Monday, February 8, 2010

Black History Month: John Henry Newton, Part I

I gave a presentation at my church where I portrayed John Henry Newton, the slave ship captain turned Anglican priest who wrote Amazing Grace. Here is Part 1.

John Henry Newton is my name. The details of my life are a little sketchy. Afterall, I am 275 years old! So bear with me, here, I am working with what I have. If it's on Wiki, it has to be true, right?

I was born in London in 1725. My mother was “non-conformist Christian,” meaning she was a practicing Christian but did not care for the excesses of the Church of England. She died of TB when I was six.

My father was a shipmaster in the Mediterranean, and he didn’t have much at all to do with religion.

At the age of 11, I went to sea with my father, and by 18 I had sailed six voyages with him.

My father planned for me to be a slave master on a sugar plantation in Jamaica. Instead I was pressed into serving the Royal Navy as captain of a slave ship. “Pressed into serving” really means I had no choice in the matter. Coercion was a common tactic for the Royal Navy to ensure they had enough men to meet their needs.

Of course, coercion doesn’t make loyalty, and I hated my job. I was bounced from ship to ship, demoted from captain all the way to the lowest level of seaman. At one point I was given over to an African duchess and treated like the slaves themselves. I was once an infidel, a rogue, and a servant of the slaves in Africa.
The difference between me and the slaves was that my father put the word out and a sea captain rescued me.

Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound
Amazing Grace Shall Always Be My Song of Praise