Cover image for The Civitas anthology of African American slave narratives
The Civitas anthology of African American slave narratives
Andrews, William L., 1946-
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Civitas/Counterpoint, [1999]

Physical Description:
xi, 642 pages ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1120 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E444 .C44 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E444 .C44 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E444 .C44 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

On Order



Hailed in 1849 as "a new department in the literature of civilization," the slave narrative forms the foundation of the African American literary tradition. From the late-eighteenth-century narratives by Africans who endured the harrowing Middle Passage, through the classic American fugitive slave narratives of the mid-nineteenth century, slave narratives have provided some of the most graphic and damning documentary evidence of the horrors of slavery. Riveting, passionate, and politically charged, the slave narrative blends personal memory and rhetorical attacks on slavery to create powerful literature and propaganda.The Civitas Anthology presents the seven classic antislavery narratives of the antebellum period in their entirety: The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave , the first slave narrative published by a woman in the Americas; The Confessions of Nat Turner , written when Turner was asked to record his motivation for leading the bloodiest slave revolt in U.S. history; The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass , an international bestseller and the first narrative to fashion the male fugitive slave into an African American cultural hero; The Narrative of William W. Brown , an account that explored with unprecedented realism the slave's survival ethic and the art of the slave trickster; The Narrative of the Life of Henry Bibb , the story of the struggles of the most memorable family man among the classic slave narrators; Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom , a gripping chronicle of one of the most daring and celebrated slave escapes ever recorded; and Incidents in the Life of Slave Girl , a dramatic text that exposed the sexual abuse of female slaves and pioneered the image of the fugitive slave woman as an articulate resister and survivor.Born out of lives of unparalleled suffering, the slave narrative captures all the bravery, drama, and hope that characterized the African American struggle against slavery. From these beginnings came some of the most influential novels in American literature, for the works of writers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, and Toni Morrison owe much of their power and social resonance to the slave narrative tradition. The Civitas Anthology gathers the most important narratives in this tradition into one volume for the first time, an indispensable resource for scholars, students, and general readers.

Author Notes

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of Humanities, chair of the Afro-American Studies Department, and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

A fresh impetus to understand the truth about slavery is inspiring the publication of numerous works, and no sources are more significant than the stories of people who experienced the horrors firsthand. Gates and Andrews present seven fugitive-slave narratives in this invaluable volume, which Andrews sagely introduces by addressing the close connection between literacy and liberty, and by describing slave narratives not only as essential to the abolitionist movement but as "the bedrock tradition of African American literature." It's all here, from the most violent of physical tortures--Henry Bibb writes that he wasn't raised up, he was "flogged up" --to the sexual predation Harriet Jacob endured and candidly describes, and endless psychological torment. Tales not of victims but of heroes, the chronicles of Bibb, Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner, and William and Ellen Craft (a husband-and-wife team who made it all the way to England with light-skinned Ellen disguised as her husband's master) are profiles in courage, ingenuity, and genuine righteousness, and burn as brightly now as they did more than a century ago. --Donna Seaman

Table of Contents

Other Books from Civitasp. ii
Prefacep. vii
Editor's Notep. xi
Introductionp. 1
Referencesp. 21
1 The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself, to Which Is Added, the Narrative of Asa-Asa, a Captured Africanp. 23
Prefacep. 25
2 The Confessions of Nat Turner, the Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, Va., as Fully and Voluntarily Made to Thomas R. Grayp. 83
3 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himselfp. 105
Prefacep. 107
4 Narrative Of William W. Brown, An American Slave, Written By Himselfp. 195
Note to the Present Editionp. 199
Prefacep. 202
5 Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, an American Slave, Written by Himselfp. 287
Introductionp. 289
Prefacep. 299
6 Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; Or, the Escape of William and Ellen Graft from Slaveryp. 403
Prefacep. 405
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girlp. 462
7 Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herselfp. 463
Preface by the Authorp. 465
Introduction by the Editorp. 466