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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 November 2019

(British Library and Loyola University Chicago)
(British Library)


The life of Ayuba Sulayman Diallo (also known as Job ben Solomon) receives a fresh examination in this article, based primarily on his own writings. The son of an Imam from Bundu in Senegambia, Diallo was enslaved in 1731 and transported to America. He survived to gain his freedom, make his mark in London society, and return to Africa in 1734. This article offers an analysis of documents from the British Library, including items that have not been previously analysed and are here translated into English for the first time. In addition, they bring together what is known of his archive, including the letters he wrote before, during, and after his time in London, the Qur'ans he scribed there, and the scraps and snippets created as he discussed the Arabic language with friends.

A close analysis of Diallo's writings reveals new information about his life history; his relationships with the elites in both Bundu and London; his scholarly abilities; and the history of Bundu itself. Diallo used the technology of writing to direct the course of his own life and career, converting a disastrous course of events into favourable opportunities for himself.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

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1 Much is known about Diallo from the contemporary account by Bluett, T., Some Memoirs of the Life of Job, The Son of Solomon, High Priest of Boonda in Africa (London, 1734)Google Scholar, also republished (for instance) with an introduction and annotations in Curtin, P. (ed.), Africa Remembered: Narratives by West Africans from the Era of the Slave Trade (Madison, WI, 1967), 1759Google Scholar (page numbers below refer to the first edition). Grant, D., The Fortunate Slave: An Illustration of African Slavery in the Early Eighteenth Century (London, 1968)Google Scholar, is now rather dated in style and outlook, but is nevertheless based on extensive archival research and was until recently the only modern biography of Diallo. A popular biography, also based on archival research but exercising some artistic licence, is Nossent, M., Personne n’était jamais revenue: La vie d'Ayouba Sulayman Diallo, happé par la traite negrière ([Saint-Denis], 2016)Google Scholar. Our thanks to the author for kindly sharing this text with us. References to further works are given below.

2 For the history of Bundu see Gomez, M. A., Pragmatism in the Age of Jihad: The Precolonial State of Bundu (Cambridge, 1992)Google Scholar.

3 Bluett's account gives the date as February 1730; since he was using Old Style dating, in which system the year begins in April, this becomes 1731 in modern terms. The precise dating of Moore's correspondence (see Moore's letter to Richard Hull and Hugh Hamilton, 1 Jul. 1734, in Donnan, E. (ed.), Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade to America, Volume II (New York, 1965), 414–17Google Scholar) reinforces this interpretation.

4 Gomez, Pragmatism, 2–3, 52–3; Lovejoy, P., Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa (3rd edn, Cambridge, 2012), 59Google Scholar. The Gold Coast, the Bights of Benin and Biafra, and West-Central Africa were the largest exporters of enslaved people in the eighteenth century.

5 Bluett, Some Memoirs, 16; Honeybone, D. and Honeybone, M. (eds), The Correspondence of the Spalding Gentlemen's Society, 1710–61 (Woodbridge, 2010), 82Google Scholar. Curtin (Africa Remembered, 20–2) reports that in the 1730s it was standard practice for traders from Bundu and the wider region to travel 200 miles to the Gambia rather than the far shorter journey south through the kingdom of Galam to trade with the French at Fort St Joseph.

6 Bluett, Some Memoirs, 16.

7 Ibid. 17; Honeybone and Honeybone, Correspondence, 82. Bluett names the interpreter as ‘Lamine Youas’, while other sources have ‘Lamine Jay’ or ‘Lahamine Ndiaye’.

8 Bluett, Some Memoirs, 17–18.

9 Ibid. 18; BL Lansdowne MS 841/65, letter from P. Thompson to J. Ames, 24 Mar. 1733, f. 71.

10 Moore, F., Travels into the Inland Parts of Africa, Containing a Description of the Several Nations for the Space of Six Hundred Miles up the…Gambia (London, 1738), 68–9Google Scholar. This text is also online at (accessed 5 Jan. 2019), and partly republished in Curtin, Africa Remembered, 54–9. Unless otherwise stated, references are to the 1738 edition.

11 Thomas, H., The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440–1870 (London, 2015), 799Google Scholar.

12 Bluett, Some Memoirs, 21.

13 Ibid. 23.

14 Ibid. 23; Grant, Fortunate Slave, 84–5.

15 Bluett, Some Memoirs, 23; W. Smith, handwritten account of Diallo's life given in the flyleaves of a Qur'an we are told Diallo wrote from memory while he was in London (1733–4), and sold at Bonhams in 2013 (, accessed 5 Jan. 2019); Moore, Travels, 202–3.

