A tale of two documents relating to slavery and

Quakers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore[1]

Over many years of a professional career in Archives, it became clear that besides providing the proper care and a suitable place to access collections either in the original or virtually, the most important task of an archivist is to explain the connections to person, place, time, and above all context of the records in the Archives.  Sometimes such an approach puts the archivist in the center of academic controversy when researchers fail to adequately address context and meaning and draw unwarranted conclusions from documents.  Increasingly that is the case as scholarly interpretations are drawn along current political and social divisions, ignoring the famous dictum of the Johns Hopkins History Seminar to tell history in a way that explains how things actually were (wie es eigentlich gewesen ist), not as unfounded stark contrasts of good and evil based upon an incomplete review of the surviving evidence.[2]

Recently in reviewing a personal collection of private (as opposed to public) documents for possible gifting to an appropriate public archive, two documents emerged that led to a stimulating adventure in person, place, time, and context related to the history of slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the involvement of Quakers in assisting slaves to freedom.

The Engraving of Job ben Solomon, 1750

Gentleman’s Magazine, June 1750, author’s collection

The first document is an engraving published in the Gentleman’s Magazine in June 1750. From an archivist/curator’s standpoint, one of the first questions to answer in cataloging a collection  is whether or not an item is original.  With this particular graphic there is a clue that it is.  On the corner of the  page containing the engraving  there is a watermark in the paper that should be found on pages throughout the volume of Gentleman’s Magazine for that year.

But what about context and how does the item relate to slavery in Maryland, particularly on Maryland’s Eastern Shore?

The subjects of the engraving are two well-known former slaves.  The individual on the right was William Ansah Sessarakoo, (c. 1736 – 1770), “a prominent 18th-century Fante royal and diplomat, best known for his wrongful enslavement in the West Indies and diplomatic mission to England. He was both prominent among the Fante people and influential among Europeans concerned with the transatlantic slave trade.”[3]  On the left was Job Ben Solomon, whose tribal name was Ayuba Suleiman Diallo (1701–1773),  “a prominent Fulani Muslim prince from West Africa who was kidnapped and trafficked to the Americas during the Atlantic slave trade, having previously sold slaves himself.”[4]

The story of Job Ben Solomon’s enslavement and release from slavery was documented in two contemporary sources and by the British Library in an introduction to a letter purported to have been written by him while a slave.[5]  The outline of Job Ben Solomon’s story as a slave has been told many times, although at times confused with insufficient attention paid to context or the individual biographies of the main participants in his journey from slavery to freedom.  

For the archivist attempting to call attention to the context of collection items such as the Gentleman’s Magazine engraving, the objective is not only to link to whom and to what places documents relate, but also to avoid reinforcing  assumptions that are erroneous or can’t be documented.

The search for Job Ben Solomon and those who enslaved and assisted him  begins with the print in Gentleman’s Magazine and the accompanying text.

Job Ben Solomon was a person of great distinction in his own country. In the year 1731, as he was driving his herds of cattle across the countries in Jagra, he was seized and carried to Joar, where he was sold to capt. Pyke, commander of the ship Arabella, who carried him to Maryland, and sold him to a planter. Here Job lived about a year without being once beat by his master; at the end of which he had the good fortune to have a letter of his own writing in the Arabic tongue conveyed to England. This letter coming to the hand of Mr. Oglethorpe, he sent it to Oxford to be translated; the translation pleased him so much, and gave him so good an opinion of the man, that he directly ordered him to be bought from his master. But soon after setting out for Georgia, before he returned from thence, Job was brought to England; where waiting on the learned Sir Hans Sloane, he was found to be a perfect master of the Arabic tongue, by translating several manuscripts and inscriptions upon medals into English, of which he had acquired a competent knowledge during his servitude and passage to England; this gentle man recommended him to his grace the duke of Montagu, who being pleased with the sweetness of humour and mildness of temper, as well as genius and capacity of the man, introduced him to court, where he was graciously received by the royal family, and most of the nobility, from whom he received distinguishing marks of favour.

After he had continued in England about fourteen months, he wanted much to return to his native country and his father, to whom he sent letters from England. He received many valuable presents from Q. Caroline, the D. of Cumberland, the D. of Montagu, the E. of Pembroke, several ladies of quality, Mr. Holden, and the royal African company, who ordered their agents to show him the greatest respects. He arrived safe in Africa; and Mr. Moor in his travels met with, and gives some farther account of him.

