The Hilarious Story of Job Ben Solomon

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Job Ben Solomon was born Ayuba Suleiman Diallo in Bondu of the Futa Toro state present-day Senegal in 1701, to a noble family Islamic patriarchs. Due to the prestige and social status of his family, he became acquainted with Sambo the Futan prince and they both studied the Quran and Arabic language. By the time he was nineteen, he had married two wives and fathered several children. His family ties also ensured his success as by 1729, he was an established merchant.

In 1730, on expedition to purchase paper and other supplies Diallo and Loumein Ndiaye, his interpreter were captured by the Mandingo people who shaved their heads to personify them as captives of war to make legitimately enslavable. They were then sold to the Royal African Company, a dominant slave dealership in the region. He was sold to Vachell Denton, a sea captain, Annapolis, Maryland and was eventually sold to Mr Tolsey of Kent Island.

In America, his name was changed to Job Ben Solomon, the biblical translation of his Arabic name. On the Tosley property, he was assigned to work in the tobacco fields and it soon became apparent that his soft upbringing did not prepare him for such a daunting task and was re-assigned to tend cattle.

It was illegal for slaves to practice their native religions and offenders were tortured and humiliated by their masters. Solomon was however ardent to his beliefs ran to the woods to pray and he kept at that till a child chanced on him. The continual embarrassment he faced for practicing Islam informed his decision to run from his masters but he was briefly caught and thrown into the Kent County courthouse 1731.

At the courthouse, he met Reverend Thomas Bluett an Anglican priest and lawyer on a business trip and could speak Solomon’s native language Wolof. Reverend Bluett discovered Solomon’s mastery over the Arabic language and was stunned by it. After conversing for some time, he told Bluett of his noble background. Bluett ensured the release of Solomon back to his master and convinced him of Solomon’s aristocratic background. Tosley allowed Solomon to pen a letter to his father in Futa Toro. The letter was intercepted by James Oglethorpe, the director of Royal African Company who bought him for 45 dollars and sent him to London as a free-man.

On his journey to England Solomon taught himself to communicate in English and upon arriving individuals like captain arranged for him to lodge in a country province where he mingled with the aristocratic class. He heard rumours of slave hunters planning to abduct him and sell him off. He contacted his trusted friend Bluett who would allow Solomon to lodge at his residence in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. He was employed by Hans Sloane where he translated Arabic to English and also organising the collection of Arabic Manuscripts at the British Museum.  A group of his British friends including Bluett, Duke and Duchess of Montagu and some members of the royal family raised funds to allow Solomon’s return to his native land.

In July 1734, Solomon would finally realise his dream of getting back to Futa Toro. He would soon discover that his father had passed on and one of his remarried. He would regain his former glory and lead a prosperous life.  In 1738, his sheer determination buttressed with aid from his powerful acquaintances would secure the freedom of Loumein, the interpreter his got abducted with.  He would remain in Futa Toro till his death in 1773.

FUN FACT: Diallo’s social connections in England lead to him being inducted into the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society.

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