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Between 1760 and 1902, more than 200 book-length autobiographies of ex-slaves were published; together they form the basis for all subsequent African American literature. I Was Born a Slave collects the 20 most significant “slave narratives.” They describe whippings, torture, starvation, resistance, and hairbreadth escapes; slave auctions, kidnappings, and murders; sexual abuse, religious confusion, the struggle of learning to read and write; and the triumphs and difficulties of life as free men and women. Many of the narratives—such as those of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs—have achieved reputations as masterpieces; but some of the lesser-known narratives are equally brilliant. This unprecedented anthology presents them unabridged, providing each one with helpful introductions and annotations, to form the most comprehensive volume ever assembled on the lives and writings of the slaves.
Volume One (1770-1849) includes the narratives of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, Olaudah Equiano (Gustavus Vassa), William Grimes, Nat Turner, Charles Ball, Moses Roper, Frederick Douglass, Lewis & Milton Clarke, William Wells Brown, and Josiah Henson.