Gentleman s Magazine Vol. XX (1750) 272[6]

Job Ben Solomon’s Africa with his place of origin indicated by circles on the maps

illustrating  The African Homeland of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo

In the case of Job Ben Solomon, the uncontested elements of his story that emerge from fact checking  this and Thomas Bluett’s account are that he was sold to a Captain Stephen Pike on the 27th of February, 1732, and carried to Annapolis, Maryland for sale.   There by June,  he was received by Vachel Denton, a trader who worked on commission as a factor for William Hunt, a London Merchant, and sold to  a “Mr. Tolsey” of Kent Island.  To date, Thomas Bluett remains an elusive figure,  no one has published anything about Mr. Tolsey, nor has the full extent of the Hunt firm’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, especially with regard to Maryland been assessed.[7]  Because of the careful research of Lorena Walsh and the other compilers of the Slave Voyages database, it is known that there was a 164 ton  slave ship  Arabella, 6 guns, 10 crew, captained by a Stephen Pike, that arrived in Annapolis from the Gambia River in Africa  with 150 slaves (the voyage began with 169) in close confinement.[8]

A typical slave deck in the transatlantic slave trade[9]

According to Thomas Bluett who interviewed Job, he did not perform well for Mr. Tolsey, was harassed for saying his daily prayers, and ultimately decided to run away.   Here the interpretation of Bluett’s narrative becomes muddled by some historians, but a close reading of Bluett’s text in conjunction with what is known about the voyage of the Arabella and its arrival in Annapolis, reveals the following.   Job arrived in Annapolis in June 1732 and by the end of the month had run away from Mr. Tolsey to Kent County, Delaware where he could not be understood, carried no pass from his master,  and as a result was thrown into prison.  Bluett, who apparently was attending court there, heard of Job “and went with several Gentlemen to the  Gaoler’s House, being a tavern and desired to see him.”  Job was given paper and urged to write something down.  He then read it, pronouncing the words Allah and Mohammed “by which, and refusing a glass of wine we offered him, we perceived he was a Mohometan, but could not imagine of what country he was, or how he got thither; for by his affable Carriage, and the easy Composure of his Countenance, we could perceive he was no common slave.”

At that point Bluett left.  He apparently did not see Job again until Job was about to be sent to London on the same ship as Bluett, leaving behind “Loumein Youas”, his Mandingo language interpreter who had been captured with him and who remains a mysterious figure in Job’s Maryland story.[10]  In the meantime there was an “old Negroe Man” who lived in the neighborhood of the Kent County, Delaware jail who could speak a language Job understood.  Mr. Tolsey was located.  Job was collected and returned  to Kent Island, Maryland.  What transpired next is not clear as to the timing and sequence of events, but Vachel Denton of Annapolis, Vestryman of St. Anne’s Church, member of the Maryland General Assembly and Mayor of Annapolis,  bought Job back  at the same price Mr. Tolsey paid for him.  He also supposedly sent a letter Job wrote in Arabic to his father “acquainting him with his misfortunes, hoping he might yet find the means to redeem him.”  The letter ended up in the hands of William Hunt in London, owner of the slave ship Arabella,  and was seen by James Oglethorpe (1696-1785), best known for his part in the founding of Georgia,  who agreed to post bond pledging he would secure Job’s freedom if and when he arrived in London. In fact Oglethorpe never followed through on his promise and ultimately Job gained his freedom apparently by becoming a factor back in Africa for the Royal African company, possibly acquiring slaves for the transatlantic slave trade.[11]

One of the great contributions of the internet to scholarship, is that a search will locate what purports to be the letter Job wrote to his father from Annapolis  among the collections of the British Library, and as well as another letter purportedly written by Job to Sir Hans Sloan, possibly in 1734.[12]  Until the letter is authenticated through analysis of any watermarks in the paper and an understanding how it came into the possession of Dr. W. H. Scott who presented it to the British Library in 1855, it will not be known for certain if this is the actual  letter Thomas Bluett mentions, or that it was actually written by Job.  While a full translation is not available on line, the online exhibit quotes from it:

  ‘There is no good in the country of the Christians for a Muslim’, [writes Job]  in this letter in Arabic, which he probably wrote while enslaved in Maryland after his capture on the coast of Senegal [Senegambia] in 1731. Announcing to ‘all the Muslims of Bondu’ that he is alive, he appeals to the rulers of the country and his family to ensure that his two wives do not remarry.

