakenly thought to be a translation of portions of the Quran but actually “a declaration of faith and a teaching manual for Muslims.”11 Based on these texts, Paul E. Lovejoy details Kabā Saghanughu’s life in West Africa, including his religion, education, and family. Lovejoy explains that Kabā Saghanughu was “on his way to Timbuktu to study law” when he was kidnapped. Kabā Saghanughu’s family was well established in Islamic education and clerical learning, so normally someone of his status would have been ransomed. Instead he was sent to Jamaica on a slave ship from the upper Guinea Coast, which Lovejoy suggests indicates that his African kidnappers were not Muslim.12 After suffering the Middle Passage in 1777, Kabā Saghanughu worked as a slave at Spice Grove in Manchester Parish, where he was implicated in an 1831 uprising for which one of his sons was executed. He continued to live in Manchester Parish until his death in 1845, seven years after emancipation.13 Although Muslim in origin, he converted to the Moravian faith during his enslavement in Jamaica.

The story of Kabā Saghanughu’s life, then, emerges from written accounts of him by Madden and others and from Kabā Saghanughu’s own writing, which includes letters, a religious treatise, and the Arabic address. Kabā Saghanughu’s texts join a body of relatively rare first-person narratives written by enslaved and apprenticed people in the British West Indies. The most famous of these are The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, an important abolitionist text that helped to end the slave trade, and The History of Mary Prince, which Prince published before the Abolition Act of 1833 and wrote with the help of abolitionist Susanna Strickland. The Early Caribbean Digital Archive reproduces several less-well-known shorter narratives from the British West Indies, including Moses Bon Sa’am’s “Speech of Moses Bon Sa’am,” transcribed in the British journal Prompter; William Ansah Sessarakoo’s The Royal African; [End Page 294] “Memoirs of the Life of Florence Hall,” by Florence Hall, or Akeiso; and Ashton Warner’s Negro Slavery Described by a Negro, transcribed, like Prince’s narrative, by Strickland. Another text in this digital archive, A Narrative of the Events, since the First of August, 1834, by James Williams, is a highly relevant predecessor to Kabā Saghanughu’s 1838 address, as Williams described his ill treatment under the apprenticeship system in Jamaica.14 In spite of some similarities, Kabā Saghanughu’s address differs from all of these in two significant ways. First, it is written in Arabic letters that trans-literate English, discussed at length below, and second, the author himself lived through all phases of slavery: kidnapping, Middle Passage, enslavement, apprenticeship, emancipation, and freedom.15

Both the author himself and Governor Smith emphasized Kabā Saghanughu’s long life. The original manuscript in Kabā Saghanughu’s hand is accompanied by a note Smith wrote in the margin of the document, as well as by a copy of the official English translation by the British government. Smith wrote the following in blue ink, twelve days after Kabā Saghanughu wrote the address:

Arabic Letter of Robert Peart: late a Slave in Jamaica. He is 90 years of Age, & was brought over a Slave to this Island upwards of 60 years ago. The translation says his Musselman name was Mahomed Cover—most likely WChaden.

L. Smith

    13th August 1838

Smith’s note, a paratext for Kabā Saghanughu’s letter, reveals the frames the governor used to understand the newly freed elderly man. He highlighted the fact that the letter is in Arabic; he recorded Kabā Saghanughu’s age and his history as a slave; and he speculated that Kabā [End Page 295] Saghanughu’s geographic origin in Africa was West Chad.16 He also noted that Kabā Saghanughu was Muslim, though Kabā Saghanughu did not mention it himself, beyond the implication of his use of Arabic and of his Muslim/Arabic first name and African last name.

Along with Smith’s note, a clipping from a British imperial publication on the state of Jamaica is affixed with tape to the edge of the original manuscript.17 The clipping reads as follows:

A Translation of Robert Peart’s Arabic address, intended to be presented to Sir Lionel Smith—

I Robert Peart, baptized in that name in Jamaica, but in my country, I was named Mahomed Cover. I was born at Bucka, for myself, my countrymen, and my countrywomen, who may be alive in Jamaica, return thanks to Almighty God, and next, to the English Nation, whose laws have relieved us from the bondage in which we have been held.—God bless and grant long life to our Queen Victoria, and repose to the soul of her Uncle, King William the Fourth, in whose good reign was passed the law, which this day has made us free people.—God bless Sir Lionel Smith, our Governor, Father, and Friend, whom we all love, and will obey.

Robert Peart, Manchester.

To Sir Lionel Smith, Governor of Jamaica.
1st day of August, 1838.18

The official English translation, which we will refer to as the “imperial translation,” contrasts in significant ways with our translation of Kabā Saghanughu’s original Arabic letters into English, below. The differences offer key insights into Kabā Saghanughu’s experiences in Jamaica. Most significantly, our translation of the address reveals that the imperial version is missing several meaningful words that acknowledge the suffering of slaves and apprentices.


Making sense of the translation and capturing its complexities requires a linguistic analysis of the manuscript. This analysis is in four sections: section I shows the first two lines of the Arabic letters of the address; section II shows the letter-by-letter transliteration of the sounds of those Arabic letters [End Page 296] in Roman letters; section III is a transliteration of those letters and sounds into the English words; and finally, section IV is a full merging of the English and Arabic. Double square brackets [[ ]] and strikethrough indicate words in the document that are written and then crossed out. The angular brackets < > enclose words, letters, or phrases that are omitted but that we have supplied to enhance the meaning. The parentheses () enclose a rendition of the words based on the sound of the Arabic letters as they appear in the manuscript.

  1. I. Arabic

    1. inline graphic

  2. II. Sound transliteration: letter for letter

    1. 1. Ahiy raba ṭubifi ṭī bab tayshi ṭuda ahy nayimu dhi mi ka baṭami ah

    2. 2. kutir mḥ naymu Muḥamadi Qabā banu buku ʿiniy ah firikī fara ay salifu

  3. III. Transliteration into English words

    1. 1. I, Robert Tufitt, baptized I name Jamaica but I

    2. 2. country,[[ mḥ]] name Muḥammad Qaba bo<r>n Buka in Africa for I self

  4. IV. Merging the English and the Arabic

    1. 1. I, Robert Peart (Beafitti), baptized in that name <in> Jamaica, but in

    2. 2. <my> country, <I was> named Mohammad Kaba. <I was> born in Buka in Africa, for <my>self

As these steps demonstrate, the relationship between the Arabic and the English is based on sound. In other words, Kabā Saghanughu wrote Arabic letters to represent English sounds. Tables I and II include the Arabic letters used in Kabā Saghanughu’s manuscript along with their romanized sounds.19

The language form that Kabā Saghanughu uses resembles the cryptic variety of Arabic transcription of Spanish called Aljamiado, developed and used by Muslims as an everyday language in Spain and by the Moriscos in al-Andalus from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries to keep messages private.20 Commenting on the spread of the use of the Arabic alphabet to write languages in West Africa, known as 'ajami, Lameen Souag notes that “the writing of non-Arabic languages in Arabic [End Page 297]

Table I. A C U K S’ M T S R
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Table I.

