Volume 132 Number 4
  • ISSN: 0040-7518
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1163



The free black teacher, librarian, and shopkeeper Johanna Christina Jonas lived in the slave society of Paramaribo, the capital city of Suriname, in the nineteenth century. Born into slavery, she was granted her freedom by her master. After her death an estate inventory was made which included a record of the library collection and the administration of debtors of the school, library, and bookstore. This article explores Johanna’s position and the role she and her school, library, and bookstore played in encouraging the social mobility of free people of colour in Paramaribo. The inventory gives us a nice glimpse of the reading behaviour of the citizens of Paramaribo in the nineteenth century. It turns out that Johanna was able to create more favourable conditions for free people of colour to improve their social position. With her school and library she allowed them to access a range of educational opportunities and a supply of books.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): estate inventory; free people of colour; Paramaribo; slavery; social mobility
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