LA JOLLA, June 15 – Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Dean Calbreath of The San Diego Union-Tribune, announces the release of his new book From Africa to America, a fictional biography on Nicholas Said of Bornou, an African Muslim and slave who wrote his own biography published in 1873.
Calbreath is best known for his investigative work on the team that slowly unraveled the Duke Cunningham scandal in 2005. The team won the Pulitzer Prize and Calbreath coauthored the 2007 book, “The Wrong Stuff: The Extraordinary Saga of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the Most Corrupt Congressman Ever Caught.”
Born in the 1830s, Nicholas Said of Bornou was just a teen when he was enslaved, sold, and passed to multiple owners, encountering noblemen and those of prestigious and elite ranks. He passed through slave owners from Libya to Constantinople, serving the Turkish foreign minister, and then to Russia, where he served the Russian foreign minister. After a short period, Said was freed and traveled throughout Europe as the aide of Prince Nicholas Troubetzskoy, a Russian nobleman.
During this passage, Said encountered Queen Victoria, Emperor Louis-Napoleon, and many other members of the elite court. Said later came to work for a Dutch count, stepping onto the sandy shores of Jamaica, the Bahamas, and even Canada, before coming to the United States to teach French at a school in Detroit.
Nicholas Said's story is a life filled with triumph and accomplishment, and Calbreath hopes to shed light on the little that is known of Said’s life while in the United States; he is best known for building schools for blacks in the American South, and his service during the U.S. Civil War.
According to Calbreath, Said does not share much about his life during his stay in the States, “His autobiography provides a lot of great detail about his early life in Africa and Europe, but entirely leaves out his service in the Civil War and barely mentions the things that he did immediately before and after the war: teaching French to black schoolchildren in Detroit and teaching English to the children of freed slaves in the South. I aim to fill in some of those gaps.”
In writing this book, Calbreath hopes to “give people a better picture of the realities of life in the Civil War era as well as a more accurate glimpse of Africa and African-Americans and a better feel for people like Said, who was raised Muslim but fought for the United States. “ He also personally hopes that it will open up more opportunities in writing books about history.
Calbreath’s book, From Africa to America is set to release in bookstores nationwide on June 20th.