Arabic Consonants Used in Kabā Saghanughus Manuscript and Their Sounds Romanized

Table II. A S L V U K S’ M T C T
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Table II.

Arabic Short and Long Vowels Used in Kabā Saghanughus Manuscript and Their Corresponding Transliterations

characters. . . . is attested in practically all Muslim areas of West Africa, including at least Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. It continues to be used in the present despite being propagated almost exclusively through traditional religious instruction, usually without government funding or recognition.”21 Other scholars have also underlined the significance of this [End Page 298] Muslim practice of writing languages other than Arabic in Arabic script in this part of Africa. Research by John O. Hunwick and others has confirmed that Arabic was widespread in West Africa and that West African literature written in 'ajami dates at least as far back as the seventeenth century.22 According to J. H. Buchner, Kabā Saghanughu was descended from an established family known for its Islamic education and clerical learning. He received his early Islamic education locally, and Yacine Daddi Addoun and Lovejoy have conclusively confirmed that he was “about twenty years of age” when “he went on a visit to his uncle, previous to his entering ‘the great school at Timbuctoo’ to finish his studies.” While sojourning “there he was waylaid, and carried down the coast to be sold.”23

It is this educational background that enabled Kabā Saghanughu to write while enslaved on the plantation in Jamaica and compose this English address through Arabic letters. The original Arabic manuscript features Kabā Saghanughu’s peculiar handwriting and the special paleographic details he devised in order to reproduce English sounds through Arabic script. His early Islamic schooling in West Africa and familiarity with core knowledge of the Muslim scriptures and practices of writing classical Arabic in the Sudanic and Maghribi calligraphic styles have already been [End Page 299] established by research on Kabā Saghanughu’s Kitāb al-Ṣalāt manuscript.24 His educational background in West Africa is evident in his writing style, especially his manipulation of Arabic letters and use of shorthand to represent English speech. The following reproduction of the original address with our translation demonstrates the dynamic nature of the interaction between these two linguistic systems. Section I reproduces the Arabic letters of the original address; section II contains the phonetic transcription of the Arabic script in italics, and section III merges the Arabic and the English versions.25

  1. I. Arabic

    inline graphic

  2. II. Sound transliteration: letter for letter

    1. 1. Ahiy raba ṭubifi ṭī bab tayshi ṭuda ahy nayimu dhi mi ka baṭami ah

    2. 2. kutir mḥ naymu Muḥamadi Qabā banu buku ʿiniy ah firikī fara ay salifu

    3. 3. qutiri manyi kutiri ’uahma ritni ḥaṭi filiti tiki ṭuy ā lima ti kadi

    4. 4. ‘ani qiṭi tudi ykili shinishan ḥosilā habī rilābi hashī fara

    5. 5. di ba di ʾi ḥ’shiʿa wi habi biniliṭi fara awa shaʾayn ḥudu kadi biliṣī

    6. 6. ʾa ‘ani kiriṭi lā ’a layfi tī ’awa kuyī bitṭoriy ‘adi risni

    7. 7. tudi sa ʾlu ‘uklu ki wi lā mu di fī ‘idi ‘idishi kudi rinī

    8. 8. wa shī biṣi di di bi li ’uh shī diṣid’ahi mida firi bifili kadi balashi [End Page 300]

    9. 9. sho layan ṣimiṭi ‘ahwa kubī

    10. 10. fada ‘anī fari ho ʾwi lā lā bi

    11. 11. ‘adu biyi

    12. 12. X rabā ṭu fi ṭī

    13. 13. adrishī tu’u kubi nan sholayn ṣimiṭi

    14. 14. dhi mi ka ʾakash’un ‘itidhi ḥada di tuṭi

    15. 15. ‘iṭi

  3. III. The whole address, merging the English and the Arabic

    1. 1. I, Robert Peart (Beafitti), baptized in that name <in> Jamaica, but in

    2. 2. <my> country, <I was> named Mohammad Kaba. <I was> born in Buka in Africa, for <my>self

    3. 3. <my> countrymen and <my> countrywomen return heartfelt thanks <the> almighty God

    4. 4. and next (niqitti) to the English (yiklish) nation (nishan) whose law have (habi) relieved us (rlilabi ‘asha) from (fara)

    5. 5. the (di) bondage (badihasha) <in which> we have (habi) been held (litti) from our chainhood (fara awa sha’yin hud) God (kadi) bless (bilisi)

    6. 6. and (ani) grant (karitti) long (la) life to our Queen (kuyi) Victoria (bit’ri) and repose (risni)

    7. 7. to the soul <of her> uncle King William the Fourth (di fi) in whose (‘indishi) good reign

    8. 8. Was passed the <law> (the bill; di bi li) which this day <has> made <us> free people (bifili)

    9. 9. God Bless Sir Lionel Smith (sholayan simitti), our Governor (awa kubi)

    10. 10. Father and Friend whom we <will> love,

    11. 11. and <will> obey

    12. 12. Robert Peart (raba tofitti)

    13. 13. Addressed to our Governor Sir Lionel Smith

    14. 14. <in> Jamaica (ḏi mi kā) <on the> occasion (ʾakash’un) on this day (‘itidhi) had the torture (ḥada di tuṭi)

    15. 15. ended (‘iṭi)

The original manuscript provides important insights into Kabā Saghanughu’s orthographic practices. He has a distinct cursive rendering of certain letters similar to those found in West African Maghribi calligraphic writing and its Sudanic version. Examples of these letters are the characteristic cursive manner in which the letters ( inline graphic) are written. Among the orthographic characteristics of this Maghribi style is the use of one point under the “fā” letter and one point on top of the same letter to denote the “qāf” sound. Souag has confirmed that such writing features are conclusively associated with Arabic writing in West Africa. As he observes, [End Page 301] All traditional West African Ajami orthographies are primarily based on the Maghrebi variant of Arabic, which until the twentieth century was used throughout north Africa excluding Egypt. This differs from the Eastern variant which has become standard in several ways:

  • • fā’ inline graphic is written with a dot below ( inline graphic)

  • • qāf inline graphic is written with a dot above ( inline graphic)

  • • nūn inline graphic is often written without the dot word—finally ( inline graphic)26

The letters rendered in this way can all be found in Kabā Saghanughu’s manuscript. These particular orthographic features leave no doubt that Kabā Saghanughu was well-versed in the Arabic literate tradition and its 'ajami practices that dominated West Africa at that time.

