The Free Negress Elisabeth



The Free Negress ElisabethElisabeth Samson, A Free Black Surinamese Woman Who Lived In Th Century Dutch Guyana, Is The Central Character In This Compelling Novel Challenging The Prevailing Racial Stereotypes By Demonstrating Her Intelligence And Business Acumen, She Is Determined To Marry A White Man In Defiance Of All Established Norms And Conventions Set Amidst The Rich Backdrop Of The Golden Age Of Suriname, This Biographical Account Depicts The Complex Social And Racial Stratifications Which Were Features Of Slave Colonies Of The Era As Well As This Remarkable Woman Who Overcame Institutionalized Discrimination And Prejudice To Become One Of The Wealthiest Individuals In The Slave Colony Of Dutch Guyana

McLeod was born in Paramaribo as Cynthia Ferrier she is the daughter of Johan Ferrier, the first President of Suriname, and the sister of author Leo Henri Ferrier.She completed her secondary school education in Suriname and continued her education in the Netherlands, where she studied to become a teacher in Child Care and Education She married Dr Donald McLeod whom she met in the Netherlands In 1962 they went to Suriname, where McLeod studied for a teaching degree in Dutch Language and Dutch Literature From 1969 to 1978 she taught Dutch Language and Literature in pre university education in Paramaribo Her husband, Donald McLeod, was appointed in 1978 as Suriname s Ambassador to Venezuela Then he became Suriname s Ambassador to Belgium and the United States of America Abroad McLeod started writing and especially during her stay in Belgium she had the opportunity to do research in the archives of The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Emmerich, and K ln.In 1986 the McLeods returned to Suriname and in 1987 her debut novel Hoe duur was de suikerThe cost of sugar was published by publisher Vaco in Paramaribo The first print was sold out within a few weeks and Cynthia McLeod became the most famous Surinamese novelist overnight Later this historical novel about the sugar cane industry in the 18th century was published under license by her Dutch publisher Conserve Soon other historical novels from her hand appeared, such as Hitchin wegwijzer vervolging.As a result of her long research McLeod has gained a wealth of knowledge about Surinamese history knowledge she gladly shares with others For the Surinamese school youth she organizes free educational trips with her motorized vessel, the Sweet Merodia During these tours over the Surinamese Rivers, past former plantations, she captivates her audience with stories about its interesting past She further engages in historic city tours through the centre of historic Paramaribo, which has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 2002.

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  • Paperback
  • 316 pages
  • The Free Negress Elisabeth
  • Cynthia McLeod
  • English
  • 14 January 2019
  • 190514783X

10 thoughts on “The Free Negress Elisabeth

  1. Kathleen Nay says:

    I had the priviledge of visiting my in laws, living in Paramaribo, Suriname, who own a copy of this book and know the author I thought it was fantastic to be able to read this obviously well researched historical novel, based on the life of a woman who not only lived during the time period 1700s in Suriname, which was at the time called Dutch Guiana but who would have had a unique perspective and influence on the events of the time Being in Paramaribo while reading the book afforded me the c I had the priviledge of visiting my in laws, living in Paramaribo, Suriname, who own a copy of this book and know the author I thought it was fantastic to be able to read this obviously well researched historical novel, based on the life of a woman who not only lived during the time period 1700s in Suriname, which was at the time called Dutch Guiana but who would have had a unique perspective and influence on the events of the time Being in Paramaribo while reading the book afforded me the chance to see the still standing home she occupied with her white male companion, and later her husband the building now houses a Ministry of the local government The novel offers a profound perspective on racism and slavery from the vantage point of an outspoken, independant, and free born negress who owned slaves and property of her own A highly recommended read

