I Was Born a Slave: An Anthology of Classic Slave Narratives - Vol. 2

By Yuval Taylor | Go to book overview

THE FREEDMAN’S STORY.
IN TWO PARTS.


PART I.

THE manuscript of the following pages has been handed to me with the request that I would revise it for publication, or weave its facts into a story which should show the fitness of the Southern black for the exercise of the right of suffrage.

It is written in a fair, legible hand; its words are correctly spelled; its facts are clearly stated, and—in most instances—its sentences are properly constructed. Therefore it needs no revision. On reading it over carefully, I also discover that it is in itself a stronger argument for the manhood of the negro than any which could be adduced by one not himself a freedman; for it is the argument of facts, and facts are the most powerful logic. Therefore, if I were to imbed these facts in the mud of fiction, I should simply oblige the reader to dredge for the oyster, which in this narrative he has without the trouble of dredging, fresh and juicy as it came from the hand of Nature,—or rather, from the hand of one of Nature’s noblemen,—and who, until he was thirty years of age, had never put two letters together.

The narrative is a plain and unpretending account of the life of a man whose own right arm—to use his own expression—won his rights as a freeman. It is written with the utmost simplicity, and has about it the verisimilitude which belongs to truth, and to truth only when told by one who has been a doer of the deeds and an actor in the scenes which he describes. It has the further rare merit of being written by one of the “despised race”; for none but a negro can fully and correctly depict negro life and character.

General Thomas8—a Southern man, and a friend of the Southern negro—was once in conversation with a gentleman who has attained some reputation as a delineator of the black man, when a long, lean, “poor white man,” then a scout in the Union army, approached the latter, and, giving his shoulder a familiar slap, accosted him with,—

“How are you, ole feíler?”

The gentleman turned about, and forgetting, in his joy at meeting an old friend, the presence of this most dignified of our military men, responded to the salutation of the scout in an equally familiar and boisterous manner. General Thomas “smiled wickedly,” and quietly remarked,—

“You seem to know each other.”

“Know him!” exclaimed the scout. “Why, Gin’rai, I ha’n’t seed him fur fourteen year; but I should know him, ef his face war as black as it war one night when we went ter a nigger shindy tergether!”

The gentleman colored up to the roots of his hair, and stammered out,— “That was in my boy days, General, when I was sowing my wild oats.”

“Don’t apologize, Sir,” answered the General, “don’t apologize; for I see that to your youthful habit of going to negro shindies we owe your truthful pictures of negro life.”

And the General was right. Every man and woman who has essayed to depict the slave character has miserably failed, unless inoculated with the genuine spirit of the negro; and even those who have succeeded best have done only moderately well, because they have not had the negro nature. It is reserved to some black Shakspeare or Dickens to lay open the wonderful humor, pathos, poetry, and power which slumber in the negro’s soul, and which now and then flash out like the fire from a thunder-cloud.

I do not mean to say that this black prophet has come in this narrative. He has not. This man is a doer, not a writer; though he gives us—particularly in the second part—touches of Nature, and little bits of description, which are perfectly inimitable. The prophet is still to come; and he will come. God never gives great events without great historians; and for all the patience and valor and heroic fortitude and self-sacrifice and long-suffering of the black man in this war, there will come a singer—and a black singer—who shall set his deeds to a music that will thrill the nations.

But I am holding the reader at the threshold.

The author of this narrative—of every line in it—is William Parker. He was an escaped slave, and the principal actor in the Christiana riot,—an occurrence which cost the Government of the United States fifty thousand dollars, embittered the relations of two “Sovereign States,” aroused the North to the danger of the FugitiveSlave Law, and, more than any other event, except the raid of John Brown, helped to precipitate the two sections into the mighty conflict which has just been decided on the battle-field.

Surely the man who aided towards such results must be a man, even if his complexion be that of the ace of spades; and what he says in relation to the events in which he was an actor, even íf it have no romantic interest,—which, however, it has to an eminent degree,—must be an important contribution to the history of the time.

With these few remarks, I submit the evidence which he gives of the manhood of his race to that impartial grand-jury, the American people.

