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Wednesday, January 20, 2016


On Monday, Martin Luther King Day, NPR's Fresh Air ran an interview with Regina Mason about her genealogical discovery of an ancestor who wrote the first published fugitive slave narrative in America, Life Of William Grimes, The Runaway Slave.

Mason's story is an interesting one, especially the questions she poses about how adults discuss with their children the concepts of slavery in America and the coupling of slaves and masters (I use the term "coupling" because the unions were, more often than not, a result of violence and control, rather than love). [If you're interested in children's books, there is a huge controversy over last week's release of A Birthday Cake for George Washington. Read about it here.]

We do not have William Grimes's narrative, but we have several slave narratives in our collection:

Blight, David W. A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom: Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation. [973.7115 BLI]

Douglass, Frederick. Autobiographies. [B DOU]

Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. [B EQU]

The Long Walk to Freedom: Runaway Slave Narratives. [ebook]

Northup, Solomon. Twelve Years a Slave. [B NOR, also ebook]

If you're interested in the topic, visit Archive.org and do a search using the term "slave narratives." You'll find other individuals' stories as well as many volumes of interviews with former slaves compiled by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the 1930s.

One narrative, which I've read and found particularly interesting, is Behind the Scenes or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House, by Elizabeth Keckley who was dressmaker for Mary Todd Lincoln, it is one of the narratives available at Archive.org. (Novelist, Jennifer Chiaverini, wrote about Keckley in Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker [F CHI], undoubtedly, she found Behind the Scenes of great interest, too!)

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