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Ukawsaw Gronniosaw
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Ukawsaw Gronniosaw was born in what is today Nigeria , at Borno near Lake Chad . His mother was the eldest daughter of the king of Zaara. He was kidnapped by a slaver at about fifteen and sold to a number of masters, the last of them a “very gracious, good Minister” in New York who converted him to Christianity and had him educated. Gronniosaw's master freed him at his death, and the young man went on to work as a ship's cook, servant and soldier in the British army, before coming to England . He suffered racial abuse and was cheated out of his money in Portsmouth , and later recalled his horror “that the place where so many eminent Christians had lived and preached could abound with so much wickedness and deceit”.

Gronniosaw moved to London , where he changed his name to James Albert and married a poor English widow with a child. Their marriage was happy, but they suffered from grinding poverty and had to move all over the country in search of work.

In around 1770 Gronniosaw published his Narrative of the Most remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw , an African Prince , the first autobiography written by an African in Britain . In it, he tells of a series of lost jobs and employers who refused to pay him; times of near starvation and falling foul of local laws when his daughter died in a new town and local ministers at first refused to bury her – though he also mentions many people who have helped the family. The book ends with Gronniosaw, aged around sixty, still unsure of how he and his family will survive.

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