North Carolina Slave Narratives: The Lives of Moses Roper, Lunsford Lane, Moses Grandy, and Thomas H. Jones / Edition 1

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The autobiographies of former slaves contributed powerfully to the abolitionist movement in the United States, fanning national—even international—indignation against the evils of slavery. The four texts gathered here are all from North Carolina slaves and are among the most memorable and influential slave narratives published in the nineteenth century. The writings of Moses Roper (1838), Lunsford Lane (1842), Moses Grandy (1843), and the Reverend Thomas H. Jones (1854) provide a moving testament to the struggles of enslaved people to affirm their human dignity and ultimately seize their liberty.

Introductions to each narrative provide biographical and historical information as well as explanatory notes. Andrews's general introduction to the collection reveals that these narratives not only helped energize the abolitionist movement but also laid the groundwork for an African American literary tradition that inspired such novelists as Toni Morrison and Charles Johnson.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"For those who want to get some idea of what slavery in the South was like before the Civil War, this is the book. . . . a compelling and hugely informative view of a time and an ethos that we can never forget."
For those who want to get some idea of what slavery in the South was like before the Civil War, this is the book. It's an academic presentation of the recollections of four black men--Moses Roper, Lunsford Lane, Moses Grandy, and Thomas H. Jones--who were born and raised in rural servitude in North Carolina. Each escaped his condition as an adult, either through flight or emancipation at the close of the Civil War. Each either penned his memoirs or went on the lecture circuit, intent on telling his own story. The four narratives are each preceded by a scholarly introduction, as is the book as a whole. These discussions are fine for serious academics but may be skipped by the average reader without harm. Insights are everything in a book of this nature, and this one abounds in them. The numerous tales of cruelty, punishment and hard treatment are to be expected, of course, but the almost casual way in which each of the narrators mentions "a cowhide" [whip] is more chilling than the most lurid description of an actual whipping. The book is at its best when it challenges casual assumptions. Cruelty often wore a distressingly human face. After a severe flogging, for instance, one owner said with genuine concern: "Why Bob, I had no idea I had cut you so deep." Runaway slaves could rarely feel safe even in the most remote corners of the Free states; as numerous as escapees might have been, most were actively sought as individuals, by name and description. Escapees paid substandard wages often risked betrayal if they complained; a rapacious employer could always count on the reward money. Even black churches in the North were not completely safe. Professional slave catchers would shadowthe gospel services looking for prey, and sometimes even the slave owner himself would spy on prayer meetings. For all the material presented in this book, however, the reader should be careful of making wide generalizations. All four North Carolinians were male, were field hands, and were exceptional men in their own right--self-directed, determined, and eloquent. All had suffered under bad masters and yet had become literate to some degree. They represent, therefore, only a tiny sample of the slavery experience. That said, this is still a compelling and hugely informative view of a time and an ethos that we can never forget. KLIATT Codes: SA--Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Univ. of North Carolina Press, 279p. notes., Ages 15 to adult.
—Raymond Puffer, Ph.D.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

General editor William L. Andrews is E. Maynard Adams Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is author or editor of more than thirty books, including The Literary Career of Charles W. Chesnutt and To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760-1865. Coeditors David A. Davis, Tampathia Evans, Ian Frederick Finseth, and Andrea N. Williams have earned graduate degrees in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Table of Contents

General Introduction
A Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper
The Narrative of Lunsford Lane
Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy
The Experience of Rev. Thomas H. Jones
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