  2. Joyce Bergvelt says:

    I read this book while Covid 19 still rages across the planet, and I finished it a week after the American George Floyd died, like so many before him, of excessive police violence, aggrevated by blatant racism The title of this book, The Free Negress Elisabeth is a bit confronting in times such as these However, the author Cynthia McLeod is a black woman from Surinam, which makes it somehowpalatable Translated from the original Dutch, this novel is based on Elisabeth Samson, een vrij I read this book while Covid 19 still rages across the planet, and I finished it a week after the American George Floyd died, like so many before him, of excessive police violence, aggrevated by blatant racism The title of this book, The Free Negress Elisabeth is a bit confronting in times such as these However, the author Cynthia McLeod is a black woman from Surinam, which makes it somehowpalatable Translated from the original Dutch, this novel is based on Elisabeth Samson, een vrije, zwarte vrouw in het achttiende eeuwse Suriname , an academic study written by the same author on the subject McLeod was the daughter of John Ferrier, the last governor of Surinam when it was still in Dutch hands, as well as the first president of the country after its independence In the form of a historical novel, it tells the tale of Elisabeth Samson, a free born black woman in times when slavery was the order of the day in the colonies Born of a mother who was a freed slave at the time of her birth and raised by a wealthy white Dutch colonist a stepfather of sorts , her situation is unique, to say the least What makes her story so interesting, is the amount of wealth she amassed during her lifetime Historians had always assumed that she became rich from inheriting from her white owner, with whom she probably co habited as his housekeeper read lover , but McLeod delved deep into the archives, spending twelve years doing research on the life of Elisabeth Samson, and came to a different conclusion that Elisabeth was a self made millionaire It s fascinating to read about her being temporarily banished to the Netherlands following a charge of libel, which was later overturned Imagine the undue attention she must have drawn as a black woman of means, living in Amsterdam and The Hague, and how she must have felt having to await revision of her legal case for a period of three years of banishment from Surinam Upon her return she becomes a wealthy woman through trade, to rival the richest colonists of Surinam in the day Yet, as a black she is forbidden by law to marry a white man, and will be excluded from white society till the end of her days It is this that makes her all thedetermined to marry a white man On the theme of slavery, the book is interesting in itself Elisabeth Samson owned many slaves of her own, some of them are even related to her by blood Her better treatment of these slaves has no doubt been romanticised somewhat, probably making hersympathetic to their plight than she might actually have been These are some quotes attributed to the lead character, where Elisabeth justifies owning slaves whilst she herself is black If you want to count in this world of ours, you have to have money But money does t grow on trees You have to earn it in one way or another, and in Suriname you need slaves to earn money If it had been possible I would have had white slaves as well, but alas I want to earn money, so I need slaves But on the next page, almost in the same breath, Elisabeth is critical of the system I m aware that slavery has been part of many civilisations In Africa, a person becomes a slave when its tribe is defeated by another Your slavery, or should I say the slavery that the whites introduced, is different Your slavery is dreadful, degrading, because it is based on race Negroes are forced to be slaves of white peope simply because they are negroes And in order to defend their behaviour the whites come up with theories that proclaim negroes to be less than human They use God and the Bible to demonstrate that the Christian European perspective is right.They re intriguing quotes from the dialogue, do with them what you will but I cannot help but feel that this isthe 20th century author talking than Elisabeth Samson, who was born in times of slavery and died when it was still very much in existence She made use of the system that was the standard of the day, and benefited from it The truth be told, I don t think this book was very well written, especially the first part, which is told from the narrator s point of view Having based this novel on an academic piece to which she dedicated twelve years of research, the author appears to have fallen into the trap of including far too much and sometimes irrelevant information It simply does not always make for readability in a novel and it does not now I would think it is also the editor s job to guard against this If it weren t for the impressive amount of historical research, I might have given this book two stars However, it gets better when Elisabeth leaves for Holland and the story continues in diary form It reverts to the narrator s form later on in the book, but by that time you re hooked I would, however, recommend it from the historical point of view, with the focus on a fascinating, wealthy free black woman living in Surinam at a time when all other black people around her were slaves I would say the book is relevant with the discussion on slavery and racism very much alive and kicking today

