Arabic-language autobiography of African slave in US goes online

Arabic-language autobiography of African slave in US goes online
2 min read
17 January, 2019
A 19th century Arabic-language autobiography of an African slave in America has been published online for the first time.
Omar Ibn Said spent his life before slavery as a Musim scholar in West Africa


The United States Library of Congress has published online an autobiography of a 18th to 19th century African slave described as the "only known surviving slave narrative written in Arabic".

The Omar Ibn Said Collection consists of 42 original documents and a 15-page autobiography of the scholar-turned-slave who was born in what is present-day Senegal.

"It is a historically unique and important primary source for those trying to understand the connections between the Muslim communities in Western Africa and the slaves who continued to practice Islamic faith after being captured during the Atlantic slave trade," said a statement by the Library of Congress on Tuesday.

Acquired by the library in 2017, the collection of texts give a rare first-hand account of the life of an African American slave, as well as that of an early Muslim in America.

"This rare collection is extremely important because Omar Ibn Said's autobiography is the only known existent autobiography of a slave written in Arabic in America," said Mary-Jane Deeb, chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division at the Library of Congress.

"The significance of this lies in the fact that such a biography was not edited by Said's owner, as those of other slaves written in English were, and is therefore more candid and more authentic."

You can read the biography here.