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John Gabriel Stedman, 1744-1797
Narrative of Joanna; An Emancipated Slave, of Surinam. (From Stedman's Narrative of a Five Year's Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam)
Boston: Isaac Knapp, 1838.


A native of Holland, John Gabriel Stedman (1744-1797) was a lieutenant-colonel in the Dutch military and served in Surinam (Dutch Guiana). He based his Narrative of a Five Years' Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (1838) on his military experiences there. While in Surinam, he married a mulatto slave named Joanna and fathered a son. Through his efforts, both his wife and son were eventually freed from slavery, but they remained in Surinam when Stedman returned to Holland. Shortly after his return, Stedman married Adriana Wintz van Coehorn, a Dutch woman, although Joanna was still living. Following Joanna's death in 1782, their son came to Europe. Later he served as a midshipman in the British navy and died at sea near Jamaica. Stedman continued in his military career for most of his life and died in Devonshire, England in 1797.

The selection "Narrative of Joanna; An Emancipated Slave, of Surinam" is a compilation of excerpts about Joanna and her son from Stedman's 1838 Narrative. It begins with Stedman and Joanna's first meeting while she was a slave and includes details about their marriage and early life together. Their primary difficulty was in securing freedom for Joanna and her son. Stedman praises Joanna's personality and sweet nature, describing several instances of her loyalty, concern, and devotion during his absences and illnesses. In Stedman's account, Joanna refused to return to Europe with him, and he learned about her death soon after his return. The editors include two poems at the end of the work, "A Negro Mother's Appeal," and "The Slave-Dealer."

Work Consulted: Stephen, Leslie, ed., The Dictionary of National Biography, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1885-1901.

Monique Prince

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