The Book of Negroes, by Lawrence Hill

Reviewed by Bonnie L. Schepers UE, Central West Region VP, UELAC

As indicated in an earlier release of Loyalist Trails, CBC Radio has chosen The Book of Negroes as one of five books for “Canada Reads” this spring. I just finished reading the book last week and want to add my recommendation to that of Ruth Nicholson UE.

In his novel, The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill creates a gripping tale of the strength of the human spirit. Through the story of Aminata Diallo, the reader is led on a life journey that begins in West Africa, then to the North American continent, back to Africa and finally to Great Britain. One is caught up in the horrors of Aminata’s life in slavery and then the possibility of freedom presented through the proclamation of Lord Dunmore, Governor of Virginia, in 1775 and again with the Philipsburg Proclamation of 1779.

When she arrives in New York City at The Fraunces Tavern during the early days of the American Revolution, Aminata’s story becomes a Loyalist story. Because of her ability to read and her skill as a midwife she is a mentor to the Negroes of Canvas Town and later a valuable assistant to the British forces as they prepare for evacuation to Nova Scotia. As I read this book my heart and mind were captivated by the character of Aminata and her story. I recommend it not only for its Loyalist content but for its ability to reveal the harsh reality of slavery and the amazing courage exemplified in the life of one determined woman.

You can read more about The Book of Negroes at

Title: The Book of Negroes
Author: Lawrence Hill
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada, Toronto
Pages: 384
ISBN-10: 0-00-225507-3;   ISBN-13: 978-0-00-225507-3
Year: 2007