  3. Jan van Trigt says:

    In Nederland hannesen we nogal met het slavernij verleden Sommige witte mensen voelen zich persoonlijk aangesproken als er gewezen wordt naar de slavenhandel Dankzij de vriendelijke mensen van het literatuur festival winternachten las ik dit boek en was bij een interessant diner met de schrijfster Dekolonisatie van de geest was in 2020 het thema En Cynthia McLeod is een imponerende zwarte vrouw die ons daarbij helpt Zij heeft veel research gedaan naar de slavernij Dat heeft geresulteerd to In Nederland hannesen we nogal met het slavernij verleden Sommige witte mensen voelen zich persoonlijk aangesproken als er gewezen wordt naar de slavenhandel Dankzij de vriendelijke mensen van het literatuur festival winternachten las ik dit boek en was bij een interessant diner met de schrijfster Dekolonisatie van de geest was in 2020 het thema En Cynthia McLeod is een imponerende zwarte vrouw die ons daarbij helpt Zij heeft veel research gedaan naar de slavernij Dat heeft geresulteerd tot dit indrukwekkende boek dat een mengeling is van feiten en een romantische invulling door de schrijfster Verwacht geen geschiedenis boek,het is een echte een roman.Het boek geeft heel veel details over de samenleving in Suriname en Nederland in de achttiende eeuw En dat is erg boeiend Deze roman draait om een zwarte vrouw Elisabeth Samson en zij is geboren als een vrije vrouw omdat haar moeder was vrijgekocht En zo rol je midden in merkwaardige juridische regeltjes rondom de slavernij die mij onbekend waren Elisabeth is een uiterst capabele zakenvrouw die zeer welgesteld raakt maar toch een tweederangs burger blijft En daar vecht zij tegen terwijl ze zelf ook weer eigenaar was van plantages waarop slaven werkten De weerbarstige nuances van het fenomeen slavernij komen in dit boek tot leven.Een heerlijk aspect van het boek is het inzicht in het taalgebruik in Suriname Zo zijn er prachtige namen voor plantages Heerlijke woorden kom je tegen, slang , uit de Surinaamse straattaal Maar ook tref je een huiveringwekkend begrip als zoutwater negers aan dat staat voor slaven niet geboren uit slaven in Suriname maar zelf geimporteerd waren uit Afrika Dit boek is al 20 jaar geleden verschenen maar is nog steeds actueel omdat wij als wit Nederland moeilijk in de spiegel durven te kijken Het verhaal van Elisabeth Samson kan daar goed bij helpen Wat ook helpt is een bezoek dat ik een paar geleden bracht aan het prachtige Smithsonian National Museum of African American History Culture in Washington DC Bij het lezen van dit boek moest ik vaak denken aan dat bezoek Er is daar n muur waarop zichtbaar is welke landen actief waren in de slavenhandel op Amerika Ook Nederland staat daar volop in beeld Het is zinloos een verleden te ontkennen of onder het vloerkleed te schuiven Cynthia McLeod heeft Nederland 20 jaar geleden met dit boek een dienst bewezen

  4. Marianne Braam says:

    De titel is inderdaad raak gekozen Als vrijgeborenen of vrijgekochte slaaf, was je nooit echt vrij Nooitmochten ze aan het leven meedoen Elisabeth heeft veel bereikt met hard werken Ik heb de indruk dat er veel haat en nijd was Want een rijke negerin, de rijkste inwoner, is ondenkbaar en er wordt geroddeld dat ze wel een hoer moet zijn.Elisabeth heeft echt bestaan en alles wat haar is overkomen is ook echt gebeurd Een echte aanrader voor wie van historische romans houdt.

  5. Marie says:

    Suriname Will I ever be able to leave here Am I doomed to spend the rest of my days as an exile in a foreign land,where I know almost no one and where I have no family What a difficult, complicated world The color of my skin makes me a prisoner, imprisoned for being black I am a prisoner of color What must a person do to live a normal life It was a crazy world, especially when it came to the rules made up by whites White, Christians, claim the right to load their ships with Negroes and Suriname Will I ever be able to leave here Am I doomed to spend the rest of my days as an exile in a foreign land,where I know almost no one and where I have no family What a difficult, complicated world The color of my skin makes me a prisoner, imprisoned for being black I am a prisoner of color What must a person do to live a normal life It was a crazy world, especially when it came to the rules made up by whites White, Christians, claim the right to load their ships with Negroes and transport them as if they were animals from Africa to America where they re forced to spend the rest of their days, cut off from their families, worked to the bone Why don t whites do that with their own people They don t do it with whites because they consider whites to be the superior race All of us die alone, all alone