[Job] returned to his home of Bondu in Senegal [Senegambia] in 1734, having attained his freedom … Upon his return, he discovered that his father had died and that one of his wives – believing him dead – had remarried. [Job] forgave her, saying: ‘I was gone to a land from whence no Pholey [Fulbe] ever yet returned; therefore she is not to be blamed, nor the man neither.’[13] 

a letter purportedly written by Job ben Solomon ca. 1734 to Sir Hans Sloane in the Sloan Papers, Ad mss 4053, British Library

It may also be that the second  letter purportedly written by Job ca. 1734, will be found through careful analysis of the writing to be in the same hand as the letter said to have been written, possibly from Annapolis,  in 1732.[14] 

When Job finally arrived in London in 1734, arriving on the same ship that carried Thomas Bluett,  he became quite a celebrity. Bluett was persuaded to write an account of what he knew about Job which was published in 1734 as Some Memoirs of the Life of Job, the Son of Solomon the High Priest of Boonda, in Africa, (London: Printed for Richard Ford, at the Angel). One of Job’s sponsors was the 2nd Duke of Montagu (1690-1749)  to whom Bluett’s account was dedicated and with whom Job dined.[15]   

Job ben Solomon, by William Hoare, on loan to the National Portrait Gallery, London

While in England, Job’s portrait was painted by William Hoare who also painted a member of the Duke’s family.[16]  It is now owned by the Museum Authority of Qatar and is on loan to the National Portrait Gallery in London.[17]  Note the copy of the Qurʾān, (Arabic: “Recitation”) also spelled Koran, hung around Job’s  neck.  

page from the Qur’an purportedly written by Job Ben Solomon in 1733?

There are said to have been three Quar’ans that Job perhaps transcribed from memory.  The only one that has survived was sold at auction for £21,250 in 2013.[18]  In their introduction to the documents in the British Library relating to Job (Ayuba Sulayman Diallo), Paul Naylor and Marion Wallace provide a comprehensive listing of all known contemporary writings by and about Job, but to date no one has compared the handwriting and any watermarks to determine if the Qur’an sold at auction was indeed written down in 1733 and is in Job’s hand.[19]

While in England, Job applied to be a member of the Spalding Gentlemen's Society and it is among their minutes that is to be found the only known record of Job’s death in 1773, forty years after he first landed in Maryland as a slave.[20]   While many unanswered questions remain about who knew Job and when, accurate and informed  cataloging of his image found in the Gentleman’s Magazine for June 1750, can lead to a better understanding, not only of Job’s life and those of his contemporaries that knew him, but also provide insight into the world of slavery in Maryland in the 1730s.[21]

Gentleman’s Magazine, June, 1764, Harvard University Library  copy

It is also from Gentleman’s Magazine that the consequences of the slave trade to Maryland are put into statistical form. In 1764 Gentleman’s Magazine published a census of Maryland taken in 1755 which probably undercounted the number of slaves in the colony, but provides insight into the extent to which slavery had become embedded in the population not only of the Eastern Shore but the whole colony.[22]  What is not known from the chart or any other source so far, is how many slaves like Job attempted to flee from slavery, although there is evidence that the Native Americans on the Eastern Shore harbored runaway slaves, incorporated muslim words into their language,  and may have been a reason Job fled in the direction of Delaware and the Nanticoke from Kent Island.[23]

A quarter of a century after the publication of the 1755 census the opportunities for slaves to escape to freedom had increased significantly, largely because of the influence of the Society of Friends, referred to universally as Quakers, and their links to what became known as the Underground Railroad.[24]  The history of Quaker opposition to slavery and their efforts to free their own and others’ slaves is complex and difficult to unravel.  Kenneth Carroll has written extensively on the topic as it relates to the Eastern Shore, but the details of who the Quakers manumitted,  to whom they gave material assistance to escaping Eastern Shore slaves, and the ways they worked quietly to undermine the institution of slavery without violence, still deserve careful attention and much further research.[25]   For example the names and ages of the slaves freed by the Quakers along with occasional sales of land to Free Blacks abound in the Talbot County land records for the 1780s and 90s.   Indeed the Quaker who surveyed the town of Easton into lots in 1786, John Needles (1755-1795), freed Negro Henny immediately and a boy,  Kinsey when he reached the age of 21.  Needles does appear on the 1790 census with one slave who, in all probability, is Kinsey who would not be 21 until 1792.

A 1789 Deed to Lot 56 of John Needles’ survey of Easton

The second document in the inventory of a private collection that gave pause and led to questions about Quakers and slavery on the Eastern shore was a puzzling original deed from 1789. It was found among photographs of  Oswald Tilghman’s family of Foxley Hall taken at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. The objective in describing it was to provide context for why it was found there and to explain how, if at all,  it might relate to the rest of the collection.

