Every once in a while an author creates a character that is certain to stay with you forever. Lawrence Hill’s Aminata Diallo is one of those characters. Hill’s book Someone Knows My Name is the story of a young girl torn away from her home in Africa, forced to endure the Middle Passage, and sold into slavery in South Carolina. If anyone who reads the story has ever studied the history of slavery in America, you will certainly forget that Aminata was not an actual person. Despite the fact that she is only a fictional character, her story and journey is surrounded by so many historical accuracies that if you have never studied the history of slavery, you will walk away feeling more knowledgeable about the experience of so many Africans who did endure those same travesties.
Hill’s level of detail and his exceptional writing skills forces the reader into a world of pain, suffering, strength, determination, and bravery. These of course are just a few words to describe the peculiar institution that was American chattel slavery, which Hill paints a picture of perfectly. It is difficult to read this story and not feel every bit of Aminata’s experience. I, personally, cried throughout the entire novel. Like Alex Haley’s Roots, Someone Knows My Name is destined to become an important work for African Americans.
During the American Revolution, many African Americans fled their masters in hopes of securing freedom by aiding the British. Following the war, the British carried out the process to relocate former slaves who remained loyal to the British crown to Nova Scotia. They kept a record of the names of those who were taken into Canada called “The Book of Negroes”.
In Canada, Hill’s book was published as The Book of Negroes. However, following a broken promise by the book’s American publisher, the book was renamed Someone Knows My Name. They were concerned that American audiences would not purchase or read the book with its Canadian title. Either way, his work is brilliant. It is deserving of all its recognition and should be read by everyone with an interest in African American history or history period.
Hill, Lawrence. Someone Knows My Name. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007.