16 Ibid. 209; Curtin, Africa Remembered, 22.

17 Curtin, Africa Remembered, 18, 60; Gomez, Pragmatism, 59.

18 Curtin, Africa Remembered, 22; Gomez, Pragmatism, 60.

19 Gray, J. M., A History of the Gambia (Cambridge, 1966; 1st pub. 1940), 209Google Scholar.

20 Grant, Fortunate Slave, 84 and following pages.

21 Ibid, 99–107.

22 Gray, Gambia, 210, citing correspondence in the UK National Archives, London (TNA) T 70/55, 7 Jul. 1734.

23 Grant, Fortunate Slave, 108.

24 Moore, Travels, 205–11.

25 Royal Society, London (RS) EL/12/22, letter from Diallo to Jacob Smith, 27 Jan. 1736; RS EL/12/21, letter from Diallo to unnamed, 27 Jan. 1736. RS EL/12/22 is published in Donnan (ed.), Documents, 455–6, with annotations to show the variations in RS EL/12/21.

26 Curtin, Africa Remembered, 32; RS EL/12/21; RS EL/12/22; Gomez, Pragmatism, 68.

27 The letter does not appear to have survived, but a summary was published in the Gentleman's Magazine and other periodicals (see Appendix 3 for details). Grant, Fortunate Slave, 186; Curtin, Africa Remembered, 32.

28 Gomez, Pragmatism, 69, citing Archives Nationales de France ANF C6 11, various reports (1736); Curtin, Africa Remembered, 32n21, citing Machat, J., Documents sur les établissements français et l'Afrique occidentale au xviiéme siècle (Paris, 1906), 46Google Scholar; Nossent, Personne, 118 and ch. 8; Grant, Fortunate Slave, 189–91.

29 TNA T70/55 245–6, letter from RAC to Governor of James Fort (?), 13 Jan. 1737. The RAC stated that the company ‘might much more have expected from him [Diallo]’ had their agents followed instructions to deliver the goods via an alternative route, and ordered the ‘strictest and most particular enquiry’ into the affair.

30 TNA T70/56, letter from RAC. to C. Orfeur, 2 Feb. 1738, and RAC to ‘Mr Job at Boonda in Africa’, 19 May 1737, cited in Gray, Gambia, 212, 211; Northamptonshire Record Office, Northampton (NRO) Montagu Volume 7 ff. 209, 211, letter from Job ben Solomon to the Duke of Montagu, 5 Apr. 1735 (English version published in Historical Manuscripts Commission, Report on the Manuscripts of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensbury, Volume I (London, 1899), 385)Google Scholar.

31 TNA T70/4 110, letter from C. Orfeur, H. Hamilton, and S. Turner to RAC, James Fort, 19 June 1740.

32 TNA T70/1515 99, contract between C. Orfeur and C. C. François, 22 May 1744.

33 According to Grant, the Spalding Gentlemen's Society noted in their records that Diallo had died in 1773, although it is unclear who informed them of Diallo's death. Grant, Fortunate Slave, 199.

34 Bluett, Some Memoirs, 9–10.

35 British Library, London (BL) Lansdowne MS 841/63, letter from T. Bluett to J. Ames, 26 Aug. 1734.

36 BL Add. MS 32556, correspondence of C. Macro, f. 239. Notes probably by Bluett, with sketch map on reverse, ?London, n.d., 1733–4.

37 Bluett, Some Memoirs, 46–8.

38 Moore, Travels, 54–9. See also Donnan (ed.), Documents, 393–427. Hull's journal, the RAC correspondence and some of the BL letters are investigated in Grant, Fortunate Slave. Nossent, Personne also includes analysis of some of the BL letters. For the Spalding Gentlemen's Society correspondence, which also includes a note about Diallo dated 1750 by Maurice Johnson, the Society's president, see Honeybone and Honeybone, Correspondence, 81–3. Copies of the correspondence are held by the Society, which is still in existence, at Spalding Gentlemen's Society (SGS) MB1 Fol. 186A, 17 Nov. 1733 and MB2 f. 100A, 29 Nov. 1733 (see Appendix 3 for full details). Our thanks to Dustin Frazier Wood, the Society's archivist, for help with tracing and contextualising these documents. William Smith's handwritten account, as noted above, is given in the flyleaves of a Qur'an we are told Diallo wrote from memory while he was in London (1733–4) and sold at Bonhams in 2013. Other texts mentioned here are referenced through this article and in Appendix 3.