1789 deed to lot 56 in Easton from Edward Cox to Bristu, a free Negro from the papers of Oswald Tilghman (1841-1932)[26]

The  journey of discovery and annotation with this document centered on those named in the deed, Edward Cox and a free “Negro Bristu,” identifying the location of the property being sold, and revealing in the process what might be learned about slaves in the neighborhood.

Edward Cox was a member of the Third Haven Quaker meeting in Easton who ultimately refused to give up his slaves.  Beginning in the 1787, two years before he sold lot 56 to Negro Bristu, the minutes of the Third Haven Monthly meeting reflect the efforts to persuade Edward Cox to conform to Quaker discipline and free his slaves.  On October 25, 1787, the minutes note that “Edward Cox has for a long time neglected attendance of our religious meetings [and to] conform in dress, joins in dancing and continues to hold slaves”.    Three members of the meeting were appointed to visit him, “treat with him,” and report back to the meeting. On December 27, they reported back that they “did not find him in a situation likely to make satisfaction for his misconduct” and were instructed to “prepare  testimony against him.”    In February 1788 the minutes reflect that when Cox was visited by a delegation threatening to publish their concerns  he indicated that he would comply.  Curiously no other mention of Cox could be found in the minutes, but he did not comply.  He continued in his business as a hatter and continued to own slaves as reflected in the 1790 census.  In 1794 Cox unsuccessfully sought permission to import  “Ned, a slave that was bound by my Father to a certain Edward Collins of Kent County, in the Delaware state, until he arrived to age of 25 years”  when he was about “to leave Maryland to join the troops against the Insurgents at the westward”.  On his return  from joining the troops under President Washington and Alexander Hamilton in putting down the “Whiskey Rebellion”,  he successfully ran for sheriff of Talbot County, dying in office in 1798.    At his death he left  his brother all “my little household property which is in different places in Easton, the places known by my old “Joe””,  a set of hatter’s tools, one lot, the “Negro man “Ned” still living in Delaware, and “Negro man “Joe”.[27]

Nothing could be found about Negro Bristu, apart from the fact that his deed was legally recorded by the Talbot County clerk, but looking for him revealed that the Land Records of Talbot County for that period are replete with deeds of manumission for slaves who are indexed by the appellation “Negro” prefacing their given name and age.[28]

Plat from the Sanborn Insurance Maps of Easton for 1896

Initially it was thought that Lot 56 might be the lot on which Foxley Hall was built, but after carefully mapping out the descriptions of the lots relating to Foxley Hall and Lot 56, it became clear that Lot 56 was diagonally across from Foxley Hall.


Foxley Hall had been built about 1805 by  a wealthy widow Deborah Perry Dickenson whose heirs sold it to John Leeds Kerr in 1816, and from there in 1844 it came into the possession of his relatives the Tilghmans.   Why Oswald Tilghman had  a copy of the original deed to Lot 56 is not clear, but he was a local historian of note who compiled a two-volume history of Talbot County and filed the deed  among his own collection of documents.  What came with the deed were photographs of Foxley Hall, its inhabitants, and places of importance to the family from the late 1890s to about 1910 including a view of Washington Street downtown in Easton.

Tilghman Family photographs, author’s collection

While there is no clear connection between the Tilghmans of Foxley Hall  with the Edward Cox of Lot 56, save being found among Oswald Tilghman’s papers, there is an important story of a Ruth Cox  who related that she had been a slave employed at Foxley Hall, possibly as John Leeds Kerr’s  nurse.  She ran away in 1844  the year the then owner of Foxley Hall, John Leeds Kerr, died.[29]

Rachel Cox’s origins are unknown. At the time she left Talbot County,  she probably was owned by someone other than the Kerr’s and, like with  Edward Cox’s Ned, hired out to the Kerrs.  Late in life she gave an interview to a local reporter  in which she relates her escape northward to a Quaker community in Pennsylvania that had close ties to the Third Haven Meeting in Easton.[30] In Pennsylvania  she met Frederick Douglass who at first thought she was his sister and took her into his household calling her Harriet Bailey.  While living with the Douglass’s she became close friends with  Mrs. Douglass, and helped care for the Douglass family while Douglass was abroad raising money for his plans for a newspaper and purchasing his own freedom from the Aulds.   On his return, Ruth married  Perry Frank Adams, also an escaped slave from Talbot County, and both  joined a group of radical abolitionists that supported John Brown.  With Brown’s capture and execution, she and her husband fled to Haiti, returning after the Civil War.  Eventually she moved to  Nebraska where she died in 1900.[31]

Lincoln Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska, Tue, Apr 24, 1900, Page 6, courtesy of Newspapers.com

