BORN THREE TIMES is a truly inspiring narrative of human potential and capacity. Thomas Johnson depicts his life under slavery and his life as a free man. The great change in condition, from prisoner to world traveller, from an insignificant "nobody" to celebrated evangelist and speaker - all this seems to be fiction, but it is absolutely true. He describes his slow steps in education. Tasks which other people conquer in childhood, such as learning the alphabet, he must deal with as an adult. Scenes of life which are taken for granted by the free-born, are challenging and unnerving to those who had lived in bondage.
Further, Johnson reveals the many complex feelings he had about people and places. In something that is rare in books of this kind, he even discloses the secret opinions he and other slaves held of different cultures. England was considered by them to be the greatest nation in the world, because Queen Victoria had done so much to liberate the oppressed.
Although he acknowledged that as a black man his racial homeland was in Africa, he appears to have felt surprisingly limited resonance with the culture he encountered during his missionary work there.
Johnson made what was at the time a very audacious decision, to move his family overseas to Europe. He felt his real place was in England, a land with which he had absolutely no racial, ethnic or cultural affiliations. He makes clear his reason: the widespread prejudice in America, North and South, that existed against former slaves made his life intolerable. However, he noted that this prejudice was not as evident against those blacks visiting from other nations-an interesting comment on the peculiar nature of racism. Johnson believed that there would be less racism amongst people who had never tolerated slavery in their own country. One indeed detects in his writing a genuine warmth towards the people of his new home, an intangible feeling he cannot explain.