39 Frances Foster, in her seminal 1979 study of slave narratives, notes the 1703 collection of documentation collectively dubbed ‘Adam Negro's tryall’ as ‘a precursor of the slave narratives…it emerges as the first American writing to depict clearly the actions and circumstances under which a black slave rejected the role of chattel or permanent bondsman…’ Marion Wilson Starling, in her study published two years later but researched in the 1940s, calls ‘Adam Negro's tryall’ the first of the slave narratives; she makes no mention of Diallo. Foster analyses Bluett's work on Diallo as the first ‘separately published factual account’ of the experiences of an enslaved person. Apart from ‘Adam Negro's tryall’, we have been unable to identify any earlier auto/biographies than Diallo's. Earlier stories may emerge as research continues in this field. Foster, F. S., Witnessing Slavery: The Development of Ante-bellum Slave Narratives (Madison, WI, 2nd ed., 1994), 31–3Google Scholar. Starling, M. W., The Slave Narrative: Its Place in American History (Washington, DC, 1981), 51–2Google Scholar.

40 Moore asserts that the Bundunke knew of one other person to whom this had happened, but does not specify who this was (Moore, Travels, in Curtin, Africa Remembered, 57).

41 Austin, A. D., African Muslims in Antebellum America: Transatlantic Stories and Spiritual Struggles (New York, 1997), 3033Google Scholar; Handler, J. S., ‘Survivors of the middle passage: life histories of enslaved Africans in British America’, Slavery & Abolition, 23:1 (2002), 34, 46–7, 45CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

42 Meyler, P. and Meyler, D., A Stolen Life: Searching for Richard Pierpoint (Toronto, 1999)Google Scholar.

43 The Royal African: or, Memoirs of the Young Prince of Annamaboe (London, 1749)Google Scholar. See also Bindman, D., ‘William Ansah Sessarakoo’ in Hackforth-Jones, J. (ed.), Between Worlds: Voyagers to Britain 1700–1850 (London, 2007), 3643Google Scholar.

44 In her 1979 study, Foster notes the existence of over 6,000 accounts, in a number of media including published books, newspapers, and court and other archival records. Foster, Witnessing Slavery, ix. This, together with Starling, Slave Narrative and Andrews, W. L., To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760–1865 (Urbana, 1986)Google Scholar, were works of ground-breaking scholarship that created renewed interest in the slave narrative genre in the twentieth century. Andrews locates the beginning of the autobiographical genre in Briton Hammon's 1760 publication. Important online collections include the Library of Congress's Born in Slavery,, accessed 5 Jan. 2019, and Documenting the American South, which includes a ‘North American slave narratives collection’,, accessed 5 Jan. 2019.

For the collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century oral knowledge of slavery in Bundu see, for example, Clark, A. F., ‘The challenges of cross-cultural oral history: collecting and presenting Pulaar traditions on slavery from Bundu, Senegambia (West Africa)’, Oral History Review, 20: 1/2 (1992), 121CrossRefGoogle Scholar. African recollections of slavery and the slave trade have recently been published in the major work Bellagamba, A., Greene, S. E., and Klein, M. A. (eds), African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade (Cambridge, 2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

45 Foster describes the slave narrative form as ‘…personal accounts by black slaves and ex-slaves of their experiences in slavery and of their efforts to obtain freedom’ – and written after escape/manumission (Witnessing Slavery, 3). Modern editions of Equiano's autobiography include Equiano, O., The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, ed. Carretta, Vincent (London, 2003)Google Scholar. On this literature see also, for example, Dabydeen, D. and Edwards, P. (eds), Black Writers in Britain, 1760–1890 (Edinburgh, 1991)Google Scholar; Carretta, V. and Gould, P. (eds), Genius in Bondage: Literature of the Early Black Atlantic (Lexington, 2001)Google Scholar.