In spite of these clear connections to West African orthography, the system Kabā Saghanughu adopts in the Arabic transcription shows some variations in the use of orthographic and phonetic features. In a number of instances, the English speech sounds are transcribed as whole words or phonemic segments, but in other instances the English words are separated, combined across words, or divided into specific letters that seem to represent the most important sounds or consonants. Some words are also split and separated in a sequence of sounds that comprises two or three words, revealing African-Arabic phonological and phonetic features of speaking. For example, “Robert Peart” is rendered as “raba ṭubifi ṭī,” “baptized” as “bab tayshi ṭuda,” and “but my” as “baṭami ah.” Kabā Saghanughu also combines certain words. For example, “Sir Lionel” is rendered as “sholayan” with the doubling of the diacritic Arabic fatha vowel as ( inline graphic) and the letter “y” as final position “ inline graphic”. The words containing “s” pronounced as a “z” sound are transcribed as “sh”—for example, “in whose” as (‘idi ‘idishi / inline graphic), “us” as (hashī / inline graphic), and “was” as (wa shī / inline graphic). In addition, Kabā Saghanughu uses a special consonant-based shorthand or abbreviated symbolic writing method for certain words that are rendered separately as voweled independent consonant letters such as the word “Jamaica” (dhi mi ka/ inline graphic), or partially such as the word “bondage” (di ba di ʾi ḥ’shiʿa / inline graphic). These distinct features indicate Kabā Saghanughu’s creative attempt to capture sounds that are foreign to the Arabic phonetic system and probably reflect his aural perceptions of English sounds or his English speaking style. The orthographic variations in Kabā Saghanughu’s manuscript could also result from his use of the Arabic alphabetic system to reproduce English without detecting the syllabic structures of the English language. [End Page 302]

Although not completely consistent with the Kitāb al-Ṣalāt manuscript, attributed by Daddi Addoun and Lovejoy to Kabā Saghanughu, the address has enough similarity in the rendition of certain Arabic letters to suggest that he authored both. For example, these variations in writing not only include the presence and absence of dots but extend to the rendition style of letters such as the alif maqṣūra Yā’ ( inline graphic), the wāw ( inline graphic), and the Kāf ( inline graphic), among others.27 One of the striking differences between the two texts is that Kabā Saghanughu spells his name differently in the address than he does in the Kitāb al-Ṣalāt. Though he writes (Qabā, inline graphic) in the former, he writes (Kabā, inline graphic) consistently in the latter, adding his ancestral family last name of Saghanughu with the qāf spelled in the Sudanic and Maghribi writing style, with one dot on top ( inline graphic). That said, scribal tendencies in Kabā Saghanughu’s address have more to do with his attempt to match the English sounds with the close equivalent of Arabic letters and sounds.


Phonetically, there are specific singularities that characterize Kabā Saghanughu’s transcription of English with Arabic letters. His shorthand, for example, differs from standard sūdānic scripts known as Sudanic Arabic calligraphic style ( inline graphic) and commonly used in Western Sudan or bilād al-Sūdān ( inline graphic). For example, Kabā Saghanughu dots the final yāʾ inside the curve ( inline graphic), not outside, as is standard in Sudanic script. He also sometimes cuts the same letter, and the undotted final yāʾ (alif maqṣūra) in the middle, or hooks it to the back ( inline graphic), as in sūdānic script documents “ inline graphic”. Kabā Saghanughu seems to have developed a special shorthand notation system to render final sounds such as “-tion” as “-san” inline graphic in “nation” by doubling the fatha vowel on the letter Sīn “s” ( inline graphic) and curving the alif ( inline graphic) inside to reflect the “n” sound through the Arabic nunation, that is, tanween inline graphic. Kabā Saghanughu also resorts to the use of nunation—the doubling of the short vowel diacritic on the final letter to indicate indefinite cases of nouns and adjectives in standard Arabic—to render the final syllable of “Lionel,” the first name of the Jamaican governor, as he transcribes “Sir Lionel” as ( inline graphic) inline graphic “sholayan.”28 But Kabā Saghanughu uses some variations in transcriptions of the same English sound. For example, he renders the sound “c” in “country” as Kāf (k; inline graphic) the first time and then as Qāf (q; inline graphic) subsequently. Similarly, he captures the English “h” sound through the voiceless pharyngeal constricted sound of the Arabic letter (Ḥā’; inline graphic) in “whose” as inline graphic ( inline graphic) and as inline graphic ( inline graphic) “-hood” in “chainhood.” These examples illustrate the variations that the manuscript contains and point [End Page 303] to the difficulties Kabā Saghanughu faced in ascertaining the correct transcription of English sounds through an Arabic sound system and script.29

But beyond demonstrating the difficulties of matching the Arabic language system with English sounds, this document also sheds light on the dialect of English spoken by African slaves in nineteenth-century Jamaica. As with West African 'ajami or Spanish Aljamiado texts, in Kabā Saghanughu’s address the Arabic letters are not a faithful rendition of an authentically written or spoken text in Arabic; instead they are an attempt to reproduce the way an English text is read or heard. Thus the address serves as an important source of evidence not simply about a Muslim slave’s literacy practices in the New World but also about how English was spoken by slaves at that time in Jamaica and about the varieties of dialects and cultural legacies that shaped the development and creolization of Jamaican languages such as Patois.

A comparison of the content of our translation of the original Arabic text with the imperial translation attached to the manuscript reveals small but significant differences, omissions, and changes, with ours capturing the voice of the author and his critical perspective on slavery and apprenticeship in Jamaica. In the original manuscript, Kabā Saghanughu highlights aspects of his life that reference his age and expansive experience. For example, although he refers to his place of origin as “Africa,” this word is absent in the English version. When he mentions his “countrymen” and “country-women,” he does not associate them with Jamaica in his Arabic version, although this is added in the English version. Without the reference to Jamaica, “countrymen and countrywomen” could mean fellow natives of Africa or fellow Muslims. Another difference between the English and the Arabic texts is the use of the word “bill” (bi li / inline graphic) to refer to the emancipation decree rather than the word “law.” This variation might indicate Kabā Saghanughu’s knowledge of the legislative process in England and the Slavery Abolition Act’s origin as a bill—before Parliament made it a law in 1833 and implemented it in 1834. In addition, Kabā Saghanughu uses three different names to refer to himself in this document, none of which is his slave name, Dick. He notes that in Jamaica he is called “Robert Peart” but his name in Africa is “Muhammad Cover,” and he signs the address Robert Tuffit in the Arabic “ inline graphic / rabā ṭufi ṭī.”30 Together, identifying Africa [End Page 304] as his birthplace, making no reference to Jamaica as the location of his “countrymen and countrywomen,” refusing to use his slave name “Dick,” and referring to the parliamentary process portray Kabā Saghanughu as a man who was proud of his heritage, who had a life before enslavement, and who had witnessed the long history of slavery, from kidnapping in Africa prior to the abolition of the slave trade through this moment of emancipation.

