The Slave's Narrative

By Charles T. Davis; Henry Louis Gates Jr. | Go to book overview

The Life and Adventures of a Fugitive Slave

ANONYMOUS

Slavery in the United States: a narrative of the life and adventures of Charles Ball, a black man, who lived forty years in Maryland, South Carolina, and Georgia, as a slave, under various masters, and was one year in the navey with Commodore Barney during the late year.Containing an account of the manners and usages of the planters and slaveholders of the South, a description of the condition and treatment of the slaves, with observations upon the state of morals amongst the perils and sufferings of a fugitive slave, who twice escaped from the cotton country.

It has sometimes been made a question whether more truth can be communicated in real or fictitious narrative. The latter, certainly, has the advantage of selecting from a wider field of incident, and though its facts may none of them have ever actually occurred, yet they may be more strictly analogous to the great body of those which do actually occur, than the events in the life of almost any one individual. Sometimes, however, an individual is found whose history, unaided by fiction, correctly illustrates the history of his class. Through the well written life of such an individual, we can look in upon the character, condition and habits of his class with as much clearness and confidence as through a window. The fictitious narrative may afford us a view of the same objects, equally distinct and vivid, but after all it is only a mirror, and may leave upon the mind a doubt whether it has not practiced some distortion as well as reflection upon the direct rays of truth. Whether the narrative, whose very prolix title we have placed above, is real or fictitious, we think its reader will not retain, through many pages, a doubt of the perfect accuracy of its picture of slavery.If it is a mirror, it is of the very best plate glass, in which objects appear so clear and "natural" that the beholder is perpetually mistaking it for an open window without any glass at all.We are led to this remark, not because we feel ourselves at liberty to doubt the genuineness and reality of the whole, but because the book itself does not answer a number of preliminary questions which the public will not fail to ask.

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