The Narratives of Ashy and Sibell is a compilation of two short first-person, oral accounts given by Ashy and Sibell, two African-born enslaved women in Barbados. Their narratives were originally transcribed to print by John Ford in a 1799 manuscript. Little is known about John Ford other than that he was most likely a white Barbados native. Each woman’s narrative provides details on her homeland and/or how she came to be a slave in Barbados, but neither woman directly comments on her current living conditions in Barbados, perhaps for fear of punishment.
In 1998, Jerome S. Handler published their oral histories as part of an article, “Life histories of enslaved Africans in Barbados” for Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies. The original late eighteenth-century transcription can be found at the Bodleian Library, but there is no record of how or when the transcript came to be there. According to the footnotes in Handler’s 199 article, T. D. Rogers, Deputy Keeper of Western Manuscripts at the Bodleian, believes the narratives to be part of a group of texts found in the rooms of the Bodleian during the 1890s. Since 1998 article is the earliest complete publication of these narratives, there is no contemporary reception or publication information available.
There is limited scholarship that engages directly with these narratives (Handler; John R. Rickford; Nicole N. Aljoe). Handler and Rickford focus on the Afro-Barbadian dialect as represented through Ford’s seemingly minimal editorial mediation of the two women’s oral accounts. Alternatively, Aljoe’s analysis addresses “the inherent narrative hybridity and fragmentariness associated with slave narratives” (“Caribbean Slave Narratives” 367). One potential area of further research could be an expanded linguistic analysis of the women’s speech. Another area of research could be the analysis of the content of these narratives and the ways in which each woman subtly subverts the oppressive society around her. With regards to Sibell’s narrative, one could also investigate how she portrays female-male relationships in 18th century Africa. For further information, see the secondary bibliography below.
Aljoe, Nicole N. "Caribbean Slave Narratives." The Oxford Handbook of the African American Slave Narrative. Ed. John Ernest. Oxford UP, 2014, pp. 362-70.
Handler, Jerome S. "Life Histories of Enslaved Africans in Barbados." Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, vol. 19 no. 1, 1998, pp. 129-40. Taylor Francis Online.
Aljoe, Nicole N. New Urban Atlantic : Creole Testimonies : Slave Narratives from the British West Indies, 1709-1838. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. ProQuest ebrary.
Handler, Jerome S. "Survivors of the Middle Passage: Life Histories of Enslaved Africans in British America." Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, vol. 23 no. 1, 2002, pp. 25-56. Taylor Francis Online.
Rickford, John R., and Jerome S. Handler. "Textual Evidence on the Nature of Early Barbadian Speech, 1676-1835." Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages vol. 9 no. 2, 1994, pp. 221-55.
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Afro-Barbadian speech, Ashy, Barbados, Creole, Female Slave Narratives, Sibell, Slave Dialect
Cite this Introduction
Sloman, Josephine. “An Introduction to The Narratives of Ashy and Sibell (1799)." The Early Caribbean Digital Archive. Northeastern University Digital Repository Service, 2015.
Northeastern University (2015)