Slave narrative

From ArticleWorld


The slave narrative is an integral part of African-American literature and tell the stories of enslaved Africans in North America and the Caribbean.

North American & Caribbean Slaves

Believing slavery was an inhumane system, abolitionists first began publishing slave narratives in the 1700s in England to spread word of their cause. American abolitionists quickly followed suite in the 1800s, publishing narratives in book and pamphlet form.

However, people on both sides of the abolitionist movement produced slave narratives. Writers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel illustrating the torturous practice of slavery, while William Gilmore Simms wrote The Sword and the Distaff, a novel with a pro-slavery viewpoint.

The most famous slave narratives are autobiographical, such as Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs and A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass. Other famous anti-slavery narratives include:

  • The Interesting Narrative and the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African
  • A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince
  • Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington
  • Life of William Grimes; the Runaway Slave
  • Narrative of William Wells Brown, a fugitive Slave
  • The Freedman’s Story by William Parker
  • The History of Mary Price, a West Indian Slave
  • Narrative of the Life of J.S. Green, a Runaway Slave from Kentucky
  • Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, or the Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery

Slave narratives peaked in popularity during the American Civil War era, but under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt the Federal Writers’ Project received enough funding to interview more than 2,300 surviving former slaves.

North African Slaves

White slave narratives also exist, telling the stores of captured Europeans and Americans in the 1700s and 1800s who were enslaved in North Africa often by Islamic tribes. Famous narratives include The History of the Long Captivity and Adventures of Thomas Pellow in South Barbary and The Narrative of Robert Adams.