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Black Voices - African American Autobiography and Biography: Former Slave Narratives

Published personal accounts of African Americans from slavery to freedom.

Former Slave Narratives

  • Arter, Jared Maurice (b. 1850). Echoes from a Pioneer Life. Illustrated. Atlanta: A.B. Caldwell Publishing, 1922. Reprinted Freeport, NY: Former West Virginia slave, educator.
  • Burton, Thomas William (1860-1939). What Experience Has Taught Me.  Introduction by John Wesley Gazaway. Illustrated. Cincinnati: Press of Jennings and Graham, 1910. Former slave in Kentucky, physician in Ohio.

  • Hamilton, Jeff (1840-1950). “My Master”: The Inside Story of Sam Houston and His Times, by His Former Slave.  As told to, and Preface by, Lenoir Hunt. Foreword by Franklin Williams. Illustrated. Bibliography. Notes.  Dallas: Manfred, Van Nort & Co., 1940. A former slave in Kentucky and Texas tells the story of the famous Texas general, U.S. Senator, and governor, as well as discussing his own childhood as a slave.
  • Heard, William Henry (1850-1937). From Slavery to the Bishopric in the AME Church: An Autobiography.  Introduction by HH Cooper.  Illustrated.  Philadelphia: AME Book Concern, 1924. Reprinted New York: Arno Press, 1969.  [only available in 1969 edition] Former slave, South Carolina legislator, Minister-resident and consul general to Liberia, and AME Bishop from 1908.
  • Horton, George Moses, (1798?-approximately 1880). The Black Bard of North Carolina: George Moses Horton and His Poetry. edited by Joan R. Sherman. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, c1997. Horton was the first American slave to protest his bondage in published verse and the first black man to publish a book in the South.
  • Latta, Morgan London (b. 1853). The History of My Life and Work: Autobiography. Introduction by George Daniel. Illustrated. Raleigh, NC: The Author, 1903. Revised and reprinted Raleigh, NC: The Author, 1924 [first edition available] Former North Carolina slave, Shaw graduate, educator, founder of Latta University in West Raleigh.
  • Lewis, Joseph Vance. Out of the Ditch: A True Story of an Ex-Slave. Illustrated. Houston: Rein & Sons, Co., Printer, 1910. Former Louisiana slave, lawyer, physician, attended Leland University, University of Michigan Law, Chicago Law, and London (England) Lane School of Law, worked for Republican Party in Chicago.
  • Lynch, John Roy (1847-1939). Reminiscences of an Active Life: The Autobiography of John Roy Lynch. Edited and Introduction by John Hope Franklin. Notes. Index. Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1970. [available in first edition] Former Louisina and Mississippi slave, lawyer in Chicago, realtor, first Negro elected to Mississippi House of Representatives, US Army officer during and after Spanish-American War.
  • Malvin, John (1795-1880). Autobiography of John Malvin: A Narrative, Containing an Authentic Account of His Fifty Years’ Struggle in the State of Ohio in Behalf of the American Slave, and the Equal Rights of All Men Before the Law Without Reference to Race or Color; Forty-Seven Years of Said Time Being Expended in the City of Cleveland.  Cleveland: Leader Printing Co., 1879. Reprinted as North into Freedom: The Autobiography of John Malvin, Free Negro, 1795-1880. Edited, Introduction, and Notes by Allan Peskin. Cleveland: Western Reserve UP, 1966. Born and raised free in VA, later an abolitionist, civil rights leader, and political reformist in Cleveland, OH.
  • Marrs, Elijah Preston (1840-1910). Life and History of the Rev. Elijah P. Marrs. Louisville: Bradley & Gilbert, 1885. Reprinted Miami, FL: Mnemosyne Publishing, 1969. [available in 1969 reprint] Former Kentucky slave, teacher, educational administrator, Baptist minister, and Union Army soldier.