Two additional, crucial phrases that are left out of the imperial translation offer commentary on Kabā Saghanughu’s lived experience of slavery and apprenticeship. In the Arabic text, Kabā Saghanughu expresses his gratitude to the queen and the English nation for the law that relieved enslaved people from “bondage” by following that word with the phrase “from our chainhood,” which expresses physical suffering more vividly and viscerally than the more general “bondage.” The imperial translation also leaves out another striking reference to suffering in the closing statement. In the English version that appeared in the Liberator, Kabā Saghanughu thanks the governor and then refers to the place of address as Manchester. But in the final line of his address in Arabic, he simply states “to Sir Lionel Smith, Governor of Jamaica,” as the printed imperial translation records, and refers to the occasion with the phrase “on this day had the torture ended,” rather than providing the date of emancipation, August 1, 1838. These phrases in Kabā Saghanughu’s Arabic address, omitted from the imperial translation, reveal his state of mind and perspective on his life, and they reference more generally the harsh treatment that slaves were subjected to during the apprenticeship period, a detail that resonates strongly with James Williams’s account of the brutality of apprenticeship in Jamaica. This translation of the Arabic letters restores to the historical record Kabā Saghanughu’s reference to the newly emancipated people’s previous existence in chains and survival of torture. An examination of the circumstances in which Kabā Saghanughu presented this address demonstrates that these words constitute an act of resistance to the celebratory imperial narrative of emancipation.

The discrepancy between the imperial translation and the Arabic text raises questions about the circumstances in which the address was written and delivered. Either Kabā Saghanughu did not read these phrases aloud if and when he delivered the address but included them in the written version, or the translator who produced the imperial document that the Liberator reprinted chose to leave these phrases out. Rhetorically speaking, the address was written to be delivered orally. The first two sentences of this four-sentence address begin with “I” and the second two sentences begin with “God bless.” The repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of sentences was and continues to be a common memory and comprehension [End Page 305] device for speeches. These details suggest that the imperial translation might actually be a transcription of an orally presented text, an idea supported by the circumstances of its transmission, as discussed below. Yet because the process by which the English translation came to be is unknown, we cannot be sure exactly what Kabā Saghanughu said or if he even delivered the text orally. Whatever the case, the original Arabic address subverts ideas of British generosity at the moment of freedom from apprenticeship. By this point, as Williams’s narrative and Joseph Sturge and Thomas Harvey’s report convey, British ideas of freedom from slavery had revealed themselves to be illusory, as apprenticeship quickly devolved into an extension of enslavement and by some accounts an increase in violent subjugation. Thus, Kabā Saghanughu called out the apprenticeship period as a sham version of freedom, and his statement distinguished itself from other addresses produced at this moment in its truth telling and resistance to the expected expression of gratitude. If the translator deliberately chose to leave out these phrases, it might indicate a British wish to subsume the failure of apprenticeship to replace slavery beneath the formulaic expressions of gratitude and celebration that dominated the event.


Although it is not clear if Kabā Saghanughu read his address aloud, the Liberator published details about the presentation of the written document to British officials, which emphasized Kabā Saghanughu’s courage in characterizing apprenticeship as “chainhood” and “torture.” The article describes the gathering held the day after emancipation in the parish of Manchester, where Kabā Saghanughu lived.31

Manchester, Aug. 2, 1838. A deputation of the late apprentices of Manchester waited on Christopher Good, Esq. pursuant to agreement on the 2d of August. It consisted of about 300 persons—the representatives of properties. They paid into Mr. Good’s hands, in silver and gold, upwards of £150, for the purposes of presenting Mr. Special Justice Grant with a piece of plate as a mark of their gratitude and respect. The inscription which was composed and written by one of themselves (Simon Martin) is as follows:

“We, all the head-men and constables, in the names and on the behalf of the late apprentices, but now happily free men, in Manchester, do give this Cup to our true friend Special Justice [End Page 306] John William Grant, Esq. in token of his upright conduct on all occasions during the progress of our late apprenticeship.

  Jamaica, Manchester, Aug. 2 1838”

Here an old man named Robert Peart, offered an Arabic inscription for the other side of the cup.32

This reporting reveals that Robert Peart, or Muhammad Kabā Saghanughu, was respected as an elder in his own community.33 He was one of the three hundred “representatives of properties,” “the head-men and constables” who offered thanks for emancipation to Sir Lionel Smith’s representative, Christopher Good, on behalf of all of the apprentices of Manchester Parish. Kabā Saghanughu was not only among this select group; he also created an Arabic inscription for the silver cup the group wished to present to Special Justice John William Grant.34 This silver cup, inscribed in both English and Arabic, has not been found, but it is another of Kabā Saghanughu’s written legacies.

The Liberator article reports that following the presentation of the cup, Good offered those gathered advice about how to conduct themselves as free people. He told the leaders of the newly emancipated apprentices to encourage their fellow laborers to continue working peacefully because their actions might set a global example that would encourage the United States, Spain, and France to free their slaves as well: “I am certain you will, by your peaceable conduct and active industry, prove yourselves worthy of the favour conferred upon you; and will, by the way in which you act, assist in inducing the American, Spanish, and French nations to liberate your brethren, still held in their colonies in the accursed bondage of slavery.”35 Here the official rhetoric sets up Britain as a model for other nations, omitting any reference to the country’s propagation of slavery over centuries or to the human suffering of the enslaved. Furthermore, the speech suggests that the potential freedom of those enslaved in other nations at least partially depended upon the obedience of the newly emancipated British apprentices, a stunning shift in responsibility from enslavers to the formerly enslaved.

The Liberator article notes that those gathered nonetheless consented to Good’s directive and then presented statements of thanks addressed to [End Page 307] Governor Smith, including one written by a group of emancipated apprentices from Manchester Parish:

After the people had, in modest yet forcible language, declared their determination to do all that good subjects and industrious men could do, and which bore the impress of honesty and sincerity, it was proposed by William Barnard that an address should be presented to his Excellency the Governor, and the following was agreed upon:


We on the part of the late apprentices, but now happily free men, of the parish of Manchester, approach your Excellency with feelings of gratitude to God—to the people of England—to you our upright, impartial Friend, Father, and Governor, and also with feelings of respect and thanks to the Island Council, and Assembly, for the united efforts they used to make us free subjects of our good Queen Victoria, God bless her. We will, in all things, follow our Governor’s advice and commands, and obey the Laws—we will be industrious to earn an honest livelihood, and do all we can to make our employers prosperous and happy. Wishing sincerely that your Excellency may long continue in health and happiness to govern us, we are, for ourselves and brethren of Manchester, your Excellency’s most grateful and obedient Servants,

William Barnard,
Simon Martin,
Francis Green,
James Martin.

