Joseph F. Baiden Tells a Slavery Story as Seen Through African Eyes
An interview with the author of 'Seeds of Slavery'
|Feb 11, 2020|
Joseph F. Baiden grew up in Ghana, but he didn’t learn much about the Transatlantic slave trade’s impact on that country. Ghana was a focal point for Europeans’ kidnapping of Africans. But Baiden hadn’t learned about that history, despite growing up where it occurred.
He realized many of the books he read about slavery came from a New World perspective. Baiden felt there were missing novels told from Africa’s viewpoint. So he wrote his own.
Baiden’s debut novel, Seeds of Slavery, tells the story of Mussah and Hawa. They’re lovers stolen into slavery. Together they face the Middle Passage, the deadly voyage from Africa to the Americas that all slaves endured. (Though many forced to make the journey didn’t survive.)
Seeds of Slavery (Paid links: Amazon | Bookstore) is now on sale. In the interview below, Joseph F. Baiden talks about his inspiration for the book, learning to love American football and more. If you enjoy this interview, please consider sharing it with others. Thank you!
Interview with Joseph F. Baiden
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
After high school in Ghana and working for four years, I felt the education system, British type, had a long duration and decided to come to the United States for a shorter education system. I did some research about schools in the United States and decided that the University of Nebraska was adequate and that, decision landed me in Omaha, Neb. After graduation, I moved to Los Angeles, where I have lived till now.
I read the book and saw the TV series, Roots by Alex Haley and connected with slavery stories I knew. Suddenly, I felt I have stories to tell from Africa. I read many books and saw many movies and realized that almost all the slavery stories being told were from the plantation era and became inspired to write about Ghana slavery events. Seeds of Slavery is my first book, and there are more to come.
As a Husker, I enjoy both college and professional football. It took me a while to transition from soccer, which is being played with legs, to football being played with hands. I spend time relaxing with sports in general.
You’ve said you wrote your novel, Seeds of Slavery, in part to share the African experience of the slave trade. Can you explain?
Slavery is a tragedy in human history, and the events must be passed on from generation to generation to avoid repetition. Born and grew up in Ghana, I have never felt that the slavery story told is complete. We often read about the slavery events of the plantation era. Seeds of Slavery novel is to create awareness of slavery events which occurred in Ghana during the capturing, bartering, and transporting slaves and hope that readers will connect those events to the plantation era, which we often see in movies or read about.
How much is the history of the slave trade a part of where you grew up in West Africa?
Ghana, which used to be called the Gold Coast, was among the first African countries to be colonized by the Europeans. The British developed great economic interest in the colony and established a stronghold. Eventually, the colony became the seat of government throughout the English speaking West African colonies. They built castles and forts to boost their economic activities, and by doing so, the Gold Coast alone contributed about 48 percent of the West African slave trade.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
Ghana Museums and Monuments Board administers all the historic sites in the country. After my registration with the Board, I visited the Cape Coast Castle, Pikworo Slave Camp, and the Slave River, which is sometimes called the Last Bath. I was assigned educators at each location who gave me site tours, did a fabulous job to fill me in with historical events, and answered all my questions.
Growing up in Ghana, my surprise was that, the Slave River is in a town were my aunt resided with her family, and I visited the town many times without knowing anything about the existing historical monument. I remember seeing many tourists in town but had no curiosity to ask any question. More than that, I completed high school in Ghana without knowing anything of such historical importance. This, however, became another inspirational factor to write the book to educate people about slavery.
Was there anything in particular about researching or writing the novel that you found most difficult?
I quickly found out through the researching stage of the book that I would be challenged by inadequate record-keeping of the time. As an example, I took particular interest about the ship, Lady Josephine, and wanted to know everything about it. But most of my questions were referred to museums in Britain and I decided to revisit that for my next book.
Pikworo Slave Camp is in a town called Paga which is situated in the northern part of Ghana. My road trip from Accra to Paga was adventurous and memorable.
How much of the novel’s story, involving characters such as Samuel Hastings, Albert Dross, Mussah, and Hawa is based on fact? And how much is fiction?
I knew about Mussah and Hawa since I was a boy through a story narrated to me by my grandfather. The entire book is about 82% facts and 18% fiction.
Are there misconceptions about, or unknown aspects of, the slave trade in Africa that you’d like others to know about?
Reviewers of Seeds of Slavery often write that the book affirms the notion that Africans in many ways participated in capturing their neighbors into slavery. My group discussions of this idea generated three different kinds of thoughts. Some people believe that Africans did not in any way participated in the slave trade, some people think the Africans contributed to the slave trade but have no proof, and some people strongly believe the Africans helped the Europeans to capture their own people.
Seeds of Slavery help to understand the trend of events of the time. The action of the two kings, capturing their neighbors for sale, is clear evidence.
Who are some of your favorite writers, both past and present?
“Macbeth” and “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare
Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell
Pride and Prejudice and Emma by Jane Austen
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Roots by Alex Haley
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim
The Invention of Wigs by Sue Monk Kidd
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Twelve Years A Slave by Solomon Northup
Lastly, anything else you'd like Bidwell Hollow followers to know about you or your work?
The book is available at all online book retailers; mainly:
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