The efforts to explain two documents from a private collection in order to make them known and useful took some unexpected turns and went far beyond what any one archivist has time to do in cataloging a collection, yet from such fragments of the past found tucked away in collections large and small, if they can be easily found by researchers and writers, can help us to better understand not only the world of our past, but perhaps help us to heal the wounds of the present.    That is why it is so  important in this era of virtual reality and artificial intelligence that every repository have its own wikipedia like environment where not only are collections described and annotated by their curators and archivists, but to which users can add meaning to what they find important about the items they find there.  It is not expensive, nor difficult to provide such direct access to correct and enhance catalog entries as Wikipedia has ably demonstrated, but it also must be done in defense of the invasion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to  how we know,  and what we think we know, about the past.   As the creator of Artificial Intelligence warned in the New York Times,  what AI answers is only as good as what is there on the web.  It is up to institutions such as this one to get as much accurate information and images of collections online as possible, even if they have to charge for access to the images, inviting their users to help them add value to the understanding of holdings directly online.



[1] ©Edward C. Papenfuse, Maryland State Archivist, retired

[2] See the controversy over the meaning and context of a page of the U. S. Census for 1850 to which scholars were first alerted in a seminar on Baltimore History at Johns Hopkins.  The leader of the seminar suggested that the document needed to be carefully analyzed in context, addressing what could be learned about persons, place, and meaning.  Unfortunately that was not done initially, leading to unwarranted assertions in editorials and op ed columns, seriously damaging reasonable historical discourse. https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/06/05/john-hopkins-slavery-founder-inquiry/.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Ansah_Sessarakoo 

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayuba_Suleiman_Diallo 

[5] Thomas Bluett, Some Memoirs of the Life of Job, The Son of Solomon, High Priest of Boonda in Africa (London, 1734),  F. Moore, 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), letter, https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/ayuba-suleiman-diallo-letter. See also Paul Naylor and Marion Wallace. “Author of His Own Fate? The Eighteenth-Century Writings of Ayuba Sulayman Diallo.” The Journal of African History, vol. 60, no. 3, 2019, pp. 343–377., doi:10.1017/S0021853719000732.  Published accounts of Thomas Bluett are confused and misleading.  There is no evidence that he was a lawyer in Annapolis or Kent County Delaware, nor was he a judge.  He may have  had some association with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, but other than attending court in Kent County Delaware where he met Job for the first time, and accompanying to England on Job’s return to freedom, little has yet been uncovered about who he was or what he was doing at the time he met up with Job the first or the second time. To date the most extensive published efforts to document Thomas Bluett’s and F. Moore’s accounts of Job Ben Solomon (his westernized name) include:  Philip D. Curtin,  Africa Remembered, Wisconsin U.P 1967, pp. 17-59, hereafter cited as Curtin; Paul Naylor and Marion Wallace,  Author of His Own Fate? The Eighteenth-Century Writings of Ayba Sulayman Diallo, Journal of African History, 60.3 (2019), pp. 343-377, hereafter cited as Naylor and Wallace; Alan D. Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum America: A Sourcebook. New York & London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1984, hereafter cited as Austin;  Douglas Grant, The Fortunate Slave: An Illustration of African Slavery in the Early Eighteenth Century.  London: Oxford University Press, 1968, hereafter cited as Grant.

[6] from Charles T Davis and Louis Henry Gates. The Slave's Narrative : Texts and Contexts. Oxford University Press 1985, p. 4.

[7] Nothing is yet known about “Mr. Tolsey” of Kent Island, but he might have been a Tolson of Kent Island as speculated in the biography of Vachel Denton who sold Job to “Mr. Tolsey” of Kent Island.  The Hunt’s deserve careful examination.  They were major slave traders to the Chesapeake at the time of the sale of Job to “Mr. Tolsey.”

[8] The Arabella and Captain Pike made at least three voyages to the Chesapeake delivering a minimum of 700 slaves between 1731 and 1734.  See the details on https://www.slavevoyages.org/voyage/database#.  Bluett appears to have gotten the year wrong for the voyage carrying Job  and one of the voyages noted in the database may be a duplicate.

[9] While drawn from life by a British Naval Officer a hundred and 123 years after the Arabella sailed into Annapolis harbor, a close study of all the identified ships in the transatlantic slave trade included in the Slave Voyages database, suggests this is a typical scene aboard most slavers involved in the slave trade.  See: Nicholas Radburn and David Eltis,, Journal of Interdisciplinary History  Spring 2019, Vol. 49 Issue 4, p533-565.

