Canadian author Lawrence Hill has written seven books including the best seller ‘The Book of Negroes” but he says, “it’s the first time his book will be burned”. Roy Groenberg, a Dutch citizen of Surinamese heritage who calls himself “Chairman, Foundation to Honor and Restore Payments to Victims of Slavery in Suriname”, says, “we do not accept a book written with the title The Book of Negroes. We struggle for a long time to let the word nigger disappear from the Dutch language … we make a decision to burn this book on the 22nd of June, 2011.” The group contacted Hill demanding he change the title and because he didn’t do so, the group followed through on their threat although only a photocopy of the cover of the book was burned. Group member Perez Jong Loy confirmed the burning saying that they did not burn the entire book because it’s not the novel’s content they find offensive, only the title.
Hill, who says, he doesn’t use the word Negro in day-to-day language and still cringes at the sound of various forms of the “n” word in hip hop lyrics, named his book after the actual Book of Negroes which is housed in the National Archives of the U.K. His book has appeared in various translations. In most English-speaking countries it carries his original title but in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand it is known as “Someone Knows My Name”. In Amsterdam it is called Het Negerboek.
“Burning books is designed to intimidate people”, says Hill. “The leaders of the Spanish Inquisition burned books, Nazis burned books”, he added. On a recent publicity tour Hill says he was welcomed by members of a group of Dutch people of Surinamese origin who invited him to speak about his book. He said the Netherlands has its own history of slavery and Mr. Groenberg and his followers have a right to their arguments but he hoped the group would reconsider and instead respect freedom of speech and enter into a civil consultation about slavery, freedom and contemporary language.
Note: I have read Lawrence Hill’s Book of Negroes (the illustrated version) and in my opinion this book should be on everyone’s bookshelves. michelle-lee