Archibald Monteath: Igbo, Jamaican, Moravian, Maureen Warner-Lewis, H-Net Reviews, May 2009

US$55 (s)

An African Slave's Life from the Pens of German Moravians

This book is a detailed study of the life of a former African slave, based upon the verbal biography he gave to German-American missionaries. As the title indicates, this intriguing life narrative is composed of many layers. The main character was born in Africa but, at a young age, was transported to Jamaica, where he remained until his death. As a member of the Moravian mission he had a third identity: he was part of a global brother- and sisterhood of fellow Moravians of different ethnic backgrounds. Because of the interest his fellow Moravians took in his life, his biography was recorded, translated, and published in various Moravian periodicals, and finally preserved in their archives.

Aniaso was born around 1792 as a member of the Igbo tribe in West Africa. His family belonged to the elite; Aniaso believed his maternal grandfather was a "prince." Aniaso estimated that he was around ten years old when a young man, a regular visitor to his village, talked him into following him to a large marketplace. There, the unsuspecting Aniaso was sold to a slave trader and put on a ship to Jamaica. As a personal servant to the ship's captain, Aniaso did not have to dwell in the overcrowded slave quarters below deck, but was allowed to stay in the captain's cabin together with a few other boys. It seems the captain initially intended to keep Aniaso as his own servant and not sell him. Aniaso relates how, at his own insistence, the captain consented and let him go ashore. There he was "immediately" sold to John Monteath, the owner of a plantation called Kep in southwest Jamaica. His new owner gave him the name Toby.

At first Toby served in the household of John and Nancy Monteath, but after a few years he was moved from lighter domestic duties to full outdoor labor. In 1815 his master died; Toby then became the property of his owner's widow and served as an overseer. During those years, Toby was baptized by a minister of the Church of England and was christened Archibald John Monteath--the name he kept for the rest of his life. In his autobiography, Archibald later admitted that he did not fully understand at that time what it meant to be baptized. Later, as a Moravian, he learned about a more personalized form of religion.

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