46 Austin, African Muslims: Transatlantic Stories; see also Austin, A. D., African Muslims in Antebellum America: A Sourcebook (New York, 1984)Google Scholar; Alryyes, A., A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar ibn Said (Madison, WI, 2011)Google Scholar. Al-Ahari, M. A., Five Classic Muslim Slave Narratives: Selim Aga, Job Ben Sulaiman, Nicholas Said, Omar ibn Said, Abu Bakr Sadiq (Chicago, IL, 2006)Google Scholar, reprints the Diallo narrative as well as four others. See also Library of Congress, ‘Omar Ibn Said Collection’,, accessed 25 Jan. 2019. Gomez, ‘Muslims in early America’ in Alryyes, Muslim American Slave, 112, marshals evidence to suggest the presence of the Arabic language (spoken and written) and the Islamic faith among enslaved communities.

47 Lovejoy, P. E., ‘“Freedom narratives” of transatlantic slavery’, Slavery & Abolition, 32:1 (2011), 91107CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

48 Reis, J. J., Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia (Baltimore, MD, 1993), 98Google Scholar and passim; Hunwick, J., ‘“I wish to be seen in our land called Afrika”: ‘Umar b. Sayyid's appeal to be released from slavery’, Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies, 5 (2003), 6277CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Austin also notes a ‘Negro slave’ of a Captain David Anderson who wrote down some Qur'anic surahs in 1768 – perhaps, as Austin speculates, ‘to console himself at a low point’. A. D. Austin, ‘Contemporary contexts for Omar's Life and life’ in Alryyes, Muslim American Slave, 136–7.

49 Austin, African Muslims: Transatlantic Stories, 52, 59; see also Al-Badaai, M. S., ‘Positioning the testimony of Job ben Solomon, an enslaved African American Muslim’, International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, 4:6 (2015)Google Scholar.

50 That Diallo was certainly not the only literate person in Bundu is attested by Moore's comment that, on his return to Africa, ‘he used to give his country people a good deal of writing paper, which is a very useful commodity among them, and of which the [Royal African] Company had presented him with several reams.’ Moore, Travels, in Curtin, Africa Remembered, 58. See also Pettigrew, W. A., Freedom's Debt: The Royal African Company and the Politics of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1672–1752 (Chapel Hill, 2013), 193Google Scholar.

51 Curtin, Africa Remembered, 15–16.

52 See the NPG press release of 19 Jan. 2011 at, accessed 5 Jan. 2019. See also the Guardian’s report at, accessed 5 Jan. 2019. Our thanks to Lucy Peltz at the National Portrait Gallery for information and assistance.

53 For the NPG's coverage, including Okri's poem, see their web pages on Diallo at, accessed 5 Jan. 2019.

54 Press report, 13 June 2014, at, accessed 5 Jan. 2019; pers. com., T. Davidson, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, 9 Feb. 2017, to whom we are grateful for assistance.

55 Grant, Fortunate Slave, 63.

56 We have already noted Diallo's agreement with the RAC that the latter accept two non-Muslims as a ransom for a Muslim captive. Captain Pike also commented that ‘the custom of ransoming is two slaves to one’. BL Lansdowne MS 841/65, letter from Peter Thompson to Joseph Ames, 24 Mar. 1733–4, f. 71.

57 Grant, Fortunate Slave, 114.

58 Lovejoy, Transformations, 86.

59 Bluett, Some Memoirs, 23.

60 Curtin, Africa Remembered, 22.

61 Pettigrew, Freedom's Debt, 110–11, 193–5. By 1725 the RAC had lost its monopoly of the English slave trade to ‘separate traders’ – independent operators such as Captain Pike.

62 On Oglethorpe see Wood, B., ‘Oglethorpe, James Edward (1696–1785)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004; online edn 2006)Google Scholar ( For an older biography see, for example, Wright, R., A Memoir of General James Oglethorpe (London, 1867)Google Scholar.

63 Gomez, ‘Muslims in early America’, 96.

64 Gomez, Pragmatism, especially 2–3, 47–51, and passim. On West African scholarship see especially Kane, Ousmane Oumar, Beyond Timbuktu: An Intellectual History of Muslim West Africa (Cambridge, MA., 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

65 BL Ames.10 no. 120, letter from Diallo to ?his father, 1731–3, in unpublished scrapbook: J. Ames (comp.), ‘[Catalogue title:] A collection, ms. and printed, illustrative of various alphabets, etc., brought together by Joseph Ames and pasted in a scrap-book.’ ‘[Title in work:] ‘Various alphabets, characters and inscriptions used in divers parts and ages of the world, collected by Joseph Ames’, ([London] [before 1761]); BL Add MS 20,783a, letter from Diallo to his father, 1731–3. Nossent, Personne, also analyses and translates the second of these letters into French. We would like to thank Dmitry Bondarev, Alfa Mamadou Diallo Lelouma, Nikolai Dobronravin, Fallou Ngom, and Darya Ogorodnikova for their invaluable assistance in the analysis of these letters.

