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African American Passages Episode 2: The Long Journey of Omar Ibn Said

In the second episode of African American Passages: Black Lives in the 19th Century, John W. Kluge Center Distinguished Visiting Scholar and Georgetown University history professor Adam Rothman looks at the story of Omar Ibn Said. Rothman is joined on the podcast by Mary-Jane Deeb, the Chief of the Library of Congress’s African and Middle Eastern Division, and historian Sylviane Diouf.

Ibn Said was a Fula scholar from the West African kingdom of Futa Toro, captured around 1807 and sold into slavery in the United States. He left behind a remarkable autobiography, the only known autobiography of an enslaved person in the U.S. written in Arabic. Rothman wrote about his experience transcribing documents in the Omar Ibn Said Collection at the Library of Congress. He also previously wrote for us about a letter from an enslaved man to his owner, former President James K. Polk.

After listening to the podcast, consider joining Rothman and the Kluge Center for an event on February 21 at 4:00 pm. Rothman will be talking with Jesse J. Holland, award-winning journalist, novelist, and author of “Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History in and Around Washington” (2007).


“My Dear Master”: An Enslaved Blacksmith’s Letters to a President

An unusual letter arrived in the mail for the Tennessee planter James K. Polk shortly after he won the 1844 presidential election. Written from Carrollton, Mississippi, and dated November 28, 1844, the letter began “My Dear Master” and was signed by “Blacksmith Harry.” Here’s what Harry wrote: Suffer your faithful survant Harry to say a […]

Adam Rothman on Working With the Library’s Unique Omar Ibn Said Collection

While Adam Rothman, Georgetown University history professor and former Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Kluge Center, was at the Library, he had the opportunity to work on transcribing the Library of Congress’ Omar Ibn Said Collection, which was just released online. Ibn Said was an educated, wealthy man living in West Africa until he was […]

Africa, Past and Future: A Conversation with Toyin Falola

Members of the Scholars Council are appointed by the Librarian of Congress to advise on matters related to scholarship at the Library, with special attention to the Kluge Center and the Kluge Prize. The Council includes distinguished scholars, writers, researchers and scientists. “Insights” is featuring some of the work of this highly-accomplished group of thinkers. […]