We Slaves of Suriname is a book written by Anton de Kom and was published in 1934. It is a literary masterpiece as well as a fierce indictment of racism and colonialism.
In this classic book, the Surinamese writer and resistance leader recounts the history of his homeland, from the first settlements by Europeans in search of gold through the era of the slave trade and the period of Dutch colonial rule, when the old slave mentality persisted, long after slavery had been formally abolished. 159 years after the abolition of slavery in Suriname and 88 years after its initial publication, We Slaves of Suriname still has lost none of its brilliance and power.
In 1921 De Kom arrived from Suriname in the Netherlands. In The Hague, he finds a job with a coffee and tea trader. He married the white Petronella Borsboom five years later. In those days, quite unique. In addition to his work, he develops into a writer and poet and gave lectures to teach the Dutch about the history of Suriname and slavery past.
Inspired by the fight against racism in the United States, he publishes critical political articles that are communist in scope. In 1932 he returns to Suriname. There, the authorities fear his thoughts and imprison him. A statement of support turns into a drama where soldiers kill two protesters. To prevent escalation, De Kom is sent back to the Netherlands and he starts his book We Slaves of Suriname.
During the Second World War, De Kom joined the resistance. In 1944 the German occupier arrests him and sends him to various camps. He eventually dies in concentration camp Sandbostel. In the 1960s, students rediscovered his book. After the independence of Suriname in 1975, De Kom is increasingly revered as a hero. His books and his ideas are still a source of inspiration in both the Netherlands and Suriname. (source: Canon of the Netherlands)
Excerpt of We Slaves of Suriname
History has passed Mother Sranang by; three centuries of Dutch colonization have left her
interior untouched. Her river rapids power no engines; her fertile land is unsown, the rich treasures of
her forests unexploited; in abject poverty, in shabby ignorance, the wild tribes live amid a natural
bounty that goes to pointless waste.
Whites rarely venture into these wildernesses, where only the Indians and the forest negroes
know the way. Along the river courses, a discharged French soldier, a British rowdy, or a Dutch naturalist
sometimes penetrates the landscape. He plunges his knife into the white skin of the balata tree,
releasing its precious, milky sap. But the former soldier returns to the coast, the rowdy drinks himself to
death in a whisky haze by his lonesome campfire, the Dutchman is rowed back downriver by maroons in
a canoe; the wilderness is left behind, the wounds in the rubber trees scar over, and the deserted camp
is overgrown with creepers.
Of Dutch influence, Dutch energy, and Dutch civilization there is not a trace in the Surinamese
interior: not a road, not a bridge, not a house in which Dutch history is inscribed. The whites felt nothing
but fear in the face of that wilderness, in which their escaped slaves sought refuge. A pathetic, neglected
railway, which goes nowhere and was never completed, is the sole witness to a short, delusional dream