Free4Kindle: Slave Narratives

Twelve Years A Slave: Original Edition – With Bonus of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Original illustrations
Yep, the original. Also, this is two books in one. I downloaded this one. We have Twelve Years a Slave on cassette tape- my older kids listened to it on a long car drive years ago, and now their youngest sister wants to read it. It’s good, really, really good.

Update: this one is already .99, and I couldn’t find a free one.  The rest of these should remain free:

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass should be required reading in all high schools. This book was so eloquently written that it is easy to forget that the man who wrote it taught himself how to read and write! He is expressive and poetic, yet concise. He takes the reader on a journey through horror and hope. I learned things about slave-life that I could have never imagined.

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Up from Slavery: an autobiography

It remains one of the most important works on such an influential African-American leader.”–Professor Delia Crutchfield Cook, University of Maryland, KC

“This book is a must read.”–Professor Warren C. Swindell, Indiana State University

“This book is definitely a classic and I have used every year im my African-American history course.”–Professor W. Marvin Dulaney, College of Charleston

“Reading ‘Up From Slavery’ has provided my students with an opportunity to encounter a key figure in African American history on his own terms. It has provided them with greater insight into the mind of this man and his times.”–C. Matthew Hawkins, Carlow College

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Behind the Scenes or, Thirty years a slave, and Four Years in the White House

“Invaluable…Elizabeth Keckley’s memoir of her life as a White House dressmaker for Mary Todd Lincoln…[is a] curious gem”–Eric J. Sundquist in The New York Times Book Review

“A remarkable vantage point on the Civil War” –Chicago Sun Times
About the Author
Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (1818–1907) was born a slave near Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, and, after purchasing her freedom, became head of the Domestic Science Department at Wilberforce University in Ohio.

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself

Harriet Ann Jacobs (1813-1897) was an American writer, who escaped from slavery and became an abolitionist speaker and reformer. Jacobs’ single work, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, published in 1861 under the pseudonym “Linda Brent”, was one of the first autobiographical narratives about the struggle for freedom by female slaves and an account of the sexual harassment and abuse they endured. The narrative was designed to appeal to middle class white Christian women in the North, focusing on the impact of slavery on women’s chastity and sexual virtues. Christian women could perceive how slavery was a temptation to masculine lusts and vice as well as to womanly virtues. Jacobs criticized the religion of the Southern United States as being un-Christian and as emphasizing the value of money (“If I am going to hell, bury my money with me,” says a particularly brutal and uneducated slaveholder). She described another slaveholder with, “He boasted the name and standing of a Christian, though Satan never had a truer follower.” Jacobs argued that these men were not exceptions to the general rule. Much of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was devoted to the Jacobs’s struggle to free her two children after she escaped. Before that, Harriet spent seven years hiding in a tiny space built into her grandmother’s barn to see and hear the voices of her children. Jacobs changed the names of all characters in the novel, including her own, to conceal their true identities. The villainous slave owner “Dr. Flint” was based on Jacobs’s former master, Dr. James Norcom. Despite the publisher’s documents of authenticity, some critics attacked the narrative as based on false accounts. There was a reaction against the more horrific details of slave narratives, and some readers believed they could not be true.

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This one is fiction, and it’s still kind of infamous with many southerners. However, while it is fiction, Mrs. Stowe based many of the incidents and people on true accounts she’d seen in newspapers and learned of while interviewing escaped slaves. She wrote about that in the book Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

For .99 you can get a Kindle versioin that has both UTC and the Key, which gives the sources for all her material in UTC, which were not fiction- she used real incidents in her story, incidents she gleaned from interviews with former slaves who fled to freedom and from newspaper accounts:

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Halcyon Classics)

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During the Depression, one of the government work projects sent writers and journalists out around the country to talk to former slaves about what their lives had been like. Obviously, given the timing, many of the interviewed had been children at the time of slavery, and some of the oldest may have had their memories clouded a bit by their years, but these narratives remain a valuable historical resource. Here are just a few of them (all free):

Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves, North Carolina Narratives, Part 2

Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves Kansas Narratives

Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves Ohio Narratives

Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves Kentucky Narratives
(reader review: These slave narratives from the WPA–this group conducted in Kentucky–compare to nothing else. One just wishes there were more of them. I especially enjoyed the ones where the slaves were allowed to relate their experience. Some interviewers used the opportunity to tell how happy the ex-slaves were, and well-cared for under the plantation system–a few bad eggs of overseers made everybody look bad, etc. It seemed that some interviewers asked leading questions about superstitions, like belief in charms was somehow unique to the slave quarters. I would expect that had white citizens with similar opportunities/educations been questioned, they would have been just as superstitious. That being said, reading these from any state is always edifying.)

Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves Georgia Narratives, Part 2

Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves Florida Narratives

Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves. Texas Narratives, Part 2

(Reader review of one of the set from Texas: “these were recorded/written in 1937 as part of the WPA writers’ project, and the year must be considered – that’s understandable. But, these read as though the writers were given a “script” of prompts (and perhaps a “dictionary” of how to write in dialect) to ask the former slaves – how slave cabins were built, what they ate, did they believe in “hoo-voo” and ghosts, what was their religion and songs they sang, how “good the massa” treated them, etc – many stereotypes that became monotonous. It’s obvious that most of those interviewed were afraid to offend the “white folks.” But, some divulged something on their own that proved informative, and people looking for ancestry might find a family name and place pop up. The most interesting point that emerged was how unprepared the former slaves were for “freedom” since many had never been off the plantation and hadn’t been allowed to learn to read/write; unless they had a particular skill like blacksmithing, they were doomed for extreme poverty, as provisions to help their adjustment didn’t exist. Many stayed on the lands where they were born, at least until the owners went broke or died, and most of their children deserted them as they aged.”)

Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States – From Interviews with Former Slaves Arkansas Narratives, Part 7

(Amazon reader review: The book written in 1937 interviewed former slaves. It was very informative and gave you a personal perspective of the era. One thing that stands out is how some of the interviewees said that the new generation of children (remember this is back in 1937) was getting bad and that they lacked respect. Good book for the price. I’d like to see more school children read this book to get a better perspective on how man could treat his fellow man so bad.)

This link should take you to a page of slave narratives from different states:
WPA Slave Narratives Page

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American Slave Trade or, An Account of the Manner in which the Slave Dealers take Free People from some of the United States of America, and carry them … carrying on of this most infamous Traffic

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The History of Mary Prince A West Indian Slave

This book is a great primary source read that gives an in-depth image of the life of Mary Prince. From the transporting between colonies and England, to the violence endured, and being passed from family to family – Mary Prince remains hopeful of her situation and also for her future as a wife. The book directly engages the reader and provides not only information about the life of a Black female slave, but also humanizes Mary as a woman rather than just a slave as many accounts and even history tends to classify them as.

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The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America 1638-1870, by W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du Bois

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From Slave to College President Being the Life Story of Booker T. Washington
a biography
Reader review: This is a factual account of the life of Booker T. Washington. It is not the type of book that hold one on the edge of their seat, but it is a witness to how much difference one man’s life can make in the lives of others. He helped make great strides in the education of the negro race. He was completely dedicated to the task and it comes through loud and clear in this biography

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Thirty Years a Slave From Bondage to Freedom: The Institution of Slavery as Seen on the Plantation and in the Home of the Planter: Autobiography of Louis Hughes

Reader review: the author wrote/described his story very vividly. It is very authentic and gave a true account of his life, the year and the underlying circumstances of the time/period in history. I commend him for his courage, his spirit and desire for freedom. His longing to be free and improve himself gave true meaning for his real struggle and desire to improve himself, thus, being successful in every endeavor he embrace.

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The Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave


Amazon blurb: William Wells Brown (November 6, 1814 November 6, 1884) was a prominent abolitionist lecturer, novelist, playwright, and historian. Born into slavery in the Southern United States, Brown escaped to the North, where he worked for abolitionist causes and was a prolific writer. Brown was a pioneer in several different literary genres, including travel writing, fiction, and drama, and wrote what is considered to be the first novel by an African American. An almost exact contemporary of Frederick Douglass, Wells Brown was overshadowed by Douglass and the two feuded publicly. William Wells Brown was born into slavery in Lexington, Kentucky. His mother, Elizabeth, was owned by a Dr. Young and had seven children, all with different fathers. (In addition to Brown, her children were Solomon, Leander, Benjamin, Joseph, Milford, and Elizabeth.) Brown’s father was George Higgins, a white plantation owner and cousin of the owner of the plantation where Brown was born. Even though Young promised Higgins never to sell the boy, he was sold multiple times before he was twenty years old. Brown spent the majority of his youth in St. Louis. His masters hired him out to work on the Missouri River, then a major thoroughfare for the slave trade. He made several attempts to escape, and on New Year’s Day of 1834, he successfully slipped away from a steamboat at a dock in Cincinnati, Ohio. He adopted the name of a Quaker friend of his, who had helped him after his escape by providing him with food, clothes and some money. Shortly after gaining his freedom, he met and married Elizabeth Schooner, a free African-American woman, from whom he separated and later divorced, causing a minor scandal. Together they had three daughters. From 1836 to about 1845, Brown made his home in Buffalo, New York, where he served as a conductor for the Underground Railroad and as a steam boatman on Lake Erie, a position he used to ferry escaped slaves to freedom in Canada. There Brown became active in the abolitionist movement by joining several anti-slavery societies and the Negro Convention Movement.

