A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw

This text describes James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw’s life experiences in the British American colonies. A young English woman transcribed Gronniosaw's quest to maintain his emancipation and his dream of a better life in the United Kingdom.
James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw
Grade Level

This text is part of the Teaching Hard History Text Library and aligns with Key Concept 6.

My kind, indulgent Mistress liv’d but two years after my Master. Her death was a great affliction to me. She left five sons, all gracious young men, and Ministers of the Gospel.--I continued with them all, one after another, till they died; they liv’d but four years after their parents. When it pleased God to take them to Himself. I was left quite destitute, without a friend in the world. But I who had so often experienced the Goodness of GOD, trusted in Him to do what He pleased with me. 

In this helpless condition I went in the wood to prayer as usual; and tho’ the snow was a considerable height, I was not sensible of cold, or any other inconveniency.--At times indeed when I saw the world frowning round me, I was tempted to think that the LORD had forsaken me. I found great relief from the contemplation of these words in Isaiah xlix. v. 16. “Behold I have graven thee on the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” And very many comfortable promises were sweetly applied to me. The lxxxix. Psalm and 34th verse, “My covenant will I not break nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” Hebrews, chap. xvi. v. 17, 18. Phillipians, chap. i. v. 6; and several more. 

 As I had now left all my dear and valued friends every place in the world was alike to me. I had for a great while entertain’d a desire to come to ENGLAND.--I imagined that all the Inhabitants of this Island were Holy; because all those that had visited my Master from thence were good, (Mr. Whitefield was his particular friend) and the authors of the books that had been given me were all English. But above all places in the world I wish’d to see Kidderminster, for I could not but think that on the spot where Mr. Baxter had liv’d, and preach’d, the people must be all Righteous. 

 The situation of my affairs requir’d that I should tarry a little longer in NEW-YORK, as I was something in debt, and was embarrass’d how to pay it.--About this time a young Gentleman that was a particular acquaintance of one of my young Master’s, pretended to be a friend to me, and promis’d to pay my debts, which was three pounds; and he assur’d me he would never expect the money again.--But, in less than a month, he came and demanded it; and when I assur’d him I had nothing to pay, he threatened to sell me.--Though I knew he had no right to do that, yet as I had no friend in the world to go to, it alarm’d me greatly.--At length he purpos’d my going a Privateering, that I might by these means, be enabled to pay him, to which I agreed.--Our Captain’s name was---- I went in Character of Cook to him.--Near St. Domingo we came up to five French ships, Merchant-men.--We had a very smart engagement that continued from eight in the morning till three in the afternoon; when victory declar’d on our side.--Soon after this we were met by three English ships which join’d us, and that encourag’d us to attack a sleet of 36 Ships.--We boarded the three first and then follow’d the others; and had the same success with twelve; but the rest escap’d us.--There was a great deal of blood shed, and I was near death several times, but the LORD preserv’d me. 

This text is in the public domain. Retrieved from http://abolition.nypl.org/content/docs/text/narrative_gronniosaw.pdf.
Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    How did James Albert feel after the deaths of the family that enslaved him and eventually freed him?
    James Albert was concerned that he did not have a friend in the world after the deaths of the family that enslaved and eventually freed him. He felt alone and afraid without shelter, money or support.
  2. Question
    Why did James decide to migrate to England?
    James expressed a wish to migrate to England because he imagined that England contained holy, good and righteous people. James stated that all the authors of the books he owned were English.
  3. Question
    Why was James greatly alarmed when the young gentleman demanded his money?
    The young gentleman threatened to enslave James if he did not pay back the money, even though the man originally assured James the gift of money was not a debt. James had no friends to defend him against the young gentleman’s threat of enslavement.
  4. Question
    Why might it have been particularly dangerous for James Albert, as a black freedman, to privateer in the Caribbean?
    As a black freedman, James Albert was not protected from other privateers. Often, privateers would capture an enemy ship, impress the sailors into service, and sell their goods once ashore. James Albert might have been considered cargo rather than a sailor in the Caribbean because of his skin color.
  5. Question
    A Christian woman transcribed this account of James Albert. How did Christianity allow James to better navigate a society that enslaved Africans?
    His Christian beliefs allowed James to engage in a larger Christian society. James’s belief comforted him after the deaths of the family that enslaved him. James also believed that the English were devoted and holy people when English visitors stayed with his enslaver. And again, James believed that his Lord preserved him while he privateered to pay off his debt to the young gentleman in New York.
Reveal Answers