Dutch group to burn Hill's Book of Negroes

16th June 2011, Comments 2 comments

A Dutch group is threatening to burn Canadian author Lawrence Hill's award-winning novel The Book of Negroes because they believe the word "negro" is a racist epithet.

The novel, which traces the life of a slave girl, was recently published in the Netherlands, where a group claiming to represent slavery victims has threatened to burn the book if its title isn't changed.

Mr Hill received a letter from Roy Groenberg, the leader of Dutch group Foundation Honour and Reparations Victims of Slavery in Surinam.

"We, descendants of enslaved in the former Dutch colony Suriname, want let you know that we do not accept a book with the title The Book of Negroes," he said in the letter. "We struggle for a long time to let the word 'nigger' disappear from Dutch language and now you set up your Book of Negroes! A real shame!"

Groenberg's group plans to burn the book on June 22, just 11 days before July 1, the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the former Dutch colonies.

Lawrence Hill said that the title has given him the chance to explain this piece of history, which he said is "fascinating, important and troubling, to many thousands of readers in Canada, the UK, The Netherlands and elsewhere.

The title is used not to provoke or offend but to resurrect a forgotten history. Really it affects the very people Mr. Groenberg purports to represent."

In a letter to Mr Groenberg he wrote that: "I have found that when given the opportunity to see what I am doing in this book and with this title, readers understand that the title is not intended to be offensive, but that it is used historically, to shed light on a forgotten document and on a forgotten migration that of thousands of Blacks from the USA to Canada in 1783."

The award-winning book has raised controversy before. Publishers in the United States and Australia called the book Someone Knows My Name. While in Quebec the book is titled Aminata.

The Book of Negroes refers to an actual historical document: a British naval ledger charting the migration of 3,000 African slaves from New York, to Nova Scotia and then to Africa.

Copies of the actual Book of Negroes are available in places such as the National Archives of Canada, Great Britain, and the New York City Public Library.

The Book of Negroes is one of the most popular books of the Toronto Public Library.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

2 Comments To This Article

  • Lucien posted:

    on 17th June 2011, 13:20:33 - Reply

    The very fact that Publishers in the United States and Australia changed te name of the book but the Dutch don't showes the satanic racist character of these founders of slavery. I live in Holland en experience racissm every day. It's in their blood. Shame on them and shame on the author!
  • Roger Waits posted:

    on 17th June 2011, 11:09:31 - Reply

    Just another 'group' with nothing better to do. Just go away please.