66 Bluett, Some Memoirs, 18–19; Moore, Travels, in Curtin, Africa Remembered, 40–1; BL Lansdowne MS 841/65, letter from Peter Thompson to Joseph Ames, 24 Mar. 1733–4, f. 71. This account, a record of an interview with Pike, adds important new details to Bluett's; it should, however, be noted that Pike had a strong interest in vindicating himself from possible allegations of misconduct in enslaving Diallo, which may have influenced the content. Our thanks to Arnold Hunt for alerting us to this document.

67 Bluett, Some Memoirs, 23.

68 Grant, Fortunate Slave, 84–5. In Ames's account (letter from J. Ames to W. Bogdani in SGS First Minute Book, f. 186, as summarised in Grant, Fortunate Slave, 84), Hunt shows the letter to Ames who tries to get it translated. Grant (Fortunate Slave, 84n1) suggests that this may have been an elaboration of Ames's to give him a greater role in the Diallo story. See also Honeybone and Honeybone (eds), Correspondence, 81–2.

69 BL Ames.10, no. 120, letter from Diallo to ?his father, 1731–3.

70 Evans, J., A History of the Society of Antiquaries (London, 1956), 8990Google Scholar; Grant, Fortunate Slave, 84.

71 A Catalogue of the…Collection of Scarce Printed Books, and Curious Manuscripts of Mr. J. Ames…Which Will be Sold by Auction, by Mr. Langford, etc. [With the names of the purchasers and prices in ms] (London, 1760).

72 The 1729 date is clearly inaccurate because we know that Diallo was captured in 1731.

73 Grant, Fortunate Slave, 198–9.

74 BL Add MS 20,783a, letter from Diallo to his father, 1731–3. The British Library holds no further information about the provenance of this document.

75 Bluett (Some Memoirs, 20) states that in Maryland, Diallo faced persecution while trying to perform his prayers. Meanwhile, Nossent (Personne, 58) suggests that Diallo's mention of the river or sea of ‘Kīz’ in this letter is a reference to King's Creek in Kent County, present-day Delaware, where Diallo was recaptured after his first escape.

76 These terms are explained in Appendices 1 and 2 below.

77 For the Denyanke dynasty, see Kane, O., La première hégémonie peule: le Fuuta Tooro de Koli Tenella à Almaami Abdul (Paris, 2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Diallo mentions the Sire, a branch of the Denyanke. He also makes frequent reference to Būbu/Boubou, which could refer to a number of Denyanke or Sissibe rulers. He lists three members of a ‘Bār’ family and nine from a ‘Jām’ family, which Kane (Hégémonie peule) mentions as indicative of Fulani elites from the Futa Toro region. For brief background on the Denyanke in Futa Toro see also Robinson, D., Chiefs and Clerics: Abdul Bokar Kan and Futa Toro 1853–1891 (Oxford, 1975)Google Scholar.

78 In Bluett's account (Some Memoirs, 17–19), Diallo mentions receiving fine weapons as a present from ‘King Sambo’, while the latter apparently declared war on the Mandingos when he found out that they had captured and sold Diallo. Nossent (Personne, passim) analyses the nature of Diallo's relationship with Samba.

79 See letter from Governor Hull to Moore, 13 Nov. 1734, asking if ‘Fody Cojear’ had informed Ayuba's friends of his return to Africa (Moore, Travels, 154).