  6. Kojo says:

    Cynthia s research and storytelling is a tour de force which helps you walk thei streets of Paramaribo and ride on the rivers and creeks through a period of history in a part of the world unknown in many ways This is Afro Surinamese history and the choices confronting ES in a very hostile environment to her heritage An excellent read

  7. Annerie Brenninkmeijer says:

    Interesting look at life in Suriname in the 1700s during the time of slavery and white plantation owners The fact that the story of the ambitious free negress Elisabeth is based on fact and deep historical research makes it fascinating As a novel however the book could usedepth and literary ingenuity.

  8. Daniel Gamboa says:

    What a journey This is an incredible book to read and learn about a country which we usually hear nothing about Suriname It is also a great source of information about the way people from this former Dutch colony were seen in the Netherlands It offers a great picture of the good, the bad and the ugly about living in Suriname and its history during colonial times, and, to some extend, in the Netherlands I only have a few observations The book is written in a non fiction style The use of the What a journey This is an incredible book to read and learn about a country which we usually hear nothing about Suriname It is also a great source of information about the way people from this former Dutch colony were seen in the Netherlands It offers a great picture of the good, the bad and the ugly about living in Suriname and its history during colonial times, and, to some extend, in the Netherlands I only have a few observations The book is written in a non fiction style The use of the language is very straight forward, and while this makes the book easy to read and makes the plot flow, it is not very engaging The author could have used the language in a creative manner to describe the Netherlands and Suriname and make the reader feel there at that time, but she missed this opportunity by simply mentioning names of streets and rivers Descriptions of weather are the exception here and there, but that s about it The interesting facts and plot make the reading engaging, but not the use of the language.The book is also a bit ambitious It s not only the story of Elisabeth Samson, but also that of other characters , and even the history of Suriname This can make the book dense at times, specially when it deals with the politics and politicians in the country The third chapter and fourth chapter there are four is heavy on facts of political nature and too many characters and events involved in this topic made me wonder what was happening to the main topic of the novel Elisabeth Samson This also caused the book to rush where I would have liked the author to dedicatetime.Elisabeth was born free, meaning that she had never been a slave, and was raised in a wealthy household, meaning that she had access to education and luxuries However, except for wanting her plantation slaves to live in decent conditions and caring for her personal slaves, she was not any better or worse than the white people in the former Dutch colony Elisabeth never came across as a woman whose main interest was for black people to have the same rights as white people did, but a woman who wanted badly to belong and be in the spotlight of white society in Suriname She does mention and explain how unfair and ridiculous it is to state that white people are superior to black people, and her view on how the Bible is to be blamed for this is quite interesting She also makes a good point when she claims that even though she is black, she keeps slaves because that is the way things work in Suriname However, she was far from being a likable character and was full of contradictions.First of all, she didn t seem to care about anybody else but herself The best, among many examples, is when a close relative, whom she envies badly because she overshadows her spotlight, dies and she thinks of that terrible situation only to her own benefit to fulfill a dream she hasn t been able to because life is so unfair to her She also tends to come across as shallow, despite being a clever woman, specially when it comes to running a successful fabric and accesory business and many plantations Why Well, she enjoys how the white women envy her clothes and her music skills and her house and so forth You would think that a woman with her culture and intelligence would find this absurd, but this was not her case until it was too late Of course, the author is not to blame for this Elisabeth was a real character whose life Cynthia McLeod carefully researched for years before writing the novel , and this is the way she was.All in all, this is a four star book, in my opinion As I said at the beginning, reading this book was a journey that I thoroughly enjoyed I am not refraining myself to give it five stars because of Elisabeth s personality, but because of the issues the book has concerning style and ambition There is little literature about Suriname available in English, and this novel was a great source of information about life in the Netherlands for a Surinamese and life in Suriname during colonial times.I am looking forward to reading her debut novel The Price of Sugar or watching its film adaptation