Manchester, August 2, 1838.”
(The above address is in the hand-writing of Simon Martin.)

The address by these men is one of three addresses written to Smith by apprentices. The Liberator article concludes by stating that Robert Peart, or Kabā Saghanughu, also “produced an address” that he intended to have presented to Smith: “Robert Peart, late an apprentice to Spice Grove, produced an address written in Arabic (by himself) to the Governor, which was agreed should be presented also to Sir Lionel Smith on Friday the 10th inst. by the above four persons.”36 A translation of Kabā Saghanughu’s address, identical to the one affixed to the document in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, follows this reporting. The article does not conclusively confirm that Kabā Saghanughu read his address aloud at this gathering, but it does establish that the Arabic document was transferred to Smith, who we now know kept it with his personal papers after leaving Jamaica. [End Page 308]


Comparing Kabā Saghanughu’s original Arabic address with other addresses that Smith sent to the colonial secretary confirms that it is a remarkable document in which Kabā Saghanughu uses colonial systems of power to construct his own identity, mark the fact of his own life, and enter references to suffering and torture into the historical record. Of the ten addresses that Sir Lionel Smith sent to the colonial secretary, seven were written by ministers or missionaries on behalf of their apprentice congregations and three were written by former apprentices.37 Of those written by the latter, Smith supplied biographical information only for Kabā Saghanughu; his address is also the only one written in Arabic or in any non-English language. Rhetorically, it differs significantly from the others, none of which are autobiographical.

The three documents authored by apprentices include a letter written in a collective voice from “a deputation of the apprentice population in connection to the Baptist Churches and Congregations [of Montego Bay] in the Parish of St. James,” the address written by Kabā Saghanughu’s fellow apprentices from Manchester (reproduced in the Liberator and quoted above), and Kabā Saghanughu’s address. The apprentices from Montego Bay thanked Smith for his work “to shorten the period which had been appointed by the law for our servitude as apprentices” and promised to follow their religious leaders’ advice. They concluded by urging Smith to continue to advocate for them: “Knowing the kind part your Excellency has taken in our welfare we shall look to you with confidence for the promotion of fair and impartial Laws; and depending upon your Excellency’s watchfulness for the protection of our rights and liberties as subjects of her Majesty.”38 The Montego Bay address foregrounded present and future circumstances, conveying a tone of obedience and cautious hopefulness. No single individual spoke or was named, but instead the apprentices spoke together, situating themselves in a congregation.

In contrast to the address from the Montego Bay apprentices and to the seven addresses written by ministers on behalf of their congregations, Kabā Saghanughu’s address and that of his neighbors in Manchester did not [End Page 309] mention an affiliation with a church. Simon Martin, James Martin, William Barnard, and Francis Green’s address, reproduced in the Liberator article, gave thanks to God, the people of England, and the governor for liberation. They promised to follow the advice the governor offered in his proclamation. Whereas Smith heard the Montego Bay apprentices’ address in person, the four apprentices of Manchester delivered their address to an audience and then took the written version of it to the governor themselves days later. A note written at the top of the address that Smith sent to the colonial secretary confirmed that “this document is written and read by Simon Martin.”39 Smith emphasized the literacy of Martin, a former slave, and his own willingness to listen to the man’s voice.

Like these four apprentices, Kabā Saghanughu spoke for himself in his own voice. Though we know that he was Moravian, having converted in 1813, rather than refer to a congregation like the Montego Bay authors, Kabā Saghanughu mentioned “my countrymen, and my countrywomen,” which identified those who came, like him, from “Bucka,” or Bouka, and perhaps signaled a shared Muslim heritage.40 No other address mentions an origin point in Africa. In fact, Kabā Saghanughu referred to his dual identity as an African-born Jamaican slave by offering two names: Robert Peart, his baptismal name in the Moravian church, and Muhammad Kabā, his name “in my country.” In contrast to all the other addresses, Kabā Saghanughu did not mention Smith’s admontition to the apprentices and limited his promise to “obey” to just one word. Although Kabā Saghanughu, like the other authors, offered thanks to God, the British people, the queen, and Smith, he alone mentioned Victoria’s uncle, King William IV. Victoria had just become queen the previous year. Her uncle was king for only seven years before he died, but the Abolition Act had been passed under his reign. Kabā Saghanughu’s reference to King William IV conveyed his awareness of political circumstances in England and (along with the other details he includes) emphasized his age. Though other authors focused on the present moment and the future, Kabā Saghanughu invoked the past, including his own.

Although Kabā Saghanughu’s use of Arabic letters is exceptional among the addresses Smith sent to the Colonial Office, it is an example of an emerging body of Arabic texts written by enslaved people. Recent research on slavery and literacy in the Americas and the West Indies has unearthed documents and manuscripts written by slaves in which they recorded [End Page 310] short statements about their names and original locations or provided autobiographical accounts about their lives in their native languages or the languages that prevailed in the areas in which they lived. For example, early studies by Ivor Wilks and John O. Hunwick and later ones by Allan D. Austin and Sylviane A. Diouf have established that Arabic—whether as classical standard (Quranic) Arabic or as 'ajami versions of West African languages that used the Arabic alphabet to write other languages—was a means of communication, especially among the Mandingo slaves from the region of West Africa. Austin has provided a comprehensive study of African Muslims in early America and the Caribbean, and in Diouf ’s groundbreaking research on the social and cultural history of enslaved African Muslims in the Americas in relation to literacy, she has argued that there is “ample evidence that the Muslims actively used their cultural and social background and the formation they had received in Africa as tools to improve their condition in the Americas.”41 In Kabā Saghanughu’s case, his use of Arabic allowed him to include statements about slavery that the imperial government would not have welcomed in the midst of celebrating emancipation.

Though all the other addresses in the imperial record from this moment in Jamaica celebrate emancipation, Kabā Saghanughu’s is the only one to reference the harsh reality of enslavement. The British government framed the addresses as expressions of gratitude, but Kabā Saghanughu insisted on acknowledging the hundreds of years of torture of human beings in the West Indies, a practice that was still continuing in other areas of the British Empire and the Americas. Christienna Fryar’s concept “of files as a site of imperial knowledge production” is useful for understanding the way “the bureaucratic apparatus that surrounded” the translated version of Kabā Saghanughu’s address in the imperial record—that is, the official files held in the Colonial Office archive—both emphasizes the unique qualities of the address and also attempts to erase its critique of apprenticeship. This double move is most evident in the comparison of the imperial translation with the original [End Page 311] Arabic address, which is not held in the state archive.42 Kabā Saghanughu’s address reveals the intense pressure placed on former apprentices to greet emancipation uncritically and with public gratitude, thus enabling the British government to erase and ignore centuries of violent oppression.

