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Book source: Stedman and Joanna, a love in bondage, by Beryl Gilroy

Subject: [Literature] Stedman and Joanna


Stedman and Joanna, a love in bondage, by Beryl Gilroy is historical fiction. This book is based on Captain John Gabriel Stedman's journal.

Part One-- It begins with the birth in 1744 of John Gabriel Stedman. He had a Dutch mother and lived in Breda, Holland. His father served as an officer in the Scots Brigade. As a youth, he was a merry prankster who had many amorous adventures and who enjoyed his childhood and youth.

At the age of 16 and then for eleven years he had been serving in the Scots Brigade with the rank of ensign then as a lieutenant. The Scots Brigade was loyal to the Dutch stadthouder, the Prince of Orange. Stedman left Holland as a captain on 2 February 1773. He served in Suriname for over 4 years.

Part Two - At age 28, young Captain Stedman meets Joanna while visiting Mrs Demelly. Joanna is a slave girl. Her father was a respectable Dutchman named Kruythoff, while her mother was an African slave woman Cery of the plantation Fauconberg on the Commewijne. Although Joanna was a slave Captain Stedman married Joanna. All you needed was to declare in the presence of a witness that it was the couples desire to become man and wife. Capt Stedman also received a slave boy Quaco who remained with Stedman. Quaco is bought free for nfl 500 under the manumission program and returned to Holland with Stedman. Joanna had to stay at the plantation most of the time and could visit Stedman only when time allowed. To free Joanna, Stedman had to purchase her for nfl 2,000. Stedman often returns sick from his patrols and is nursed back to health by Joanna and Quaco. Joanna gave birth to a son who is given the name of Robert Stedman but they call him Johnny or Jack. Stedman consults the Governor General in regard to Johnny's manumission which later is approved in 1777.

When Stedman's 4 years tour of duty in Suriname comes to an end, he often aks Joanna to come with him to Holland. She refuses as she wants to remain with her people [slaves]. Stedman writes in his journal:
..."I had learned to love the black people. I had come to know their kindness, their loyalty, and their humanity and could not understand why they were treated in such a unchristian way by those who claimed an enlightened life as their heritage"...

[my note] Since 1790, editors who worked on Stedman's manuscript changed his sympathetic view of slavery to one that takes the middle of the road humanitarianism ideology. Stedman made clear in his original writings that he was not opposed to the institution of slavery. Part Three-- The guerrilla war has come to an end. Stedman receives orders to return to Holland but Joanna wants to remain in Suriname. Of all the officers who had come with Stedman to Suriname in 1772 he is the only one alive. Had it not been for Joanna, he would have been dead too as he was often sick in Suriname.

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