a West African Muslim Slave

yarrow mamout

Yarrow, who was sixteen at the time he was enslaved, was neither the first Fulani nor the first Muslim to be brought to America as a slave. Still, Muslim slaves were uncommon. In early America, literate men knew Shakespeare’s Othello and tended to think of black Muslims in Shakespearean terms, distinguishing them from other Africans. Shakespeare’s Othello was not Fulani, but white Americans in colonial times did not make such fine distinctions. They were intrigued by these educated, black Muslims and referred to them as Mohametans or, perhaps through Shakespeare’s influence, Moors, and they tended to treat them better than uneducated slaves. In Africa, Muslims were typically the ones who owned slaves and sold them to traders for transport to America.

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