Job Ben Solomon (Ayuba Suleiman Diallo), 1750


Engraving in Library of Congress, Rare Books and Special Collections (see also, Comments)


A Fulbe (Fulani) from the eastern region of present-day Senegal, Solomon (or, Ayuba Suleiman Diallo) was a Moslem and literate in Arabic. At around the age of 29, while on a trade mission (which included two slaves he intended to sell to the British), hundreds of miles from his homeland, he was captured, sold to an English slave-ship captain, and shipped from the Gambia to Annapolis, Maryland. There he worked on tobacco farms for about a year, went to England, and ultimately found employment with the Royal African Company in Gambia, where he died in 1773 at the age of around 72. For key references to accounts of Ben Solomon's life, see Jerome S. Handler, Survivors of the Middle Passage: Life Histories of Enslaved Africans in British America, Slavery & Abolition, vol. 23 (2002), p. 49, fn 5. Another engraving of him was published in the Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 20 (1750), facing p. 272. The engraving shown here is based on an oil painting done in 1733 by the British painter William Hoare (1701-1773). It is the earliest known British oil portrait of a person of African birth. The painting is owned by the Qatar Museums Authority which has loaned it to the National Portrait Gallery (London), where it will be on display for a five year period starting 20 January 2011. A color slide of the painting and other relevant details are on the website of the National Portrait Gallery, London (Thanks to Jan Marsh for bringing this painting to our attention).

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