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The Odyssey of an African Slave

University Press of Florida
  • United States Studies

The Odyssey of an African Slave Overview

Recently discovered as a hand-written document in the Buckingham Smith Collection at the New York Historical Society, this remarkable first-person narrative traces the life of Sitiki, whose name was changed to Jack Smith after his enslavement in America. Captured and sold into slavery in Africa as a five-year-old, Sitiki traveled to America as a cabin boy. Eventually sold by the ship's captain to Josiah Smith of Savannah, Georgia, he lived there and in Connecticut with his new master. Captured by the British during the War of 1812, he was returned to the Smiths, to be freed only after the Civil War. He went on to become the first black Methodist minister in St. Augustine, Florida, where he established his own church. Patricia Griffin does not leave the story at the conclusion of the slave narrative, but explores Sitiki's experiences and places them in clear and valuable context. She presents the narrative unencumbered, allowing Sitiki’s authority, compassion, and personality to speak for itself.

The Odyssey of an African Slave Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Sitiki, captured in West Africa as a young boy in 1807, was brought to America as a slave; he died a free man in St. Augustine, FL, 75 years later. He wrote his memoir between 1869 and 1871 with the assistance of Buckingham Smith, a scholar of Spanish St. Augustine and Sitiki's former master (Sitiki was also known as Jack Smith). A free man after the Civil War, Sitiki became a Methodist pastor in St. Augustine. In his memoir, he shows how his journeys as a slave brought him in and out of several different systems and locations of servitude. The results offer unique information not only on his own life—this is the only known slave memoir from Florida—but on life more generally in 18th-century America and in St. Augustine from Spanish colonization to Florida statehood. Editor Griffin (Archaeology of the Everglades), a historical anthropologist, offers essays here with enlightened perspectives on Sitiki's experiences. VERDICT This is a fine addition to slave narrative reading lists that include The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself. Highly recommended to all students of American and African studies.—Edward G. McCormack, Univ. of South Mississippi, Gulf Coast Libs.

Readers' Reviews