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As Dig Continues, Islamic Service Honors Freed Slave in Georgetown

18th August 2015

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“So what we are doing today is a most important claiming of memory: That our identity will not be shaken . . . that we have survived slavery…”

A few feet away from the open pit of an archaeological dig in Georgetown, an imam from Senegal led a small group in an Islamic prayer service for the unusual man whose life may be reflected in the artifacts found there.

About 50 people gathered to honor the memory of Yarrow Mamout , a freed African slave who built a log house on the Dent Place property when Georgetown was still a suburban woodland.

Ebrahim Rasool , a former South African ambassador who is now a scholar at Georgetown University, said the site should be considered a shrine to honor the millions of Africans who endured slavery and to inspire others to carry on the fight for human rights.

“So what we are doing today is a most important claiming of memory: That our identity will not be shaken . . . that we have survived slavery,” Rasool said. “And we owe Yarrow Mamout that debt — to finish the process that he started and keep the dignity he established when he bought this property as a freed slave.”

Members of the group, cupping their hands in prayer, joined Papa Mboup, an imam with the Zawiya of the Greater Washington area, in reciting the al-Fatiha, an opening prayer taken from the first chapter of the Koran.

Yarrow, a member of the Fulani tribe, was brought to America aboard the slave ship Elijah in June 1752. He could read and write Arabic and English, and he became a prominent figure in Georgetown after receiving his freedom. Well-known artist Charles Willson Peale painted Yarrow’s portrait. So did James Alexander Simpson, whose portrait of Yarrow hangs in the Peabody Room of the Georgetown Public Library.

Read full story at The Washington Post.

 

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