80 We thank Fallou Ngom for his assistance with the translation of these phrases.

81 Arabic: jam[ā]ʿat al-muslimīn wa-l-muslimāt fī bilād Bundu

82 Curtin, Africa Remembered, 23.

83 Ibid. 17–34; Gomez, Pragmatism, 32–51. For a discussion of earlier accounts, see ibid. 10–17.

84 Curtin, Africa Remembered, 30–1.

85 Gomez, Pragmatism, 61.

86 Grant, Fortunate Slave, 172.

87 Gomez, Pragmatism, 62.

88 Ibid. 62.

89 Grant, Fortunate Slave, 170.

90 Gomez, Pragmatism, 94 (where he gives a map situating Boulebane and Diamwali) and 100–1. Similarly, in the Ames papers (BL Ames.10 f. 120), Ames states that Diallo lives ‘in Boondo bulla bana in Foutre’, that is, Bundu, Boulebane, in Futa. Other so far unidentified place names in Diallo's letters are Wāsa, Māmadawā, and Fiḥa, as well as ‘Bīli’ and ‘Bayāli’, the homes of his brothers.

91 Grant, Fortunate Slave, 170.

92 Gomez, Pragmatism, 41.

93 Sabatié, A., Le Senegal: Sa conquête et son organisation (1364–1925) (St-Louis, Senegal, 1925)Google Scholar; Bluett, Some Memoirs, 44: ‘the French Factory in their Neighbourhood, has much confirmed them in an Opinion that all Christians are Idolaters’. For locations of European forts in this region, see Wood, W. R., ‘An archaeological appraisal of early European settlements in the Senegambia’, The Journal of African History, 8: 1 (1967), 3964CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

94 Arabic: bilād Bundu fī bilād Fūta fī bilād Kalam

95 In BL Ames.10, f. 120, Diallo says: ‘Ḥamdi b. Sulayman [and] Aḥmad b. Būbu, the name of their country [bilād] in Bundu is Fiḥa.’ Here the meaning of ‘bilād’ must surely be ‘town’ or some form of settlement.

96 Bluett, Some Memoirs, 12–13.

97 BL Add. MS. 32556, f. 239v., sketch map by Diallo and Bluett. Probably written in London. N.d., 1733–4.

98 Ibid. f. 239r.

99 Bluett, Some Memoirs, 31.

100 Moore, Travels, 203, quoted in Donnan, Documents, 415.

101 Bluett, Some Memoirs, 25.

102 The source of this information was Maurice Johnson, president of the Spalding Gentlemen's Society (writing in 1750). Honeybone and Honeybone, Correspondence, 83.

103 Qur'an scribed by Diallo. We are grateful to the owner, Mr Rami R. El Nimer, for allowing us access to this manuscript and for lending it to the British Library's 2015–16 ‘West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song’ exhibition (for which see British Library, West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song (, 2015–16).

104 Grant, Fortunate Slave, 97. Diallo also sent greetings to a ‘Mista Sail’ in one of his letters from Africa (letter from Diallo to unnamed, Bundu, 27 January 1736. RS EL/12/21). Austin (African Muslims: Transatlantic Stories, 56) speculates that he may have had a hand in George Sale's translation of the Qur'an. Sale, G., The Koran, Commonly Called the Alcoran of Mohammed: Translated into English Immediately from the Original Arabic (London, 1734)Google Scholar.

105 BL Ames.10, nos 8, 116, 117 and 120, 1733–4. Michael Maittaire (sic) (1668–1747) was a scholar of classics and typography.

106 BL Ames.10, nos 118 and 120, 1733–4.

107 BL Sloane MS 4068, f. 276, letter from H. Sloane to unnamed correspondent, 16 Sep. 1735; letter from J. Ames to W. Bogdani, 17 Nov. 1733, in Honeybone and Honeybone, Correspondence, 82.

108 Application by Diallo to join the Spalding Gentlemen's Society, 23 May 1734, published in Honeybone and Honeybone, Correspondence, 81–3. Diallo greets the SGS, signs his name and includes the Arabic phrase ‘I ask God's forgiveness’, a modest formula used when receiving a compliment or honour. Our thanks to Dustin Frazier Wood for help with these documents. For full details see Appendix 3.

109 Curtin, Africa Remembered, 55, 58.

110 BL Sloane MS 4053, f. 341; Curtin, Africa Remembered, 26n6, facing 52.

111 BL Add MS 32556, f. 235, letter from Ayuba Sulayman Diallo to J. Chandler, 8 Dec. 1734; BL Add MS 32556, f. 237, letter from Ayuba Sulayman Diallo to N. Brassey, ?8 Dec. 1734. For Brassey and Chandler see Grant, Fortunate Slave, 102 and passim; Bettany, G. T., ‘Chandler, John (1699/1700–1780)’, rev. Corley, T. A. B., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008)Google Scholar,, accessed 5 Jan. 2019.

