The Blind African Slave: Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nicknamed Jeffrey Braceby Jeffrey Brace
Pub. Date: 01/10/2005
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
The narrative, originally transcribed with commentary by Benjamin F. Prentiss, was published in 1810 by St. Albans, Vermont. The narrator tells of his capture, the perfidy of English slave traders, the horror of the Middle Passage, the brutality of slavery in New England, and the difficulties of free life in Vermont. Winter (American studies, State U. of New York-Buffalo) finds it odd that a story including memories of Africa and an account of an African American fighting in the US War of Independenceboth rarewould be so totally neglected for two centuries, but finds that until now, no one has done the research necessary to authenticate it. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
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The biography of the slave captured in Africa in the 1700s begins with his capture and goes on to cover 'his adventures in the British navy, travels, sufferings, sales, abuses, education, service in the American war [of Independence], emancipation, conversion to the christian religion, knowledge of the Scriptures, memory, and blindness.' Prentiss, who wrote down the slave's story, was a Northern abolitionist. It's impossible to say how the slave Brace's story is colored by this. In the Introduction, Winter points to some known omissions. Brace's Christian faith and knowledge of the Bible seem to begin too early in his story; and with long passages from the Bible liberally and somewhat arbitrarily inserted in the text, intrude to a questionable, and certainly unnecessary, degree. Prentiss was attracted to Brace's life story because of how it could promote his abolitionist views rooted in his Christian faith. Brace was a decent person caught up in events far beyond his understanding or concern. He enlisted to fight in the Revolutionary War mainly to gain his freedom. After being freed for his service, he moved from Connecticut, where he was owned by a cruel slavemaster, to Vermont, where he continued to bear physical and financial difficulties. The facts of Brace's colorful, moving tale can be readily sifted out from Prentiss's extraneous matter--leaving a rare, memorable biography of a slave in the North, whose circumstances and options were considerably different from slaves in the South. The circumstances of Brace's capture in Africa and his time in Vermont in the last years of his life are of particular interest.