As someone who was likely the oldest ex-slave on the plantation, Kabā Saghanughu, who lived through many generations and visited many communities as a Moravian Helper, might have felt empowered to take certain liberties in his address that are absent in the other, more “generic” addresses. He brilliantly took advantage of the celebration of emancipation and the colonial practice of documentation to convey both his counter message to posterity and a compact autobiographical statement. The fact that Kabā Saghanughu asserted his identity in a moment when the past suffering of slaves was silenced illustrates Vincent Brown’s framing of “the fear of social death not as incapacity but as a generative force.”43 The threat of systematic erasure generated this ex-slave’s autobiographical turn. The hybridized discourse that Kabā Saghanughu employed in this address demonstrates that enslaved people could navigate and overcome considerable literacy obstacles by forging a course between different linguistic traditions and devising creative ways for their voices to be heard and recorded for posterity. The document deployed rhetorical strategies that depended on the interplay of public celebratory discourse and assumed group submission in order to affirm individual cultural resistance. The address is a rare document that has survived from a period in which writing and literacy in general were considered the prerogative of the white slaveholding class. The linguistic components of this manuscript demonstrate that the Arabic language and Muslim peoples were integral parts of Jamaican life. With similar texts coming to light, revisionist rewritings of the social and cultural history of slavery and contributions of African enslaved populations will remap the field of transatlantic studies and global Muslim and African diasporic research. [End Page 312]

Elizabeth A. Dolan

Elizabeth A. Dolan is an associate professor of English at Lehigh University, where she specializes in British Romantic-era literature.

Ahmed Idrissi Alami

Ahmed Idrissi Alami is an associate professor in the School of Languages and Cultures at Purdue University, where he specializes in Arabic Studies and Comparative Literature.

The authors wish to thank Geraldine Friedman, associate professor of English at Purdue University, for introducing them and making their collaboration possible. Dolan also wishes to acknowledge funding from a Lehigh University Faculty Innovation Grant, which supported the archival research for this article.


1. Robert Peart [Muhammad Kabā Saghanughu], “Letter (in Arabic, with accompanying translation) from a grateful, 90-year-old, released slave to Sir Lionel Smith, Governor of Jamaica,” 1838, D1584/7/4, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), Belfast. Neighbors of Kabā Saghanughu presented the written address to Sir Lionel Smith at a public event. It is not known if Kabā Saghanughu delivered the speech orally at this event, though the writing style suggests that it was written with this intention.

2. Ibid. (quotation); see, by contrast, “Manchester, Aug. 2, 1838,” [Boston] Liberator, Sept. 7, 1838, [2].

3. See D. G. Hall, “The Apprenticeship Period in Jamaica, 1834–1838,” Caribbean Quarterly 3, no. 3 (December 1953): 142–66.

4. Joseph Sturge and Thomas Harvey, The West Indies in 1837; Being the Journal of a Visit to Antigua, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Lucia, Barbados, and Jamaica; Undertaken for the Purpose of Ascertaining the Actual Condition of the Negro Population of Those Islands (1838; repr., London, 1968); Ja[me]s A. Thome and J. Horace Kimball, Emancipation in the West Indies. A Six Months’ Tour in Antigua, Barbadoes, and Jamaica, in the Year 1837, no. 7 of the Anti-Slavery Examiner (New York, 1838).

5. Lionel Smith to Lord Glenelg, May 17, 1838, Colonial Office (CO) 137/231/98, National Archives of the United Kingdom (NA), Kew.

6. R. Swan, “A Hymn of Thanksgiving, for deliverance from Slavery. Composed and Dedicated (by Special Permission) to His Excellency, Sir Lionel Smith, K.C.B. Governor of Jamaica, etc. by R. Swan, Organist of Spanish Town Cathedral, Jamaica,” 1838, D1584/7/5, PRONI.

7. Lionel Smith to Lord Glenelg, July 27, 1838, CO 137/231/140, NA (quotations). In that letter Smith enclosed the following six addresses: “Presbyterian Church address, Port Maria 17 July 1838,” “Jamaican missionary address, Port Maria 17 July 1838,” “Baptist ministers, Montego Bay 20 July 1838,” “Baptist minister, Luca, 21 July 1838,” “Wesleyan and Pres ministers, Luca, 21 July 1838,” “Apprentices, Montego Bay 20 July 1838,” in Smith to Glenelg, July 27, 1838, CO 137/231/140, NA. Two weeks later, Smith enclosed an additional four addresses in a letter to Glenelg: “Letter from the Baptist congregation in Four Paths, Clarendon, signed by W. G. Barrett, Minister, and James Reid Minister,” “Letter from the Baptist Church and Congregation, Brown’s Town, and of the Congregation Bethany St. Anne’s, signed by John Clark, Pastor,” “A Translation of Robert Peart’s Arabic address intended to be presented to Sir Lionel Smith,” “An address written by former apprentices of Manchester Simon Martin, James Martin, William Barnard, Francis Green,” in Smith to Glenelg, Aug. 13, 1838, CO 137/231/153, NA.

8. For more about Sir Lionel Smith’s tenure in the West Indies during abolition and emancipation, see Gad J. Heuman, Between Black and White: Race, Politics, and the Free Coloreds in Jamaica, 1792–1865 (Westport, Conn., 1981); Melanie J. Newton, The Children of Africa in the Colonies: Free People of Color in Barbados in the Age of Emancipation (Baton Rouge, La., 2008); Elizabeth A. Dolan, “Lionel Smith in Barbados, 1833–1836: Imperialist and Abolitionist Rhetoric in Emancipation-Era Caribbean Governance,” Slavery and Abolition 39, no. 2 (June 2018): 333–56.

9. Although the author refers to himself as Muhammad Kabā and Robert Peart in the address, we refer to him by the name by which he appears in current scholarship, Muhammad Kabā Saghanughu. Kabā Saghanughu was known by several names: Muhammad Kabā was his given name in Africa; Dick was his slave name and the name he commonly used in correspondence; Mahomed Cover was the name used in the translation of his address; Robert Peart was also used in the translation of his Arabic address and was the name of his master that he took on the occasion of his conversion to Christianity/Moravianism; Robert Tuffit was the name that he used in a letter and that Richard Robert Madden and Benjamin Angell used to refer to him in their correspondence. For more on his various names, see Yacine Daddi Addoun and Paul Lovejoy, “Muḥammad Kabā Saghanughu and the Muslim Community of Jamaica,” in Slavery on the Frontiers of Islam, ed. Paul E. Lovejoy (Princeton, N.J., 2004), 199–218; Daddi Addoun and Lovejoy, “The Arabic Manuscript of Muhammad Kabā Saghanughu of Jamaica, c. 1820,” in Caribbean Culture: Soundings on Kamau Brathwaite, ed. Annie Paul (Kingston, 2007), 313–41; Maureen Warner-Lewis, “Religious Constancy and Compromise among Nineteenth Century Caribbean-Based African Muslims,” in Slavery, Islam and Diaspora, ed. Behnaz A. Mirzai, Ismael Musah Montana, and Lovejoy (Trenton, N.J., 2009), 237–67; Lovejoy, Jihād in West Africa during the Age of Revolutions (Athens, Ohio, 2016), 47–48, 179.

