The Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb: An American Slave

The Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb: An American Slave

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by Henry Bibb
     
 

    First published in 1849 and largely unavailable for many years, The Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb is among the most remarkable slave narratives. Born on a Kentucky plantation in 1815, Bibb first attempted to escape from bondage at the age of ten. He was recaptured and escaped several more times before he eventually settled in

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Overview

    First published in 1849 and largely unavailable for many years, The Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb is among the most remarkable slave narratives. Born on a Kentucky plantation in 1815, Bibb first attempted to escape from bondage at the age of ten. He was recaptured and escaped several more times before he eventually settled in Detroit, Michigan, and joined the antislavery movement as a lecturer.
    Bibb’s story is different in many ways from the widely read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave and Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. He was owned by a Native American; he is one of the few ex-slave autobiographers who had labored in the Deep South (Louisiana); and he writes about folkways of the slaves, especially how he used conjure to avoid punishment and to win the hearts of women. Most significant, he is unique in exploring the importance of marriage and family to him, recounting his several trips to free his wife and child. This new edition includes an introduction by literary scholar Charles Heglar and a selection of letters and editorials by Bibb.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"I was brought up in [Kentucky]. Or, more correctly speaking …  I was flogged up; for where I should have received moral, mental, and religious instruction I received stripes without number, the object of which was to degrade and keep me in subordination. …  I have been dragged down to the lowest depths of human degradation and wretchedness, by Slaveholders."—Henry Bibb

"This new edition will be invaluable to students and scholars of the slave narrative tradition and of the broader African American literary tradition. Demonstrating sound scholarship and an eye for detail, Heglar’s introduction shows how Bibb’s story diverges from other slave narratives in its emphasis on the importance of the slave family."—Christopher De Santis, author of Langston Hughes and the Chicago Defender

"Bibb's compelling narrative of escape and recapture, of love and renunciation, is virtually unique in the annals of the slave narrative.  Bibb offers a striking self-portrait of a man caught between two worlds, a slave past that he could not cast off or forget, and a future in freedom to which he urgently desired to commit himself.  Bibb's dilemmas touch our sympathies in ways that Frederick Douglass, who seemed to assimilate and succeed in the North without so much as a longing look backward, does not move us. —William L. Andrews, coeditor of the Library of America anthology Slave Narratives

KLIATT
Henry Bibb was born a slave in Kentucky in 1815. Chafing under the abuses of the slave system, he spent his energy plotting and attempting his escapes. He ran away many times as a boy and young man, and once he finally reached Ohio and freedom, he went back time and again to try to rescue his wife and child. Forced to abandon his quest to rescue his family, Bibb became a noted speaker on the anti-slavery lecture circuit and even published his own anti-slavery newspaper, Voice of the Fugitive, in Canada where he eventually settled. While it is not quite clear how Bibb learned enough to write an autobiography and publish a newspaper, all contemporary accounts (provided in the text) seem to indicate that his story is accurate and that his writing needed only spelling and punctuation help from his editor. While the introduction by Charles Heglar to this reprint of the 1849 edition is unnecessarily pedantic, Bibb's text is gripping and fast moving. Accessible to YAs and scholars alike, this is a valuable book for any student of American history. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 258p. illus. bibliog. 22cm. 00-042307., $16.95. Ages 13 to adult. Reviewer: Patricia A. Moore; Brookline, MA , July 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 4)
Booknews
Charles Heglar (English, U. of South Florida) provides an introduction to Bibb and his autobiography and an appendix containing Bibb's letters and editorials. The narrative itself alludes to many issues affecting slaves, including their folkways and the importance of marriage and family. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780299168902
Publisher:
University of Wisconsin Press
Publication date:
02/28/2001
Series:
Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography Series
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.78(w) x 8.83(h) x 0.85(d)

Meet the Author

Charles Heglar is assistant professor of English at the University of South Florida.

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