Slave Narratives of the Transatlantic Slave Trade Project

This project was Funded through Awards For All, 2006-2007


The purpose of this heritage project is to explore early autobiographical narratives, written or produced by Africans in Britain during and after the Transatlantic Slave Trade period from around 1560 to1880s). Slave Narratives as they are more locally called, are significant literary, historical and cultural resources, essential to our deeper understanding of African/Caribbean/Western literary history and indeed, deserve a permanent and recognized place in the canon and archives of literature written and published in Britain. However, these texts currently remain an under-researched and poorly archived literary genre.

There has been little significance given to this literary genre up until the recent resurface of the African narrative genre in the media, through the award winning film 12 Years a Slave, portraying the life story of an African American freeman turned slave, named Solomon Northup. The film was produced by Black British film director, Steve McQueen, released autumn 2013 and grossed £187 million in worldwide sales. Thus, this project explores the significance and legacy of these early texts relating to the African diaspora in Britain and thus, share research findings and to raise awareness of the existence and significance of these autobiographies, in the hope of encouraging new knowledge, perspectives and new research into a much neglected yet enlightening genre of Western and African literary history.

Through access to primary literary sources, this research project explores the concept, construction, purpose and ‘message’ of the narrative produced by Africans in eighteenth century Britain; their personal yet hidden histories, whether consciously stated or not. It include a survey of a selection of narratives with direct links to Britain: either through their writing processes, publishing accessibility in Britain or through the residency of the author in the UK during or after book publication.

The desire to promote the existence and subsequent archiving of these early forms of Black British literature as a collection in the UK and as educational resource of social and cultural legacy, would celebrate the resilience and courage of these African writers in Britain and ultimately could to generate action and positive change in the mind-set and education of our people, young and old.