[10] “Loumein Yoas” who Bluett wrote in 1738 “is a slave in Maryland still,” is said by Philip Curtin to have been ransomed and returned to Africa. Curtin, p. 40, n. 45.  No sources cited.

[11] Curtin, p. 43 and n. 53.  Bluett mentions that Job met the rector of St. Anne’s, the Reverend Mr. Henderson while he was awaiting a ship to take him to London.  Little is known about Bluett and his own relationship to Reverend Henderson, but both may have been connected through the Society for the Propagation of the Bible.  Curtin, p. 43, n. 53;   From some of the details of Vachel Denton’s life see: https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/speccol/sc3500/sc3520/000300/000341/html/msa00341.html. See also Ronald A. T. Judy (1993), (Dis)forming the American Canon: African-Arabic Slave Narratives and the Vernacular. U of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-1-4529-0144-2 for his analysis of the role played by James Oglethorpe in the story of how Job ultimately obtained his freedom. Jody’s account is replete with the assertion of ‘facts’ that do not square with Bluett and Moore’s accounts.

[12] Naylor and Wallace provide a comprehensive accounting of all known documents purported to be written by Job.  If Thomas Bluett is to be believed, when he first met Job he could not understand him.  When he next met him in Annapolis (not Baltimore, or Jamestown as some writers claim), his English was still limited.  It is on their voyage together to London that Job learned to become reasonably fluent in English and gained the ability to dictate his memoir that Bluett would publish not long after they arrived.  What is most curious is the question why the story of Job was revived in 1750, 16 years after Bluett published his narrative.

[13] https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/ayuba-suleiman-diallo-letter.  Only by comparing watermarks in the document purportedly from Annapolis with watermarks in paper in use in Annapolis at the time would it be possible to authenticate the claim that Job’s letter to his father was the one referred to by Bluett as being composed in Annapolis, sent to the Hunts,  and seen by James Oglethorpe.

[14] Philip Curtin (illustration between pp. 52-3), manuscript letter from Job (Ayuba Suleiman) to Sir Hans Sloan (Ad. MSS 4053) in the British Library.  This excerpt is from the microfilm THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY Series One: The Papers of Sir Hans Sloane, 1660-1753, from the British Library, London, Part 1: Science & Society, 1660-1773, reel 9, Sloane Ms. 4052 (383ff): Letters to Sloane Sloane Ms. 4053 (386ff): 1731-1735.

[15] https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs//media-new/pdfs/lbsmidlands2.pdf. According to Curtin, p.

[16] http://www.pastellists.com/Articles/Hoare1.pdf.  Hoare painted Mrs. George Lewis, author, sister of Elizabeth Montagu.

[17] https://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/display/2011/ayuba-suleiman-diallo.php

[18] https://www.bonhams.com/auction/21359/lot/137/an-unusual-quran-manuscript-written-from-memory-by-ayub-bin-suleyman-job-son-of-solomon-a-former-slave-originally-from-the-kingdom-of-foota-modern-senegal-who-had-escaped-from-his-owners-in-maryland-and-made-his-way-to-england-probably-england-dated-ad-1733-on-last-page2/. Text from Bonham’s auction catalog:

An unusual Qur'an manuscript, written from memory by Ayub bin Suleyman (Job, son of Solomon), a former slave, originally from the kingdom of Foota (modern Senegal), who had escaped from his owners in Maryland and made his way to England

Probably England, dated AD 1733 on last page

Arabic manuscript on European watermarked paper, 223 leaves, 21 lines to the page written in a personal, cursive script in black ink, three dots between verses, catchwords, flyleaves with an English account of Job's life and journeys, probably written in the 18th Century, further notes in English and Latin by Samuel Chandler and William Smith, and a pen and ink portrait of Job, brown morocco gilt, cover decorated with a blind-tooled diaper pattern, doublures and flyleaves of marbled paper, bookplate of Dr and Mme. Bodichon, Blandford Square, in good condition, 192 x 136 mm.; and Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Ahmad, better known as Ibn Maryam al-Malifi al-Madyuni al-Tilmasani, Kitab al-Bustan fi akhbar al-auliya' wa'l-'uluma', a dictionary of the scholars of Tlemcen, with an index, copied by the scribe 'Abdullah bin Jinan bin Muhammad bin Moulay Ahmad bin Moulay 'Abdul-Rahman bin Musa al-Sharif, North Africa, probably Morocco, dated Saturday 25th Rabi' al-awwal 1315/24th August 1897, Arabic manuscript on European watermarked paper, 200 leaves, 17 lines to the page written in maghribi script in black ink, significant sentences, words and dates picked out in red, green and yellow, catchwords, headings written in red, in good condition, brown morocco with blind-tooled central medallions and inner borders, faded, with flap

164 x 129 mm.(2)



Private US collection since the early 1960s; formerly in another Californian private collection.