  • Payne, Daniel Alexander (1811-1893). Recollections of Seventy Years. Compiled and arranged by Sarah C. Bierce Scarborough. Edited by C.S. Smith. Introduction by Francis J. Grimke. Illustrated. Nashville: Publishing House of the A.M.E. Sunday School Union, 1888. Reprinted New York: Arno Press, 1968. [avail. in 1969 reprint] A.M.E. bishop, first president of Wilberforce University; describes his youth as a freeman in South Carolina, studied at the Lutheran Theological Seminary (Gettysburg, PA), taught in Philadelphia; discusses ministerial duties in Baltimore and DC.
  • Parker, Allen (b. 1837?). Recollections of Slavery Times. Worcester, MA: Charles W. Burbank & Co., 1895. Laborer in Worcester, MA; former NC slave, escaped to the North in 1862, and served in US Navy.
  • Ray, Emma J. Smith (1859-1930). Twice Sold, Twice Ransomed: Autobiography of Mr. and Mrs. L. P. Ray. Introduction by C. E. McReynolds. Illustrated. Chicago: Free Methodist Publishing House, 1926. Reprinted Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971. Former Missouri slave, evangelist, revival leader, faith healer, missionary, and WCTU activist; describes her community and religious work, especially in Seattle after 1889; affiliated with the A.M.E. and Free Methodist church.
  • Robinson, W[illiam] H. (b. 1848). From Log Cabin to the Pulpit; or Fifteen Years in Slavery. Illustrated. Eau Claire, WI: James H. Tifft, 1913. Former NC and VA slave, served in Confederate and Union Armies in Civil War, and converted in 1877 serving as both a Baptist and an A.M.E. preacher and circuit pastor in the Midwest.
  • Smith, Harry (b. 1815). Fifty Years of Slavery in the United States of America. Illustrated. Grand Rapids, MI: West Michigan Printing Co.,1891. [available in 1969 reprint] Former Kentucky slave, describes slave life, and later his business ventures in Indianapolis and Michigan.
  • Stroyer, Jacob (1846-1908). Sketches of My Life in the South. Introductions by Henry K. Oliver and E. C. Bolles. Salem, MA: Salem Press, 1879. Reprinted as My Life in the South. Salem, MA: Newcomb & Gaus, 1898.  Reprinted in Five Slave Narratives: A Compendium.  New York: Arno Press, 1968. [available in 3rd edition (1889) and 4th edition (1898)] An A.M.E. minister in Salem, MA discusses his slave life in South Carolina until the Civil War.
  • Walker, Thomas Calhoun (1862-1953). The Honey-Pod Tree: The Life Story of Thomas Calhoun Walker. As narrated to Florence L. Lattimore. New York: John Day, 1958. [available in first edition] Virginia politician, civic leader, and US Government administrator who was a former slave and later educated at Hampton Institute.
  • Ward, Samuel Ringgold (b. 1817). Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro. Illustrated. London: John Snow, 1855.  Reprinted New York: Arno Press, 1968. Former MD slave and ordained Congregational minister recounts his experiences prior to and following his escape from slavery.
  • Washington, Booker Taliaferro (1856-1915). My Larger Education: Being Chapters from My Experience. Illustrated.  New York: Doubleday, Page, 1911. Reprinted Miami, FL: Mnemosyne Publishing, 1969. [available in first edition] Elaborates on Washington’s experiences as principal of Tuskegee Institute (unchronological).
  • Washington, Booker Taliaferro (1856-1915). The Story of My Life and Work. Introduction by J. L. M. Curry. Illustrated. Naperville, IL: J. L. Nichols & Co., 1900. Revised and reprinted Naperville, IL: J.L. Nichols & Co., 1901. Revised and reprinted Naperville, IL: J.L. Nichols & Co., 1915.  Reprinted New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969.  Reprinted in The Booker T. Washington Papers, Vol. 1, The Autobiographical Writings. Edited by Louis R. Harlan et al.  Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1972. [available in first edition and early second edition (1901)] Former Virginia slave turned one of most well-known racial spokesmen; educated at Hampton Institute; first principal of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.
  • Wells [Barnett], Ida B. (1862-1931). Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells.  Edited and Introduction by Alfreda M. Duster.  Foreword by John Hope Franklin. Illustrated. Bibliography. Index. Chicago: University of Chicago P, 1970. Born a slave in Mississippi; later a noted civil rights worker, civic leader, teacher, newspaper editor, and journalist; active in the NAACP; discusses her life through 1921 and 1927.

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