E. K.9

-745-

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I Was Born a Slave: An Anthology of Classic Slave Narratives - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Introduction xvii
  • Henry Bibb 1
  • Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb 4
  • Introduction 5
  • Author’s Preface 12
  • Chapter I 13
  • Chapter II 16
  • Chapter III 21
  • Chapter IV 27
  • Chapter V 32
  • Chapter VI 39
  • Chapter VII 44
  • Chapter VIII 49
  • Chapter IX 52
  • Chapter X 58
  • Chapter XI 61
  • Chapter XII 66
  • Chapter XIII 72
  • Chapter XIV 75
  • Chapter XV 78
  • Chapter XVI 81
  • Chapter XVII 85
  • Chapter XVIII 91
  • Chapter XIX 94
  • Chapter XX 96
  • Index 99
  • James W. C. Pennington 103
  • The Fugitive Blacksmith; or, Events in the History 107
  • Preface 108
  • Contents 113
  • Chapter I 114
  • Chapter II - The Flight 119
  • Chapter III - A Dreary Night in the Woods — Critical Situation the Next Day 128
  • Chapter IV - The Good Woman of the Toll-Gate Directs Me to W.W. —My Reception by Him 133
  • Chapter V 137
  • Chapter VI 141
  • Chapter VII - The Feeding and Clothing of the Slaves in the Part of Maryland Where I Lived, &C 145
  • Appendix 150
  • Liberty’s Champion 155
  • Solomon Northup 159
  • Twelve- Years a Slave 163
  • Contents 166
  • Editor’s Preface 171
  • Chapter I 172
  • Chapter II 176
  • Chapter III 181
  • Chapter IV 188
  • Chapter V 193
  • Chapter VI 198
  • Chapter VII 204
  • Chapter VIII 211
  • Chapter IX 217
  • Chapter X 222
  • Chapter XI 229
  • Chapter XII 235
  • Chapter XIII 241
  • Chapter XIV 248
  • Chapter XV 255
  • Chapter XVI 261
  • Chapter XVII 267
  • Chapter XVIII 273
  • Chapter XIX 279
  • Chapter XX 286
  • Chapter XXI 291
  • Chapter XXII 301
  • Roaring River 308
  • Appendix 309
  • John Brown 319
  • Slave Life in Georgia- A Narrative of the Life, Sufferings, and Escape of John Brown, Now in England 322
  • Preface 323
  • Chapter I - My Childhood and First Troubles 324
  • Chapter II - My New Master- And How He Came to Sell Me 327
  • Chapter III - I Am Sold Again. How I Fared 329
  • Chapter IV - The Story of John Glasgow 334
  • Chapter V - Dr. Hamilton’s Experiments upon Me. My Master Dies, and I Again Change Hands 339
  • Chapter VI - John Morgan 341
  • Chapter VII - Something about Some of My Fellow-Slaves 344
  • Chapter VIII - I Make an Attempt to Escape. How It Ended 347
  • Chapter IX - More Tribulation 351
  • Chapter X - I Make Another Attempt to Escape 354
  • Chapter XI - Fortune and Misfortune 357
  • Chapter XII - The Slave-Pen in New Orleans 361
  • Chapter XIII - I Am Once More Sold 364
  • Chapter XIV - How I Got Away from Jepsey James’ 367
  • Chapter XV - How I Came to Be John Brown 370
  • Chapter XVI - I Am Advertised as a Run-Away 374
  • Chapter XVII - I Am Booked to Canada, Express, by the Underground Railroad 377
  • Chapter XVIII - The Cultivation of Cotton, Tobacco, and Rice 382
  • Chapter XIX - A Few Words on the Treatment of Slaves 388
  • Chapter XX - My Reflections 392
  • Chapter XXI - The Underground Railroad 395
  • Declaration 401
  • John Brown’s Testimonials 405
  • John Thompson 413
  • The Life of John Thompson, a Fugitive Slave; Containing His History of 25 Years in Bondage, and His Providential Escape 415
  • Preface 416
  • Chap. I 417
  • Chap. II 419
  • Chap. III 420
  • Chap. IV 423
  • Chap. V 425
  • Chap. VI 427
  • Chap. VII 429
  • Chap. VIII 433
  • Chap. IX 435
  • Chap. X 439
  • Chap. XI 443
  • Chap. XII 446
  • Chap. XIII 450
  • Chap. XIV 454
  • Chap. XV 458
  • Chap. XVI - Voyage to the Indian Ocean 462
  • Chap. XVII 466
  • Chap. XVIII 471
  • Chap. XIX 474
  • William and Ellen Craft 481
  • Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom 484
  • Preface 486
  • Part I 487
  • Part II 517
  • Harriet Jacobs (Linda Brent) 533
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl 539
  • Preface by the Author 540
  • Introduction by the Editor 541
  • Contents 542
  • I - Childhood 544
  • II - The New Master and Mistress 546
  • III - The Slaves’ New Year’s Day 550
  • IV - The Slave Who Dared to Feel like a Man 552
  • V - The Trials of Girlhood 559
  • VI - The Jealous Mistress 561
  • VII - The Lover 565
  • VIII - What Slaves Are Taught to Think of the North 570
  • IX - Sketches of Neighboring Slaveholders.49 571
  • X - A Perilous Passage in the Slave Girl’s Life 577
  • XI - The New Tie to Life 580
  • XII - Fear of Insurrection.56 583
  • XIII - The Church and Slavery 587
  • XIV - Another Link to Life 592
  • XV - Continued Persecutions 595
  • XVI - Scenes at the Plantation 599
  • XVII - The Flight 605
  • XVIII - Months of Peril 607
  • XIX - The Children Sold 612
  • XX - New Perils 615
  • XXI - The Loophole of Retreat." 618
  • XXII - Christmas Festivities 620
  • XXIII - Still in Prison 622
  • XXIV - The Candidate for Congress 624
  • XXV - Competition in Cunning 626
  • XXVI - Important Era in My Brother’s Life 630
  • XXVII - New Destination for the Children 632
  • XXVIII - Aunt Nancy 637
  • XXIX - Preparations for Escape 640
  • XXX - Northward Bound 646
  • XXXI - Incidents in Philadelphia 648
  • XXXII - The Meeting of Mother and Daughter 651
  • XXXIII - A Home Found 653
  • XXXIV - The Old Enemy Again 655
  • XXXV - Prejudice against Color 658
  • XXXVI - The Hairbreadth Escape 659
  • XXXVII - A Visit to England 663
  • XXXVIII - Renewed Invitations to Go South 664
  • XXXIX - The Confession 666
  • XL - The Fugitive Slave Law 667
  • Xli - Free at Last 671
  • Appendix 676
  • Jacob D. Green 683
  • Narrative of the Life of J. D. Green, a Runaway Slave, from Kentucky, Containing an Account of His Three Escapes, in 1839, 1846, and 1848 685
  • Testimonials 686
  • Narrative, &C 688
  • What the "Times"14 Said of the Secession in 1861 710
  • Secession Condemned in a Southern Convention. Speech 712
  • The Confederate and the Scottish Clergy on Slavery 715
  • Slavery and Liberty.18 718
  • James Mars 721
  • Life of James Mars, a Slave Born and Sold in Connecticut 723
  • Introduction 725
  • A Slave Born and Sold in Connecticut 726
  • William Parker 741
  • Part I 745
  • Early Plantation Life 746
  • Part II 764
  • Bibliography 789
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