Job Ben Solomon

Job Ben Solomon (c.1700-1773) spent a brief time in slavery in Maryland until he attracted the attention of James Oglethorpe and was eventually freed in 1734 and returned to Africa as a celebrity among his fellow Foulah and neighboring Wolofs and Mandingoes.  He was born Ayuba Sulieman Ibrahima Diallo in the kingdom of Futa (Senegal) around 1700.  Job Ben Solomon came from a prominent Fulbe family of Muslim religious leaders.  His grandfather had founded the town of his birth, Bondu.  As a member of this royal family, he was the companion and friend of Sambo, the prince and heir to the throne of Futa, and as a part of the nobility he studied the Qur’an and the Arabic language.

In February 1730 Job Ben Solomon was on his way to the Gambia River to sell two enslaved Africans to an English trader when he himself was captured by Mandingo warriors and sold.   Although the English slaver captain was willing to ransom Job, his ship sailed before his father could send the money.  As a result, he was shipped with other Africans to Annapolis, Maryland, and delivered to Vachell Denton, for William Hut, a London merchant.  Job was sold to a Mr. Tolsey who operated a tobacco plantation on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  Realizing that Job had come from a cattle culture in West Africa, Tolsey assigned him to tending cattle.  In June, 1731, he escaped thanks to the involvement of a young boy who repeatedly interrupted his daily prayer.  He was apprehended in Dover, Delaware, and jailed.  In 1734 Thomas Bluett discovered that Job was literate in Arabic, pious in his religious devotion and “no common slave.” Bluett informed his master, who on his return allowed him a quiet place to pray and permitted him to write a letter in Arabic to his father.

The letter reached James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia and the director of England’s slave-trading Royal African Company, who arranged to purchase Job from Tolsey and in March, 1733, transported him by ship to England.  Accompanied by Bluett, Job learned to speak, read and write English.  In London, Bluett contacted several well-to-do gentlemen who raised 60 pounds to secure his freedom, and with the aid of the Royal African Company, Job Ben Solomon returned to Senegambia.  However, before leaving England in July, 1734, he had an audience with the British monarch, meeting with the entire royal family to dine with members of nobility who gave him many expensive gifts.

Upon his return to his homeland, he was greeted by his wives and children in Futa Toro.  While at home, Job used his influence to help the Royal African Company maintain its share of the trade in slaves and gold until the company disbanded in 1752. He retained commercial ties to the British until his death in 1773.

Probably the most famous of Muslim slaves was Abd al-Rahman Ibrahima (Known as “Prince” on the plantation), a West African prince from the kingdom of Tambo who was kidnapped from Africa and sold into slavery in New Orleans in 1788.  When captured, Ibrahima attempted to ransom with gold, as was the tradition for Muslims.  But his captors, fearing reprisal, sold him.  Abd al-Rahman Ibrahima was released from slavery some 40 years later through the intercession of U.S. President John Quincy Adams.