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John Ystumllyn and Adoption

Biography

Ystumllyn was kidnapped about 1746 in Africa by a member of the wealthy Wynne family of Ystumllyn, apparently as some kind of twisted adventure, not as a slave in the ordinary sense. He was brought back to Wales and the family estate, his age at the time being variously estimated at eight and 13.

An alternative story has it that he was brought from London, but he himself remembered his capture while chasing fowls by a stream in Africa. He was claimed to be without language and uncivilized, but this would simply have been the ethnocentric interpretation of the fact that he was from a totally different culture, speaking a totally different language from his captors, and terrified out of his mind at what had happened to him.

It took some considerable time for him to be "civilized," during which time he was kept confined, but he eventually became completely acculturated and learned both English and Welsh fluently. He was kept as a servant, baptized in the local chapel, and eventually integrated into the local community. He married a local woman and they raised a family. He is remarkable because he was the first Black person known to have lived as part of the community in rural north Wales, considered a servant rather than a slave.

References

Eifion, Alltud. John Ystumllyn or Jack Black: The Story of His Life and Tales About Him ... (Criccieth: D. Trevor Roberts, 1888)

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