The account of Job's journey in the flyleaves (possibly written by William Smith) runs thus:

Job ben Solomon ben Ibrahim was Imam to his Father who was high Priest of Bonda a Town in the Kingdom of Footah of which his grandfather Ibrahim had been both founder and legislator, and it is remarkable that among his laws there is one declaring that no Person who should flee thither for refuge should ever be made a Slave.

The Father of Job however having two slaves to dispose of sent his son with them to an English ship which had just gone up the Gambia; but the Captain not agreeing to his terms, Job crossed the Gambia and sold the Slaves in the Mandingo Country, where on his return he was seized by a marauding Party, bound and carried off, and sold to Captain Pyke of the Ship already mentioned.

The Captain, knowing Job, would have allowed him to redeem himself; but, the distance from his Father to whom he wrote for the means not admitting of the messenger's return in less than a fortnight, the Captain who sailed in less than a week carried him to Maryland, where he was sold to a Mr Tolsey who employed him in making Tobacco and taking care of his father.

Miserable under these circumstances and the perpetual Interruption of his devotions He at length resolved on flight; and accordingly in 1731 escaped to Pennsylvania, where he was taken up and thrown into Prison till reclaimed by Mr Tolsey, who now enquiring into the History of his Slave took him home and treated him with greater kindness than before.

Job wrote now a letter to his Father, in Arabic, acquainting him with his situation, but there being no direct conveyance at that time to Africa it was sent round by England, where lying for a while in the hands of a Mr Hunt it was seen by General Oglethorpe, who immediately so interested himself in his behalf that he induced Mr Hunt to send for him to England securing by Bond to that gentleman a Sum of Money on his arrival here.

Mr Hunt accordingly ordered Job to be bought for him, and in 1733 imported him into England in the Character of his Slave, from which however he was soon redeemed by a Subscription and the African Company paying all charges on his account cancelled the Bond which had been given by General Oglethorpe to Mr Hunt, and gave Job his Freedom endorsed in Form under their own Seal.

Many Persons of Consequence afforded him their Patronage here, the Duke of Montagu in particular; and he was presented to the King and Queen by Mr Hans Sloane who employed him frequently in translating Arabic MSS and inscriptions.

In 1734 the African Company accomodated him with a Passage in one of their ships bound for the Gambia and he left England furnished with all Instruments of husbandry, and various tools the use of which had made a Principal Part of his Studies here.

His Father had died in his absence, and one of his Wives had married again, he deeply lamented the former Event and the latter he forgave. He also expressed concern when on his return he found that the King of his Country, whose favor he had enjoyed before, had invaded the Mandingoes and taken a great revenge for his Captivity. His Gratitude was also to be seen in his letters sent back to his benefactors here and the language of affection in which he speaks of the English nation. Tho' a scrupulous Mahometan he had a tolerant Spirit and was rather friendly to Christianity. His docility appeared in his ready attainment of our language and the use of our tools, and his memory from the very MS to which this account is annexed, for it is one of three which he wrote entirely from his unassisted recollection.

Another note of Smith's reads: This Job when in London used to visit almost weekly at the House of Mr Joseph Smith my great-uncle, who then lived in Cannon Street in the City - anno 1733.

This remarkable story, with its mercifully happy ending, has, of course, a grim background of human bondage and suffering. Job's initial capture resembles an incident in a picaresque novel of the period, and the callous attitude of Captain Pyke, regarding Job simply as a piece of property to be carried off more or less in compensation for his trouble, is shocking. (Though it should be noted too that Job himself was trafficking in slaves). It seems like sheer good fortune that Mr Tolsey actually enquired into Job's background after his recapture in America - surely many who made the same attempt were not treated with such clemency. The concept of Job as property is emphasised by the fact that despite Mr Hunt's kindness in taking him to England, Job had to be regarded as a slave and redeemed (like a human dividend) in order to get into England. He is even described as being 'imported' into that country (though we should allow for some difference in usage in 18th Century English).

The kingdom of Foota (otherwise called Fouta Tooro or Fuuta Tooro) was a region on the Senegal river in west Africa, comprising what is now northern Senegal and southern Mauritania. The area had only converted to Islam in the early 18th Century (in which case Job's ability to write out the manuscripts from memory is all the more impressive). In around 1776 the Imamate of Futa Tooro became powerful and in turn provoked the seizing of power by other Muslim groups in west Africa.

