From his autobiography. Born around 1710 in modern-day Nigeria, Gronniosaw was brought as a slave from Africa to Barbados to New York City, where he was bought by a minister who taught him Christianity and how to read Dutch. After being freed upon his master’s death around 1747, immigrating to England in 1762, and marrying a widowed weaver, he dictated his life’s story to “a young lady.” It was printed in 1772, the first slave narrative published in English.
My master used to read prayers in public to the ship’s crew every Sabbath day, and when I first saw him read, I was never so surprised in my life as when I saw the book talk to my master, for I thought it did, as I observed him to look upon it and move his lips. I wished it would do so with me. As soon as my master had done reading, I followed him to the place where he put the book, being mightily delighted with it, and when nobody saw me, I opened it and put my ear down close upon it, in great hopes that it would say something to me; but I was very sorry and greatly disappointed when I found that it would not speak. This thought immediately presented itself to me, that everybody and everything despised me because I was bla