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Job’s Domestic Slaves
How the Ancients Spoke Before the World Was Woke
Job, classified as a “negro” was manifestly not, and was found to write Arabic and to carry himself with great dignity, to the point where after he ran away and was recaptured for not having a freedom pass, his master declined to have him beaten, but actually permitted him to write a letter home in Arabic, a letter which was intercepted by Oglethorpe in London and resulted in the great man’s patronage.
Job had been sold for 20 pounds in Annapolis, the price normally paid for a good strong European man, while the going rate for negroes was 30-40 pounds, indicating that although he might have been classified as a negro, his purchaser never believed him to be a negro, at least not at the point of sale. Job was also regarded as being kidnapped, a term typically applied to Scottish victims of human trafficking rings.
What follows are references to Job’s “domestics” or personal slaves, a shadowy set of figures, and then a supposition as to their nature. Note that many European men of ability, were adopted as personal servants, and ranked up to general and admiral by their Muslim masters in the military services.
“While in England, his [Oglethorpe] friend Bluet, collected from Job the history of his life, which he published, and from which some of the preceding, and several of the following particulars are extracted.
“He is described as being a fine figure, five feet ten inches in height; of a pleasing but grave countenance, and having strait black hair. His natural qualities were excellent. He was possessed of a solid judgment, a ready and wonderfully retentive memory, an ardent love for truth, and a sweet disposition, mild, affectionate, and grateful. His religion was Mahometanism; but he rejected the idea of a sensual paradise, and several other traditions that are held among the Turks.
“The name of this extraordinary man was Ayoub Ibn Soliman Ibrahim, that is. Job the son of Solomon the son of Abraham. His nation was that of the Jalofs ; his tribe, or cast, the Pholey, or Foulah ; and his native place Bunda, a city of Galumbo, in the kingdom of Futa, in Central Africa, opposite Tombuto.”
This city was at the fabled terminus of the gold road across the Sahara from Morocco to sub-Saharan regions where slaves of European origin, often “white” women, were traded for gold. These slaves have literally been called “white gold.”
“Ibrahim, the grandfather of Job, was the founder of the city of Bunda, during the reign of Abubeker, then king of Futa ; who gave him the proprietor ship and government of it, with the title of Alfa or High Priest...”
During the Plantation Era, the climate event now known as The Little Ice Age had generally made conditions in the Sahara less dry and seems to have facilitated the expansion of Arabic horsemen into sub-Saharan Africa as conquerors.
“In the month of February, 1730, the father of Job, having learnt that an English vessel had arrived in the Gambia, sent his son thither, attended by two domestics, to procure some European commodities; but charged him not to cross the river, because the inhabitants of the opposite bank were Mandingoes, enemies of the kingdom of Futa.”
These domestics being slaves, would most likely be Europeans who would have the ability to assess the quality of European goods.
“Job, coming to no agreement with Captain Fyke, the commander of the English vessel, sent back his two domestics to Bunda, to render an account of his affairs to his father, and to inform him that his curiosity induced him to travel further. With this view he made a contract with a negro merchant, named Loumein-Yoa, who understood the language of the Mandingoes, to serve him as an interpreter and guide on an expedition and overture.”
Job and Loumein-Yoa were then abducted by the Mandingoes, Job had his hair and beard shaved, and they were sold to Captain Fyke, who did wait for a ransom to release Job, but had to sail before it arrived. Job and Loumein-Yoa were sold to owners in Annapolis Maryland and the negro interpretor vanishes from history. Only Job’s literacy, as with Chinese mandarins sold as “negroes” facilitated his emancipation.
The fact that Job elected to send back his European domestics, who seem to have served as his interpretors until deployed as messengers, choosing a negro instead, indicated that he needed some tribal language options in his quest, further suggesting that these slaves were Europeans. Also, sending them away might have indicated Job’s concern that the English might stoop so low as to rescue their countrymen, though this would have been wholly out of character for 18th century Englishmen.
We have no idea if Loumein-Yoa was a negro or an Arab or a half-caste, as any non-European falling into the plantation system tended to be labelled negro as were half-European offspring of the slave masters themselves.
In any case, the means by which translation was achieved in the early modern era was generally via the use of slaves or merchants, which seem to have been the case with Job’s mercantile expedition. Soto would employ a chain of thirty or more tribal slaves with the Taino-Spanish speaker next to him and a member of every neighboring tribe shackled in order, until the person being addressed by the conquistador would finally be spoken to by his captured neighbor, reflecting the reality that most tribal speakers can command some aspect of a tribal neighbor’s language enough to facilitate understanding.
Also note, that the Mandingoes, unlike Europeans, who divided themselves into economic subraces and sold off their own children with great eagerness, did not sell their own people, but rather their enemies.
Who were the domestics?
They were most likely Englishmen, at least one of them, and like most of the roughly 2.5 million Europeans who were taken into bondage by African slavers, they never saw their way out of that dark continent.
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