Ukawsaw Gronniosaw

Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (ca. 1705 – 1775), a freed slave and autobiographer, worked as a weaver in Norwich in the eighteenth century.

Probably born in Nigeria, at the age of 15 he was taken by a Gold Coast ivory merchant. He was bought by an American in Barbados and resold to a Calvinist minister in New York. When the minister died, he chose to stay with his widow, and subsequently their orphans, until he was left without support.

Gronniosaw then enlisted as a cook with a privateer, and later as a soldier in the British army. He served in Martinique and Cuba, before obtaining his discharge and crossing to England. His autobiography, A Narrative of the most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince, as Related by Himself, is considered the first published by an African in Britain.  The text can be downloaded here from the website ‘The Abolition of the Slave Trade’, owned by the New York Public Library.

In 1787, the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was formed in London. Within weeks of this meeting, Thomas Ransome, a clerk from Gurney’s bank in Norwich, suggested that Norfolk’s inhabitants should support the committee’s work. The response was immediate, with thirty-three people pledging financial support. One of them was the owner of the Norfolk Chronicle newspaper, William Stevenson, who became a central figure in Norfolk’s abolitionist campaign.