Job's connection with Hans Sloane (1660-1753) is intriguing, and it is noteworthy, given Sloane's interest in botany, that Job left England with 'Instruments of Husbandry', and had spent a good deal of time studying that field. Presumably he was engaged in assisting Sloane with the study of Arabic manuscripts relating to natural history and medicine in particular. At his death in 1753 Sloane bequeathed all his books, prints, drawings, coins and other items to the nation, and these formed the nucleus of the British Museum, which opened to the public in 1759.

[19] Naylor and Wallace, Author of his own fate?..., 2019.

[20] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spalding_Gentlemen%27s_Society; Naylor and Wallace, p. 363,n. 108 and Appendix 3.   There is a note in Arabic in Job’s hand which could also be used in a comparative study of all the known handwriting attributed to him.

[21] Who was Thomas Bluett? Who was Mr. Tolsey (Tolson?)?  Why the revival of interest in Job in 1750?

[22] For the probable undercounting of slaves in this census see: Russell R. Menard, The Maryland Slave Population, 1658 to 1730: A Demographic Profile of Blacks in Four Counties.The William and Mary Quarterly, Jan., 1975, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Jan., 1975), pp. 29-54.

[23] https://nativeamericansofdelawarestate.com/Delmarva_Indians_&_Underground_Railroad.htm.   There are some striking similarities  between the African  origins of those aboard the  Arabella (1730s)  and the later Lord Ligonier (1767) of Kunte Kinte fame.  The Lord Ligonier arrived in Annapolis with 96 slaves, one of whom at least was also said to be a Muslim.  The Lord Ligonier was larger (236 tons as opposed to 164 tons) and carried fewer slaves.  It embarked from Gambia with 140 slaves arriving at Annapolis with 96 (31% fewer slaves), while the Arabella began with 169 slaves and arrived with 150 (21% fewer slaves).   See the Slave Voyages database for the details for the Arabella (Voyage ID 75094) and the Lord Ligonier (Voyage ID 75775).  D. G. Brinton in an 1887 note in the American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal (Volume IX-January-November, pp. 350-354 suggests that runaway slaves who were Muslim and from Gambia, added counting words to the now defunct Nanticoke language.

[24] The term “underground railroad” was first used by Thomas Smallwood, an escaped slave.  See: Scott Shane. Flee North : A Forgotten Hero and the Fight for Freedom in Slavery's Borderland First ed. New York: Celadon Books, 2023.

[25] https://www.thirdhaven.org/history.php and https://www.thirdhaven.org/his.html 

[26] https://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc3500/sc3520/012800/012815/html/12815bio.html 

[27] Maryland Register of Wills, 1629-1999, Talbot, Wills 1794-1804, vol.5, p. 366.

[28] See Talbot County Court (Land Records) BS23, ff. 561-562 for the Bristu deed and the literally hundreds of names and ages of Free Negroes that need to be added to the remarkable Legacy of Slavery database, if only sufficient funding could be found to do so..

[29] John Leeds Keer’s extensive probate records are available as images on http://familysearch,org, https://www.familysearch.org/search/image/index?owc=SNYC-MNG%3A146535201%3Fcc%3D1803986.  Kerr died at his home in Easton (Easton Gazette, XXVII,  issue 8, p. 3, February 24, 1844) and the house and garden were put up for sale (together or separately), American Commercial Daily Advertiser, Monday, August 5, 1844, p.4.  Note that it is possible that Ruth was a slave of Mrs. Rachel L. Kerr,  deceased, John Lee Leeds Kerr whose slaves Levin and another negro man named Jacob, fled from a farm near Easton in 1834 (Easton Gazette, June 28, 1834, p. 4).  In 1894 a number of Nebraska newspapers published accounts of interviews with Ruth Cox Adams, one of which relates that she earned a living as a nurse in Talbot County after being taught to read and write by her ‘master’, while another relates her escaping from the household of John Leeds Kerr, presumably on her death. See:  Lincoln Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska, Sat, Apr 9, 1898, Page 6, and Norfolk Daily News, Norfolk, Nebraska, Sat, Mar 3, 1894

Page 3.

[30] Lincoln Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska, Sat, Apr 9, 1898, Page 6

[31] For details of Ruth Cox Adams’s life see: Leigh Fought. Women in the World of Frederick Douglass. Oxford University Press 2017, https://sites.google.com/a/apseagles.org/arlofreedomproject/home/nebraska_sites/ruth-cox-adams-burial-site,  and https://history.nebraska.gov/ruth-cox/.