Week 2 – Some Memoirs of the Life of Job + Diary of John Harrower

Both Some Memoirs of the Life of Job and Diary of John Harrower shared the experiences of immigration, whether that be forced or voluntary. It was interesting to read how their experiences were vastly different simply because of where they were coming from.

In Some Memoirs of the Life of Job, it tells the story of a man named Job who was forced into slavery in Maryland before returning to his home. From the readings, it seemed like Job was a well known person who had power because his grandfather had ruled the land they lived on. Job was forcibly taken and sold into slavery across the Atlantic. He ended up in Maryland, where he was working on a tobacco plantation, where he wasn’t very successful because of how he was raised (as the some of a priest/ruler, he was not used to laboring). He learned English after leaving the plantation and before going back to England, where he was immersed into yet another new culture. Thomas Bluett, who knew Job, noted his good character and interest in the different religions he came across. Overall, Job’s situation was one that was forced upon him, not one that he chose for himself. I was excited and interested to read an account of immigration not as we usually imagine it to have been.

In Diary of John Harrower, it follows the diary of a man named John Harrower, who seemed to be a man who left his home in order to find work somewhere else (he had some money before he left). Prior to him leaving, there were records of him as a landholder as well as part of the Freemasons. He was literate and educated, but remained frugal and was looking for a new job. His diary from 1773-1776 explores his travels trying to find work for over a month before he found himself on a ship sailing towards the Colonies. He, “was obliged to engage to go to Virginia for four years as a school-master,” therefore becoming an immigrant to the Colonies. Reading further into the diary, you find that Harrower didn’t seem to have the typical immigrant “struggle” that you assume comes with being in a new country, but rather a simple transition into his new life. Despite being indentured, he had a job that he was well equipped for and didn’t seem to have issues (was this because of his race or profession?) settling in. The most interesting thing to me over the course of his diary entries were the origins of the Revolutionary War that he was starting to mention before it became a full-on event. Just casually amidst what he was having for dinner or who he was teaching came events that would change history. (he was also in Fredericksburgh at one point!)

While both of these accounts were about immigrants, their experiences are vastly different. Looking back to last weeks readings, why was there a seemingly “better” experience with an immigrant from Europe versus an immigrant from a non-European nation? (this relates back to the article about how the stories of Asian, African, and other non-European immigrants are looked at differently by historian/immigration experts.) Regardless of if the immigration was voluntary or forced, sharing the wide range of stories from immigrants is important to creating a fuller narrative about immigration history.

2 thoughts on “Week 2 – Some Memoirs of the Life of Job + Diary of John Harrower

  1. I most definitely agree with you that in John Harrower’s story, I was also surprised that he did not experience a great amount of challenges in his adaptation to his new indentured life. The most I recall him mentioning was, like you said, some insecurity and cheapness with money, and also the inclimate weather they experienced on the ship. I was definitely expecting a lot more strenuous issues in birthing onto the ship, getting into the process of being an indentured servant, perhaps struggling to be presented well or with appeal on the market, the money, the new house life being rough, ending the contract, etc. However, his transition was depicted as so smooth, eating dinners with the family, joining them for horse rides, etc. that I felt like he sounded like he was welcomed in as part of the personal family rather than just being objectified to servitude.

    I also agree that it was interesting the civil war was literally unfolding around Jobs’ life, but it’s hilarious that it was not a great inconvenience to him. Once we put things into perspective now, we see how greatly this shifted the political structure of our nation and broke international relations and trade dramatically. Then if we put ourselves in Jobs’ position, it’s just a part of discussing everyday inconvenient politics, especially those relating to the motherland, England.

  2. I agree with you. For one when John was coming to America, he at first was on board with traveling to the United States, but had no option has he was desperate for money, and need to provide for his family. I also found it very interesting to see an induvial able to write down events, that would ultimately lead up the American Revolution War.

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