10. These letters are preserved in R[ichard] R[obert] Madden, A Twelvemonth’s Residence in the West Indies, during the Transition from Slavery to Apprenticeship. . . ., 2 vols. (1835; repr., Westport, Conn., 1970). Ivor Wilks first edited and introduced the letters between Kabā Saghanughu and Abu Bakr al-Ṣiddīq in Africa Remembered: Narratives by West Africans from the Era of the Slave Trade, ed. Philip D. Curtin (Madison, Wis., 1967), 141–69. For more recent and expansive discussions of the correspondence, see Daddi Addoun and Lovejoy, “Muḥammad Kabā Saghanughu,” 199–218; Lovejoy, Jihād in West Africa, 111–12, 178–79.

11. Daddi Addoun and Lovejoy, “Muḥammad Kabā Saghanughu,” 208 (“declaration”), 199.

12. Lovejoy, Jihād in West Africa, 47–48 (quotation, 48).

13. Daddi Addoun and Lovejoy, “Muḥammad Kabā Saghanughu,” 199.

14. James Williams says, for example, “Apprentices get a great deal more punishment now than they did when they was slaves”; Williams, A Narrative of Events, since the First of August, 1834, by James Williams, an Apprenticed Labourer in Jamaica (London, [1837]), 1 (quotation), See also Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Written by Himself, 2 vols. (London, [1789]); Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave. Related by Herself. . . . (London, 1831). For the shorter narratives, see Early Caribbean Digital Archive, Northeastern University, Moses Bon Sa’am, “Speech of Moses Bon Sa’am,” [London] Prompter, No. 18, Jan. 10, 1735,; [William Ansah Sessarakoo], The Royal African: or, Memoirs of the Young Prince of Annamaboe. . . . (London, [1749?]),; Florence Hall (Akeiso), “Memoirs of the Life of Florence Hall,” ca. 1810,; Ashton Warner, Negro Slavery Described by a Negro: Being the Narrative of Ashton Warner. . . . , [transcribed by] S. Strickland (London, 1831),; Williams, Narrative of Events,

15. Lovejoy, Jihād in West Africa, 178–79.

16. Peart, “Letter (in Arabic, with accompanying translation),” 1838, D1584/7/4, PRONI (quotation). Though Smith speculated that Kabā Saghanughu was from West Chad, Lovejoy has established that he came from Bouka, east of Timbo, the capital of Fuuta Jalon in West Africa. Perhaps Smith was using West Chad to indicate Western Sudan. See Lovejoy, Jihād in West Africa, 111.

17. For the imperial publication, see The Jamaica Question: Papers Relative to the Condition of the Labouring Population of the West Indies. Presented to Parliament by Her Majesty’s Command: 1839. . . . (Lindfield, U.K., 1839), 64–66.

18. Peart, “Letter (in Arabic, with accompanying translation),” 1838, D1584/7/4, PRONI (quotation).

19. Arabic letters and vowels are transliterated following the system used by the International Journal of Middle East Studies; “IJMES Translation and Transliteration Guide,”

20. For the Aljamiado literature and writing system, see Consuelo López-Morillas, “Aljamiado and the Moriscos’ Islamicization of Spanish,” in Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics VI: Papers from the Sixth Annual Symposium on Arabic Linguistics, ed. Mushira Eid, Vicente Cantarino, and Keith Walters (Amsterdam, 1994), 17–23.

21. Lameen Souag, “Ajami in West Africa,” Afrikanistik Aegyptologie Online 7 (2010): 1–22 (quotation, 1). Here we distinguish between Arabic literacy as the writing of classical Arabic texts in West Africa and the 'ajami literature that uses the Arabic alphabet to transcribe indigenous languages and dialects in West Africa. The word 'ajami derives from the Arabic root ( inline graphic) ʿ-j-m (meaning “foreign”). Originally used to refer to non-Arab speakers of Arabic and those whose mother tongue is not Arabic, such as Persians during the Arab Umayyad reign (661–750 C.E.) and expansion in Persia, 'ajami was later used to describe the use of Arabic script to write other languages in West Africa and central and southeast Asia. For 'ajami in West African literature, see Fallou Ngom, “Aḥmadu Bamba’s Pedagogy and the Development of 'Ajamī Literature,” African Studies Review 52, no. 1 (April 2009): 99–123; Ngom, “Ajami Scripts in the Senegalese Speech Community,” Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies 10 (2010): 1–23; Sana Camara, “A’jami Literature in Senegal: The Example of Sëriñ Muusaa Ka, Poet and Biographer,” Research in African Literatures 28, no. 3 (Autumn 1997): 163–82.

22. J. O. Hunwick, “The Influence of Arabic in West Africa: A Preliminary Historical Survey,” Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana 7 (1964): 24–41; Friederike Lüpke and Sokhna Bao-Diop, “Beneath the Surface: Contemporary Ajami Writing in West Africa, Exemplified through Wolofal,” in African Literacies: Ideologies, Scripts, Education, ed. Kasper Juffermans, Yonas Mesfun Asfaha, and Ashraf Abdelhay (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, U.K., 2014), 88–117. For the educational tradition and Islamic learning in West Africa, see Ivor Wilks, “The Transmission of Islamic Learning in the Western Sudan,” in Literacy in Traditional Societies, ed. Jack Goody (Cambridge, 1968), 162–97; J. O. Hunwick and R. S. O’Fahey, eds., Arabic Literature of Africa, vol. 2, The Writings of Central Sudanic Africa, comp. John O. Hunwick (Leiden, 1995); John Hun-wick, “Towards a History of the Islamic Intellectual Tradition in West Africa down to the Nineteenth Century,” Journal for Islamic Studies 17 (1997): 4–27, esp. 9; Ghislaine Lydon, On Trans-Saharan Trails: Islamic Law, Trade Networks and Cross-Cultural Exchange in Nineteenth-Century Western Africa (New York, 2009); Graziano Krätli and Lydon, eds., The Trans-Saharan Book Trade: Manuscript Culture, Arabic Literacy and Intellectual History in Muslim Africa (Leiden, 2011); Rudolph T. Ware III, The Walking Qur’an: Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa (Chapel Hill, N.C., 2014); Fallou Ngom, Muslims beyond the Arab World: The Odyssey of ʿAjamī and the Murīdiyya (New York, 2016).

