Letter 57

Synopsis of Letter 57

Nettie enthuses about the first leg of the journey by ship across the Atlantic, to raise funds in England, during which she notices Samuel’s positive qualities. However, she is shocked to discover that the slave trade was centred in England and that millions of Africans were captured and sold into slavery, not only by English slave traders, but also by native Africans who delivered their own countrymen and women into slavery.

Netty believes that Africa’s present poverty and the illiteracy of its people is because the strongest and most able Africans were transported into slavery in America. However, she acknowledges that English missionaries have worked in Africa and other parts of the world for over a century, making her hopeful that her own and the family’s missionary work will do a great deal of good for Africa and its people.

Commentary on Letter 57

The narrative here is full of passion, as Nettie enthuses about her experiences on board ship and English culture, juxtaposed with horror about England and America’s role in the slave trade. Her opinion that Africa’s decline was caused by the actions of Africans themselves, who murdered or sold into slavery people who were strong, is rather naive, but it can be seen as an illustration of the African-American preoccupation with slave ancestry and the discovery of the roots of black culture. Nettie is beginning to learn about the colonial history of Africa at this point in the narrative. As her missionary work with Corrine and Samuel progresses through interaction with the Olinka tribe, more of the injustices of colonial oppression will be revealed. At this point Nettie’s education is a work in progress.

Investigating Letter 57

  • What do you notice about the comparisons and contrasts between England and America (see chapter 56) in their attitude to slavery and coloured people?
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