112 Austin, African Muslims: Sourcebook, 72; Nossent, Personne, 160–3.

113 Maurice Johnson, who knew him personally, wrote that he ‘spake English well enough to be understood’. Honeybone and Honeybone, Correspondence, 83.

114 Arabic:

115 BL Sloane MS 4053, f. 341: ‘convey my greetings to the ruler of men and women, of boys and girls, of every person’; NRO Montagu vol. 7, ff. 209, 211, letter from Diallo to the Duke of Montagu (via Francis Moore), Joar Factory, 5 Apr. 1735: ‘convey greeting to my dear friends, the King [Arabic: amīr al-balad] and his wife’. Our thanks to Crispin Powell, Buccleuch Archivist, for making this correspondence available to us.

116 BL Sloane MS 4053, f. 341; BL Add. MS 32556, f. 235. Arabic: Thanks to Muhammad Isa Waley for his advice on this translation.

117 BL Add. MS 32556, f. 237; BL Sloane MS 4053, f. 341.

118 NRO Montagu vol. 7, ff. 209, 211.

119 RS EL/12/22, Diallo to J. Smith, Yanimerow, 27 Jan. 1736; BL MS. 4068, f. 276, Sloane to unnamed correspondent, 16 Sep. 1735.

120 RS EL/12/22, letter from Diallo to J. Smith, Yanimerow, 27 Jan. 1736 and RS EL/12/21, Diallo to ‘Sirs’, 27 Jan. 1736; Gentlemen's Magazine, Nov. 1736.

121 Bluett, Some Memoirs, p. 52.

122 BL Sloane MS 4053, f. 341; Curtin, Africa Remembered, 26. Curtin goes on (26n6) to say that Diallo's Arabic is ‘ungrammatical or lifted from the Koran by whole phrases’ and – bizarrely – compares it unfavourably to that of Mahmud Kati and Abd al-Rahman al-Saʿdi, two seventeenth-century chroniclers from Timbuktu.

123 Examples of letter confusion include siddīq instead of ṣiddīq (friend), Ibrāḥīm instead of Ibrāhīm (Abraham), yasūm instead of yaṣūm (he fasts), tarīq instead of ṭarīq (way), Ramalan instead of Ramadan, tazawwaz in place of tazawwaj (to marry), shayyidnā in place of sayyidnā (our master).

124 asalāmu instead of al-salāmu (peace), an nasārā instead of al-naṣāra (the Christians).

125 ismuhu Ayūba (his name is Ayuba) appears repeatedly.

126 For example, Diallo introduces his letter with the standard salāman ṭayyiban (heartfelt greetings).

127 On two occasions, Diallo uses the Arabic phrase bi-midād al-aḥmar wa-bi-midād al-aswad (in red ink and black ink), with the probable meaning of ‘emphatically’, to ask his British friends to consider him part of their family. Red and black are the principal colours used in Arabic calligraphy, the Qur'an Diallo scribed in London being no exception. Omar Dene (Nossent, Personne) has a different theory, taking Diallo's words to mean, ‘I want to maintain fraternal ties between the white man and the black man.’ However, this may be reading too much into the expression.

128 Gomez, Pragmatism, 10 found little surviving written documentation from Bundu, and that what there was dated only from the later nineteenth century. The earliest works from the area listed by John Hunwick (The Writings of Western Sudanic Africa (Leiden, 2003)) also date from the nineteenth century.

129 Qur'an scribed by Diallo.

130 Qur'an 2:79, 6:93.

131 Honeybone and Honeybone, Correspondence, 81–3. Among the other languages were ‘Gallumbo’, which could be GalamBe, a reference to the people of the Kingdom of Galam bordering Bundu, whose language would presumably have been Soninke, and ‘Ganna’, which could be a reference to a language of the ancient Soninke Kingdom of Ghana/Wagadou.

132 We would like to thank Dmitry Bondarev, Alfa Mamadou Diallo Lelouma, Nikolai Dobronravin, Fallou Ngom, and Darya Ogorodnikova for their invaluable assistance in the analysis of these letters.

133 Eliman Tumani, ruler of Bundu at the time of Diallo's departure.

134 Diallo's brother and possibly his brother-in-law through his second wife. The geographical reference is unclear.

135 Sire, a branch of the Denyanke dynasty of Futa Toro (see above). Diallo uses the Fulfulde term yeetore, approximately translating to ‘surname’, or ‘family name’.

