Understanding 19th-Century Slave Narratives
by Sterling Lecater Bland Jr., Editor
June 2016, 311pp, 7 x 10
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-4463-8
$108, £84, 94€, A148
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-4464-5
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Slave narratives document the harsh life faced by the enslaved; however, cultural traditions like religion provided a modicum of hope on the path to freedom.

African American slave narratives of the 19th century recorded the grim realities of the antebellum South; they also provide the foundation for this compelling and revealing work on African American history and experiences.

Naturally, it is not possible to really know what being a slave during the antebellum period in America was like without living the experience. But students CAN get eye-opening insight into what it was like through the gripping stories of bravery, courage, persistence, and resiliency in this collection of annotated slave narratives from the period.

Each of the collected narratives includes an introduction that provides readers with key historical context on the particular life examined. Moreover, each narrative is accompanied by annotations that broaden the reader’s comprehension of that primary document. The primary source documents in this volume tell enthralling stories, such as how slave woman Ellen Craft utilized her particularly pale complexion to pose as a free white man overseeing his slaves to free herself and her husband, and how Henry Brown successfully shipped himself to freedom in a box measuring scarcely 3 feet by two feet by six inches deep—despite being more than six feet tall.


  • Presents information and primary source documents that support such key subject areas as American history, ethnic studies, and African American history, among other areas
  • Introduces readers to unique slave narratives that often center on such topics as entrepreneurship, racial violence and resistance, gender, and subjects regarding the color line like pigmentation and passing
  • Situates each slave narrative in historical context through the use of a document introduction and annotations
  • Supplies slave narratives that are important primary sources and will help students with building interpretive, critical-thinking skills needed to be successful 21st-century learners
Sterling Lecater Bland Jr. is associate professor of English and African American studies at Rutgers University. He is editor of Greenwood's three-volume African American Slave Narratives: An Anthologyand Voices of Fugitives: Runaway Slave Stories and Their Fictions of Self-Creating.


"As a set, these little-known narratives shed valuable light on a dark chapter in American history. The unique perspectives from which each author views the new world holocaust will help both students of American history and armchair historians better understand the causes and consequences of human bondage. Therefore, this volume is strongly recommended for purchase by all public and academic libraries."—ARBA, September 8, 2016

"The author states that the main goal of the work is to make these narratives available to students and instructors in the classroom, and in that regard it should prove useful. Libraries wanting a literary analysis of the narratives should purchase this. . . . Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries."—Choice, December 1, 2016
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