Literary Analysis Essay on Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History

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Sewanee University of the South
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Abina Mansah was a young girl who was a slave and advocating for liberation. Having been helped by James Davis She sought justice through Judge William Melton. The magistrate Melton, to determine whether Abina Mansah was a slave, used queries about whether money had been exchanged, if the individual had been physically beaten, what kind of labor she had been made to do, whether she had been called a slave and whether she received compensation for her work. The magistrate had been influenced by powerful middle-class British men and I, therefore, think he asked these questions just to try and portray himself as being fair.

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The Theme of Abina and the Important Men

It is important for today's society to learn about people like Abina Mansah from the past because of the personal attributes that they displayed. Abina and the other young girls, even though they never won the case, managed to get themselves before a judge and have a hearing against all odds. Abina might not have been an important political leader, social or military figure but her courage to seek justice and voice the plight of black women at the time is an exceptional attribute. Learning about such people would help today’s society to relate to such experiences and be able to make correct judgments.

Abina took her former employer Quamina Eddoo to court accusing him of holding her as a slave illegally. I would say that she hoped to shed light on the vice of people being held as slaves. She knew wealthy slave owners had found a way to be the jury and she was not going to win the case against Eddoo but tried to show that she too and others like her could have a voice to advocate for their rights. Her objective was to gain her freedom and she did. The court transcripts are largely based on the dilemma of defining freedom. Abina is recorded to be asking “Am I free?” with the wealthy slave-owner jury trying to force her onto their side of understanding. Eventually, Hutton Brew is able to argue that Abina is actually a free worker and not a slave. She does not win the case but gains her freedom.

How Does Abina and the Important Men Relate to Imperialism?

Considering the idea that the graphic history of Abina is the product of a staircase of voices, several voices of characters appear in Abina and the Important Men. There is the voice of the wealthy slave-owners and their definitions are heard. The voice of those in Abinas position is heard, and the voice James Davis, though he was not a trained lawyer, trying to represent Abina was clearly heard in terms of what he believed in and to what lengths he was willing to go to make sure justice was upheld. The jury made their definitions and their verdict clearly told what they believed in. Abina’s courage and determination to get freedom and justice distinguished the meanings of being employed to work and slavery.

The graphic history of Abina is set at the complex Gold Coast world and in the late nineteenth century. This was the century in which the colonialism and rebellion movement against colonial powers had picked up momentum. The author’s descriptions of the perceptions of the slave-owners and the lives of people like Abina perfectly coincide with the setting of the graphic history.

The questions asked by magistrate Melton to Abina show very well, what his perception of slavery is. He asked her whether money had been paid for her. That suggests that Melton believes that slaves could only be bought. Slaves could be acquired in a lot of ways. Some people were actually born in slavery. He asked her whether she was being compensated. He seems to believe that one is not a slave if they are being for what they are doing. Contrary to that, I believe that slavery is constituted by the question of whether someone is working or doing something voluntarily or not, but not whether they are being paid for it.

If when Yowahwah gave me to the defendant to keep the defendant had not given me in marriage to Tandon I would not have entertained such an idea that I had been sold. Because the defendant gave me in marriage I knew that I had been sold. Abina stated. This statement tells us that Quaminas' act of giving Abina to Tandoe in marriage brought her alive to the understanding that she had been taken as a slave. I think in as much as money was paid for her she believed she was just being transferred as a worker. Marriage should have been a personal decision for her and being offered to a person not of her own choice for marriage must have awoken her to the fact that she had been taken as a slave.

We could be correct on the argument that Davis and Abina had had a longer relationship than Davis wanted to admit. The fact that Davis was not a trained lawyer makes me wonder why Abina would approach him just out of the blue to ask for help. She knew what she wanted to do and she would have gone to a lawyer seeking representation. My theory is, they knew each other and had had a long relationship, and when Abina probably shared with him what she intended to do, he convinced her that he could represent her in the court.

As evidenced by the sentiments of the British prime minister Joseph Chamberlain and the Sierra Leonean F. Fitzgerald. Civilization mission was one in full throttle. Interestingly, Brew represented Quamine, even with records indicating that he harbored sentiments that were inclined towards the superiority of British civilization. I think the West Africans had support for the British civilization in hopes of better lives for them too. They probably reasoned that British rule in the region could translate into more improved lives for them.


The author’s readings of Abinas testimony against the grain were done in a way that was meant to elicit empathy for Abina. This is done without necessarily trying to ascertain how much ground her arguments have. The illustrator’s reading reveals a general feeling of contempt towards Quamina and his likes who sit on the jury.

Abinash testimony can be regarded as that of a larger group of people. What is different is how she tackled the issue. She might have made the platform for others to voice their grievances. She faced the courtroom just with her testimony and an untrained lawyer and still managed to go away with her freedom. I think she represented a bigger population that was feeling aggrieved but alone and possibly without their input in her endeavors.


Getz, Trevor R., and Liz Clarke. Abina and the Important Men: a graphic history. Oxford University Press, USA, 2015.

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