136 Fulfulde: miin (first person pronoun). Sayyid (master, sir), an Arabic term of respect that may suggest descent from the Prophet Muhammad.

137 Possibly Diallo's father-in-law from his second wife.

138 Fulfulde passage too illegible for us to translate. Ayuba seems to be giving a list of names and/or places.

139 Diallo's Mandingo interpreter, with whom he was captured.

140 Possibly a relation of Diallo's second wife.

141 alfa, from Arabic: al-faqīh (jurist). A term of respect indicating religious learning, in this case referring to Fulbe religious scholars such as Diallo's father.

142 Possibly a relation of Lamine Jay.

143 See letter from Governor Hull to Moore, 13 Nov. 1734, asking if ‘Fody Cojear’ had informed Ayuba's friends of his return to Africa (Moore, Travels, 216–7). Fulfulde: fodio (teacher).

144 Arabic: kalām (words, speech). ‘Speaking to’ or ‘addressing’ may be Diallo's intended meaning here and in other instances.

145 Kaur, on the north bank of the Gambia. This is where Diallo first tried to sell his two captives to Captain Pike before crossing over the river and advancing through Mandingo country where he was later captured, returned to Kaur and held captive on Pike's ship. We have not been able to translate the other parts of this sentence, presumed to be Fulfulde.

146 Again, a reference to Eliman Tumani, ruler of Bundu.

147 We are unable to translate this sentence, but the words tubaabu, possibly equating to Fulfulde tuubaako (white [man]), and duka, perhaps equating to Fulfulde dukugol (to quarrel, dispute), are repeated. This may be interpreted as a reference to the circumstances of Ayuba's capture, or an attempt to pay a ransom.

148 Could be read as Fulfulde: miin Ayuba o'o booɗɗe bilaadi nasraan.

149 Arabic: lā khayr (no good), followed by Fulfulde text we are unable to decipher but which may include the words siiɓo (slave) and kaaɗo (oppress), followed by Arabic: ʿabdayn (two slaves).

150 Fulfulde: miin Ayuba mi hoota bilaadi Bundu.

151 Fulfulde: jom (owner), presumably with the sense of ‘ruler’.

152 Fulfulde: ayoke kayitu nulda.

153 Fulfulde: wind kayit neldami.

154 Several Fulfulde passages are illegible.

155 Fulfulde: Ayuba hoota bilaadi Bundu. Boulibouki was a village close to Diallo's home (see above).

156 Foutre: Futa [Toro].

157 Diallo uses the Arabic word ṭarīq (way, road). This phrase is confusing, but ‘on the way’ seems to be his meaning. One word in this sentence is illegible. Arabic: baḥr kīz. baḥr may refer to a sea, lake or river. The geographical reference to Kīz is unclear.

158 Arabic: dār (home). In this context it seems to refer rather to a village or homestead. The geographical references are unclear.

159 Perhaps an allusion to Dawudu Hamet, father of Malik Sy.

160 A relation of Diallo's second wife.

161 Sons of Bubu Malik Sy, second ruler of the Sissibe line. Maka, known as Maka Jiba, became Eliman of Bundu at some time during Ayuba's absence (see above).

162 Tamsiru, from Arabic tafsīr (Qur'anic exegesis). A term given to middle-ranking members of the Bundu court.

163 This may be the same ‘Dimba Jāy’ and ‘Lamine Jāy’ given in Appendix 1, the latter Diallo's Mandingo interpreter and the former presumably a relation.

164 The last two geographical references are unclear.

165 Bluett (Some Memoirs, 15) notes that Diallo had three sons: Abdullah, Ibrahim and Sambo by his first wife, ‘the daughter of the Alpha of Tombut’, and a daughter, Fatima, by his second wife, ‘daughter of the Alpha of Tomga’.

166 A reference to Diallo's two wives. One of them had, in fact, remarried by the time of his return.

167 Arabic: This may be an Arabic abjad (alphanumeric) date format, at present indecipherable.

168 mudi, from Arabic muʾaddib (learned person).

169 almāmi, from Arabic al-imām (prayer leader).

170 Arabic: This may be another abjad date format, at present indecipherable.

171 These dates are correct despite appearing contradictory: the letter copy appears to have been bound into the volume of the wrong dates.