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The Fugitive Blacksmith or, Events in the History of James W. C. Pennington, Pastor of a Presbyterian Church, New York, Formerly a Slave in the State of Maryland, United States

It is impossible to read accounts like Mr. Pennington’s (a slave who escapes, pursues education, becomes a writer and speaker and advocate) without utmost admiration for the greatness of spirit and courage evident. It is not a developed work, but more like a transcription of memories some time after the fact. Its plainness of expression and straightforward account, lacking exaggeration or hyperbole, make it all the more effective. It could serve as an excellent introduction into the realities of life both as a slave and as an escaped slave and supposedly free man.

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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
“Narrative of the Life of J.D. Green” is an interesting account of J.D. Green’s escapes to freedom. It is a short story but very well written, moving along at a good pace. Green was a clever man. He details his thoughts and the various ways he found to escape. He was captured and sold and escaped, so it was quite a story as to how he landed in Canada. I was fully immersed in the tale and was able to read it in one sitting.

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Biography of a Slave, Being the Experiences of Rev. Charles Thompson, a Preacher of the United Brethren Church, While a Slave in the South. Together with … Occurrences Incidental to Slave Life.

This is a fascinating account that brings to life an unreal existence. Charles manages to reflect Christ even as a mistreated slave. His faith is sustaining and strong. I am humbled by his faithfulness under such circumstances. It will challenge believers to reexamine their faith walk and prompt those without faith to wonder at a faith so strong. Great read!

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Fugitive Slaves 1619-1865

Marion Gleason McDougall
published in 1891

This looks like a very interesting chronology of fugitive slave laws, fugitive slaves, and court cases in North America during the period mentioned in the title. It’s also at Gutenberg, where I lifted this excerpt:

 5. Escapes in New England: Attucks case.—Although we do not find records of fugitive slave cases tried at this time within the New England colonies, advertisements of runaways exist in sufficient numbers to prove that escapes were common. It seems probable, therefore, that the return of a slave when within his own colony was taken as a matter of course, and roused so little opposition, and required so simple a process at law, that matters concerning it would seldom find mention in the chronicles of the time. Here is a typical advertisement:—

“Ran away from Samuel Gilbert of Littleton, an indentured Servant Boy, named Samuel Gilson, about 17 years old, of a middling Stature for his Age, and wears black curled Hair, he carried away with him a blue cloth Coat, a light colored Jacket with sleeves, one pair of worsted Stockings, two striped woolen Shirts, and one good linnen Shirt. He went away in company with a short thick set Fellow, who wore a green coat and a green Jacket double breasted, also a pair Indian green Stockings. Whoever shall take up and secure, or give information of said runaway, so that his master may find him again, shall receive a Reward of two dollars and all necessary charges from

Samuel Gilbert.

“All masters of vessels and others are cautioned against harboring,” etc.16

Again a case interesting not only as an illustration of the customs of the time, but also because the fugitive himself bears a name known to history in another connection, is noticed in the Boston Gazette of 1750. Here is advertised as escaping, October 2, 1750, from his master, William Browne of Framingham, Massachusetts, “A molatto fellow about twenty-seven years of age, named Crispus.” After describing his clothing and appearance, a reward of ten pounds, old tenor, is offered for his return, and “all masters of vessels and others are cautioned against concealing said servant on penalty of law.”17 Tradition has it, however, that he was never arrested, but returned of his own accord after a short time, and was for the next twenty years a faithful servant.18Then, in 1770, presumably while in town upon one of the expeditions he often undertook to buy and sell cattle for his master, he was drawn into the Boston Massacre of March 5.19

More from this book here.

Other free books on the topic:

The Duty of Disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act An Appeal To The Legislators Of Massachusetts, Anti-Slavery Tracts No. 9

The Fugitive Slave Law and Its Victims Anti-Slavery Tracts No. 18

Speech of John Hossack, Convicted of a Violation of the Fugitive Slave Law Before Judge Drummond, Of The United States District Court, Chicago, Ill.

Report of the Proceedings at the Examination of Charles G. Davis, Esq., on the Charge of Aiding and Abetting in the Rescue of a Fugitive Slave Held in Boston, in February, 1851.

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One Comment

  1. Posted April 10, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink While this list is specifically from Amazon, you might also consider this collection that is pretty comprehensive. It is an attempt to include ALL North American slave narratives.

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