Testimonies of the Enslaved in the Caribbean Literary History

  • Nicole N. Aljoe
Part of the New Caribbean Studies book series (NCARS)


“The Speech of John Talbot Campo-bell” appeared as a response to the publication “The Speech of Moses Bon Sa’am” (1735). Bon Sa’am’s speech was reported to be that of a Maroon leader exhorting a crowd that included slaves to retaliate against the system on enslavement by attacking Jamaican plantation owners. Though intended to offer a strident and sophisticated defense of colonial slavery, close analysis of the narrative reveals the ways in which its pro-slavery critiques are undermined at several crucial points in the narrative. In addition to revealing some of the elements of what I call, creole testimony, the narrative also reveals the importance of slave voices to early print culture in the Caribbean. The appearance and proliferation of varieties of first-person narratives of Caribbean slavery suggests that both sides realized the importance of marshaling the slave voice, of to quote Ephraim Peabody from his 1849 analysis of the new genre slave narrative, providing “pictures of slavery by slaves.” Narratives such as Campo-bell’s also contributes to the creation of the textual paradigms constructed for carrying the slave voice. Moreover, although the narrative is heavily mediated, it nonetheless communicates important details about slave lives. That the message is “profoundly mediated,” should not inhibit close readings, especially if we focus on the narratives as unique types of documents, rather than the textual representation of the autobiography of a historical individual.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole N. Aljoe
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA

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