Slave narratives and testimony
- 5 Classic and Heartbreaking Slave Narratives
- North American Slave Narratives
Part of the "Documenting the American South" collection.
- American Memory Collections on African American History
Includes full-text slave narratives and pamphlets.
- American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology: From 1936 to 1938, over 2,300 former slaves from across the American South were interviewed by writers and journalists under the aegis of the Works Progress Administration. These former slaves, most born in the last years of the slave regime or during the Civil War, provided first-hand accounts of their experiences on plantations, in cities, and on small farms. Their narratives remain a peerless resource for understanding the lives of America’s four million slaves. Courtesy of the University of Virginia.
- Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938 contains more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves. These narratives were collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and assembled and microfilmed in 1941 as the seventeen-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. Courtesy of the Library of Congress American Memory Project.
- Diary of a Contraband : The Civil War Passage of a Black Sailor. William B. Gould’s Civil War diary chronicles his daily life in the United States Navy from September 27, 1862, to his discharge three years later, on September 29, 1865. One of the only known diaries of an African American sailor in the Civil War, this document describes his service and life as a sailor on the U.S.S. Cambridge and later on the U.S.S. Niagara, which took him from the northeastern U.S. to Great Britain, Holland, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal.
- Free at Last? Slavery in Pittsburgh in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Free at Last? takes the visitor on a journey that begins with life as usual in Africa, stops over in the slave castles that lined the West African coast, travels across the gruesome Middle Passage onward to slavery in the Americas, and, as W.E.B. Du Bois characterized it, through a descent into hell....Through the exhibition, the journey brings us to the American colonies, Pennsylvania, and the Pittsburgh region, where the core of the story dates to Pittsburgh’s founding 250 years ago. The Pittsburgh and broader Pennsylvania variety of slavery may not have been as punishing as the Southern version. Nonetheless, it was slavery, in turn accompanied by and followed by discrimination and segregation so seemingly intractable that their vestiges survive today.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Jacobs (pen name Linda Brent).
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. In 1861, Harriet Jacobs published Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, an account of her experience of enslavement in Edenton, North Carolina. Jacobs used the pseudonym Linda Brent and changed all of names in the book to protect the identity and safety of her family. Incidents soon became one of the most widely read slave narratives written by a woman. Jacobs used the book to highlight the unique cruelties of slavery experienced by women, including sexual abuse, exploitation, and violence. Courtesy of Samantha Gibson, Digital Public Library of America.
- Slave Biographies: The Atlantic Database Network is an open access repository of information on the identities of enslaved people in the Atlantic World. It includes the names, ethnicities, skills, occupations, and illnesses of individual slaves involved in the Atlantic slave trade. It also connects slaves to family members creating a complex web of social and kinship networks. In this way Slave Biographies reveals much about slave life in the New World and about African slaves' lives in parts of the Old World....Slave Biographies also provides a platform for researchers of African slavery to contribute, analyze, visualize, utilize, and collaborate on data they have collected. The repository combines multiple, individual datasets in a way that is complimentary and creates a resource for quantitative data analysis and data visualizations about the Atlantic slave trade.
- SlaveryStories.org. These are tales of American slaves, written in their own words and spoken with their own voices. Includes both written and audio narratives. A new, collaborative digital project started February 3, 2014 by Rob Walsh, Scholastica. At time of posting the written narratives include:
(1) Twelve Years a Slave : Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853 by Solomon Northup
(2) Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs
(3) Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass Written By Himself. Frederick Douglass
(4) Fifty Years In Chains; or, The Life of an American Slave by Charles Ball
(5) Up From Slavery: An Autobiography by Booker T. Washington
(6) Louisa Picquet, the Octoroon or Inside Views of Southern Domestic Life by Louisa Picquet
(7) The Narrative of Sojourner Truth by Sojourner Truth
(8) Slave Life in Georgia : A Narrative of the Life, Sufferings, and Escape of John Brown, a Fugitive Slave by John Brown
- Voices from the Days of Slavery: Former Slaves Tell Their Stories. As part of the American Memory Project at the Library of Congress, this engaging website offers first-hand audio recollections of the experience of slavery in the American South from 23 African-Americans. The interviews themselves were originally conducted between 1932 and 1975, and contain memories of their lives that include discussions of their feelings on slavery, their families, and on freedom. It is not terribly surprising that very limited biographical information is available about each participant, though the special exhibit that is also available here (titled Faces and Voices From the Presentation), features photographs of some of the interviewees, such as Fountain Hughes, Uncle Bob Ledbetter, and George Johnson. As some of the audio recordings contain a good deal of background noise (and in some cases are incomplete), visitors may also want to follow along by viewing the full-text transcriptions as well. One interview that visitors will want to make sure and listen to is the one with Uncle Billy McCrea conducted in 1940, in which he sings both Blow Cornie Blow and Walk Dooley.
- 12 Years A Slave. A 2013 movie and an adaptation of the 1853 memoir of the same name by Solomon Northup. This autobiographical story provides a rare and shocking historical account of life for both free blacks and slaves during the pre-Civil war era. In 12 Years a Slave, Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is an educated, free man living in New York State with his wife and three children when he is kidnapped and sold in Louisiana as a slave. Having only lived as a free man, Northup must learn how to act like a slave in order to survive to be reunited with his family. Northup soon learns slaves should not read or write, slaves should only speak when spoken to, and slaves are their masters’ property to do whatever they want with....During his twelve years as a slave working on Louisiana plantations, Northup endures the horrors of being a slave—beatings, unsanitary living conditions, physical and mental abuse, and unendurable working hours and conditions. Northup is an extraordinary man who overcomes cruelty, degradation, and despair to reunite with his family and then share his story with the world in his memoirs. Courtesy of Awesome Stories.