A Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper from American Slavery

A Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper from American Slavery

A Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper from American Slavery

A Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper from American Slavery


The Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper can be read as an extended autobiographical meditation on the meaning of race in antebellum America. First published in England, the text documents the life of Moses Roper, beginning with his birth in North Carolina and chronicling his travels through South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Roper was able to obtain employment on a schooner named The Fox, and in 1834 he made his way to freedom aboard the vessel. Once in Boston, he was quickly recruited as a signatory to the constitution of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), but he sailed to England the next year. Roper's narrative is especially interesting because although it was published after Frederick Douglass's much-heralded 1845 Narrative, Roper actually preceded Douglass in his involvement in AASS as well as in his travel to the United Kingdom. This text is often cited by literary scholars because of its length, its extensive detail, and its unforgiving portrayal of enslaved life in the "land of the free."

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The following narrative was to have appeared under the auspices of the Rev. Dr. Morison, of Chelsea, whose generous exertions on behalf of Moses Roper have entitled him to the admiration and gratitude of every philanthropist. But the illness of the doctor having prevented him from reading the manuscript, I have been requested to supply his lack of service. To this request I assent reluctantly, as the narrative would have derived a fuller sanction and wider currency, had circumstances permitted the original purpose to be carried out. Moses Roper was introduced to Dr. Morison by an eminent American abolitionist, in a letter, dated November 9th, 1835, in which honourable testimony is borne to his general character, and the soundness of his religious profession. “He has spent about ten days in my house,” says Dr. Morison’s correspondent; “I have watched him attentively, and have no doubt that he is an excellent young man, that he possesses uncommon intelligence, sincere piety, and a strong desire to preach the gospel. He [Page 4] can tell you his own story better than any one else; and I believe that if he should receive an education, he would be able to counteract the false and wicked misrepresentations of American slavery, which are made in your country by our Priests and Levites who visit you.”

Dr. Morison, as might have been anticipated from his well-known character, heartily responded to the appeal of his American correspondent. He sent his letter to the Patriot newspaper, remarking in his own communication to the editor, “I have seen Moses Roper, the fugitive slave. He comes to this country, as you will perceive, well authenticated as to character and religious standing; and my anxiety is, that the means may forthwith be supplied by some of your generous readers, for placing him in some appropriate seminary, for the improvement of his mind, that he may be trained for future usefulness in the church. His thirst for knowledge is great; and he may yet become a most important agent in liberating his country from the curse of slavery.”

Moses Roper brought with him to this country several other testimonies, from persons residing in different parts of the States; but it is unnecessary . . .

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