  9. Harry Rutherford says:

    This is the novelised true story of Elisabeth Samson, a freeborn black woman in C18th Suriname, when it was a Dutch colony built on slave labour She became one of the richest landowners in the colony and fought a legal battle for the right to marry a white man, successfully arguing that Dutch law superseded the colonial law against it.The introduction explains that it is the result of twelve years of historical research, and I think that s a strength and a weakness the best thing about the boo This is the novelised true story of Elisabeth Samson, a freeborn black woman in C18th Suriname, when it was a Dutch colony built on slave labour She became one of the richest landowners in the colony and fought a legal battle for the right to marry a white man, successfully arguing that Dutch law superseded the colonial law against it.The introduction explains that it is the result of twelve years of historical research, and I think that s a strength and a weakness the best thing about the book is the amount of interesting historical detail, but it does feel a bit like a novel written by a historian It is solid but unremarkable as literature.And perhaps because the personal stuff the dialogue and the characters inner lives is relatively weak compared to the background information which has obviously been so carefully grounded in research, I found myself always second guessing her portrayal of Elisabeth s opinions and motivations Especially since there is a tendency for racial social issues to be explored in a rather unsubtle way by being put in the mouths of the characters they sometimes slip into talking in long paragraphs, as though they were newspaper editorials.There are of course plenty of issues to explore So for example, Elisabeth is presented somewhat as a heroic figure, standing up against the racial attitudes of the time, but she also kept slaves herself And her battle for the right to marry a white man, and establish herself finally as a fully respectable member of colonial society, hardly makes her a fighter for the rights of black peoplegenerally Cynthia Mc Leod generally presents her as right thinking but constrained by her time she was after all in a vulnerable position But a less sympathetic interpretation might also be possible.But history is messy that way and she would still be a remarkable figure whatever she was like as a person.I found it engaging and enjoyable, although I was engagedby the history than the fiction, so I wonder whether it might have been even better as straight biography Maybe not The Free Negress Elisabeth is my book from Suriname for the Read The World challenge

  10. Amy "the book-bat" says:

    This book fulfills requirement 2 A book set in a country that starts with the letter S It is set in Suriname.Elizabeth Samson was born as a free black in Suriname in the 1700 s I found it interesting how distinctions were made based on skin color There were whites, blacks, and coloreds The whites were mostly from Holland and France and there were also some Jewish The blacks were generally slaves captured in Africa and sold to plantation owners, much like in the U.S around the same tim This book fulfills requirement 2 A book set in a country that starts with the letter S It is set in Suriname.Elizabeth Samson was born as a free black in Suriname in the 1700 s I found it interesting how distinctions were made based on skin color There were whites, blacks, and coloreds The whites were mostly from Holland and France and there were also some Jewish The blacks were generally slaves captured in Africa and sold to plantation owners, much like in the U.S around the same time period Blacks could have their freedom purchased or could be born free if their mother was free at the time of their birth as was the case for Elizabeth Colored refers to the mulattos or mixed race between the whites and blacks They are also sometimes referred to as brown Mulattos could be slaves or free Mulattos could also marry whites, blacks were forbidden to marry.Elizabeth was raised by her mulatto sister and her white husband She was essentially raised as a white child She was taught to read, write, play the harpsichord, and she assisted her brother in law with his business She in turn became a powerful businesswoman She ended up exiled to Holland for gossiping which wasn t true and after a few years, was finally permitted to return home after a lengthy court case She was in love with a white man and lived as his wife for several years, even though they were never married She later on decided to marry another man after the first had died This brought on another legal battle and she eventually won, even though the man she was planning to died just prior to receiving the news that she would be permitted to marry She ended up married to another man who eventually destroyed her empire after her death.This was a really interesting look into a part of history that I wasn t overly familiar with I certainly didn t know much about Suriname before reading this book I recommend it for anyone who is interested in history and society

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