Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Someone Knows My Name

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Someone Knows My Name

aka: The Book of Negroes

by Lawrence Hill

Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill X
Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Nov 2007, 512 pages
    Nov 2008, 512 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

Print Review

Did you know?

  • Original copies of the Book of Negroes can be found in England at the Public Records Office, in the United States in the National Archives and in Canada in the Nova Scotia Archives. It has also been transcribed in full and made available on the Black Loyalists web site. The Book is a 150 page record containing just under 3,000 names and brief descriptions of those blacks who were to be transferred to a smattering of British-held villages in Nova Scotia. The official proclamation of freedom to slaves who would aid the British war effort came from the Virginia colony governor, Lord Dunmore, who promised Black Loyalists freedom as a reward for service to the British during the American Revolution.

  • According to the Black Loyalists Digital Collection, up to 30,000 blacks responded to the call for help. The promise of freedom drew many more slaves to the British side than expected. The majority of blacks who assisted the British were never rewarded and many were re-enslaved by the victorious Americans. Only black loyalists who were in New York (the last British-held port) at the right time and successfully obtained a "Birch certificate" (a document signed by Brigadier General Birch) were recorded in the Book of Negroes and gained passage out of the harbor to Nova Scotia and elsewhere.

  • In Hill's fictional account, the real-life figure of Sam Fraunces assists and befriends Aminata after she is brought to New York City by her second owner. Fraunces's Manhattan tavern was restored just after the turn of the 20th century by the Sons of the American Revolution. Fraunces, who purchased the former Delancy mansion in 1762 and converted it to a tavern, was a free man, respected by both blacks and whites in revolution-era New York City. The tavern was home to gatherings of both rebel colonists and British military men. The tavern was also the site of a celebration marking the dismissal of George Washington's generals after the Revolutionary War concluded. Fraunces later became President Washington's personal steward.

  • Britain's Queen Charlotte (wife of the English King George III, 1738-1820), whom Aminata meets near the end of her life, has been proven to be a descendant of a "black branch of the Portuguese Royal House." The Queen's physical appearance fueled many rumors during her reign and earned her the nickname the "Black Queen."

  • Though cotton plantations are most often associated with slavery in America, indigo plantations were also reliant on slave labor. The prized blue dye was derived from the indigo plant only after a labor intensive harvesting process. The Special Collections Library of Duke University's 1995 exhibit "First Person, Third Person" contained a section on "Plantation America – the Work of Slaves," This illustration is a detail from a map from the exhibit that depicts slaves working on an indigo plantation, as Aminata does in Someone Knows My Name.

Interesting Links:

  • For more information about Olaudah Equiano, author of the famous anti-slavery autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano see British professor Dr. Brycchan Carey's site.
  • For the history of Sierra Leone, Africa, see the sidebar to Ancestor Stones by Aminatta Forna at BookBrowse.

Also see:

  • Author Lawrence Hill's article in the February/March 2007 issue of Canadian magazine the Beaver (fairly slow to open PDF file).
  • An excellent New York Times story about the Birchtown settlement in Nova Scotia.

Article by Stacey Brownlie

This article was originally published in November 2007, and has been updated for the November 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Little Fires Everywhere
    Little Fires Everywhere
    by Celeste Ng
    Voted 2017 Best Fiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    Small towns, big drama. Acclaimed author ...
  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...
  • Book Jacket: Killers of the Flower Moon
    Killers of the Flower Moon
    by David Grann
    Voted 2017 Best Nonfiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    The long, sorrowful list of injustices done ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dry
    The Dry
    by Jane Harper
    Voted 2017 Best Debut Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    After receiving a letter from his childhood...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

At once a love story, a history lesson and a beautifully written tale of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Story of Arthur Truluv
    by Elizabeth Berg

    An emotionally powerful novel from New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Autumn

Autumn by Ali Smith

One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, and a Man Booker Prize Finalist


Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay: $400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.