23. J. H. Buchner, The Moravians of Jamaica: History of the Mission of the United Brethren’s Church to the Negroes in the Island of Jamaica, from the Year 1754 to 1854 (London, 1854), 50–51 (quotations, 50). See also Daddi Addoun and Lovejoy, “Arabic Manuscript,” 321.

24. Lovejoy, Jihād in West Africa, 47–48.

25. Although this manuscript is written in Arabic script, decoding its message and understanding it would have been very difficult if not impossible without consulting the English version of the text that was published in the Liberator. Some of the major challenges in Kabā Saghanughu’s manuscript have to do with the version of English that he transcribed and the particular shorthand he developed in his transcription. Even with the existence of the English version, there are still certain words whose original English correspondent could not be established definitely, and the interpretation offered relies mostly on the use of similar letters and symbols to guess their English equivalent.

26. Souag, Afrikanistik Aegyptologie Online 7: 4.

27. For a detailed discussion of the manuscript of Kabā Saghanughu’s Kitāb al-Ṣalāt, see Daddi Addoun and Lovejoy, “Arabic Manuscript.”

28. Short vowel markings are written as diacritics over (accusative and nominative) or under (genitive) the final letter. This doubling produces a final n-sound in the pronunciation, hence the word “tanween” or “nunation.”

29. The authors would like to thank the anonymous reader who commented on the characteristic features and scribal conventions of the sūdānic writing styles and provided suggestions for reproducing a portion of Kabā Saghanughu’s address in Arabic and in the merged version.

30. Kabā Saghanughu used these last two names interchangeably in his letters and manuscripts; Warner-Lewis, “Religious Constancy and Compromise,” 264 n. 50. According to the letters exchanged between Kabā Saghanughu and al-Ṣiddīq as reported by Richard Robert Madden, Kabā Saghanughu refers to himself as Tuffit and Peart. Tuffit could be a variant or creolized version of Peart. See R. R. Madden, Twelvemonth’s Residence in the West Indies, 2: 134–37.

31. American abolitionists reported on events unfolding in the British West Indies during emancipation. The Liberator, for example, regularly republished news about slavery and emancipation from the Kingston Journal, the Royal Gazette, the Morning Journal, the Cornwall Courier, and the Standard. Although not identified, one of these Jamaican papers was likely the source of this article. For dates of publication, see John A. Lent, “Oldest Existing Commonwealth Caribbean Newspapers,” Caribbean Quarterly 22 no. 4 (December 1976): 90–106.

32. “Manchester, Aug. 2, 1838,” Liberator, Sept. 7, 1838, [2].

33. Paul E. Lovejoy suggests that Kabā Saghanughu was not simply an elder by virtue of his age but also served as a leader of the Muslim community in Manchester, even after his conversion to the Moravian church; Lovejoy, Jihād in West Africa, 178–79.

34. The role of Special Justice was designed by Parliament to counteract corrupt slave courts and plantation justice during the transition from slavery to apprenticeship. Smith fought to have sole power to appoint special justices when he found that his appointments were blocked by the planter-controlled Legislative Council. See Dolan, Slavery and Abolition 39: 349.

35. “Manchester, Aug. 2, 1838,” Liberator, Sept. 7, 1838, [2].

36. Ibid.

37. “Presbyterian Church address, Port Maria 17 July 1838,” “Jamaican missionary address, Port Maria 17 July 1838,” “Baptist ministers, Montego Bay 20 July 1838,” “Baptist minister, Luca, 21 July 1838,” “Wesleyan and Pres ministers, Luca, 21 July 1838,” “Apprentices, Montego Bay 20 July 1838,” in Smith to Glenelg, July 27, 1838, CO 137/231/140, NA; “Letter from the Baptist congregation in Four Paths, Clarendon, signed by W. G. Barrett, Minister, and James Reid Minister,” “Letter from the Baptist Church and Congregation, Brown’s Town, and of the Congregation Bethany St. Anne’s, signed by John Clark, Pastor,” “A Translation of Robert Peart’s Arabic address intended to be presented to Sir Lionel Smith,” “An address written by former apprentices of Manchester Simon Martin, James Martin, William Barnard, Francis Green,” in Smith to Glenelg, Aug. 13, 1838, CO 137/231/153, NA.

38. “Apprentices, Montego Bay 20 July 1838,” in Smith to Glenelg, July 27, 1838, CO 137/231/140, NA.

39. “An address written by former apprentices of Manchester Simon Martin, James Martin, William Barnard, Francis Green,” in Smith to Glenelg, Aug. 13, 1838, CO 137/231/153, NA.

40. Lovejoy, Jihād in West Africa, 111. See also Daddi Addoun and Lovejoy, “Arabic Manuscript,” 319. For Kabā Saghanughu’s conversion, see Daddi Addoun and Lovejoy “Muḥammad Kabā Saghanughu,” 209; Warner-Lewis, “Religious Constancy and Compromise,” 250.

41. Sylviane A. Diouf, Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas, 2d ed. (New York, 2013), 138 (quotation). Starting in the 1730s, many enslaved people from West Africa were able to keep records of their lives and interactions in the Americas. For slaves from West Africa and the use of Arabic, see for example Ivor Wilks, “Travellers in the Gold Coast Hinterland,” in Curtin, Africa Remembered, 143–69; Allan D. Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum America: A Sourcebook (New York, 1984); Hunwick and O’Fahey, Arabic Literature of Africa, vol. 2; Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum America: Transatlantic Stories and Spiritual Struggles (New York, 1997), 24; J. O. Hunwick and R. S. O’Fahey, eds., Arabic Literature of Africa, vol. 4, The Writings of Western Sudanic Africa, comp. John O. Hunwick (Leiden, 2003); Hunwick, “‘I Wish to Be Seen in Our Land Called Āfrikā’: ‘Umar B. Sayyid’s Appeal to be Released from Slavery (1819),” Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies 5 (2003–4): 62–77; Omar Ibn Said, A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar Ibn Said, ed. Ala A. Alryyes (Madison, Wis., 2011).

42. Christienna Fryar, “The Narrative of Ann Pratt: Life-Writing, Genre and Bureaucracy in a Postemancipation Scandal,” History Workshop Journal, no. 85 (Spring 2018): 265–79 (quotation, 267).

43. Vincent Brown, “Social Death and Political Life in the Study of Slavery,” American Historical Review 114, no. 5 (December 2009): 1231–49 (quotation, 1244). See also Walter Johnson, “On Agency,” Journal of Social History 37, no. 1 (Fall 2003): 113–24.

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