A Fugitive Slave, Suriname, ca. 1831


Pierre Jacques Benoit, Voyage a Surinam . . . cent dessins pris sur nature par l'auteur (Bruxelles, 1839), plate xliv, fig. 90. (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University)


A forest scene by a riverside. An escaped slave is sitting in his shelter, with various utensils and goods, including rifle and canoe. Benoit writes: it is not rare to find, in the most remote places, a black man who spends entire years secluded and isolated from communication with other men. The author once encountered one of these fugitives in an almost impenetrable forest where he had lived for three years. He had no family or companionship and lived off of crabs, monkeys, snakes, bananas, everything that nature offered. He had only ventured twice to Paramaribo, to trade various forest products for lead shot, powder, and gin (p. 59). Benoit (1782-1854), a Belgian artist, visited Suriname around 1831 and apparently stayed for several months. The 100 lithographs in his book (hand colored in the John Carter Brown copy), accompanied by textual descriptions of varying detail, are derived from drawings he made during his visit, which included time in Paramaribo, the capital, as well as trips into the interior visiting Maroons and Amerindians. Forty of his lithographs, with our translations from the French text, are shown on this website.


Benoit, Pierre Jacques

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