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I Belong to South Carolina

South Carolina Slave Narratives

Susanna Ashton

Publication Year: 2012

Out of the hundreds of published slave narratives,only a handful exist specific to South Carolina, and most of these are not readily available to modern readers. Edited by Susanna Ashton, this collection restores to print seven slave narratives documenting the lived realities of slavery as it existed across the Palmetto State's upcountry, midlands, and lowcountry, from plantation culture to urban servitude. First published between the late eighteenth century and the dawn of the twentieth, these richly detailed firsthand accounts present a representative cross section of slave experiences, from religious awakenings and artisan apprenticeships to sexual exploitations and harrowing escapes. In their distinctive individual voices, narrators celebrate and mourn the lives of fellow slaves, contemplate the meaning of freedom, and share insights into the social patterns and cultural controls exercised during a turbulent period in American history. Each narrative is preceded by an introduction to place its content and publication history in historical context. The volume also features an afterword surveying other significant slave narratives and related historical documents on South Carolina. I Belong to South Carolina reinserts a chorus of powerful voices of the dispossessed into South Carolina's public history, reminding us of the cruelties of the past and the need for vigilant guardianship of liberty in the present and future.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press


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pp. 1-5


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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-8

Thanks for research and reference assistance are owed to the library staff at Swarthmore Friends Historical Library, especially Christopher Densmore, who helped trace Clarinda to 1837. Allen Thigpen of Sumter shared very useful information about the history of I. E. Lowery for which I am grateful. The reference and the interlibrary loan specialists at Clemson ...

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Editorial Method

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pp. viii-ix

The goal for editing these texts was simply to make alterations only when helpful to contemporary readers and yet not unnecessarily diminish the tone and historical phrasing particular to these narratives. Silent changes were made in some small instances to remove misleading punctuation and to correct spelling or printing errors that rendered words ...

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pp. 1-13

In 1846 John Andrew Jackson escaped from a Sumter, South Carolina,plantation. He made his way to the docks of Charleston, where he lurked around the wharves, seeking a northbound boat. Suspicious workers con-fronted the black man, demanding to know, “Who do you belong to?”Aware that he could not persuasively identify himself as either a freeman...

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Memoirs of the Life of Boston King, a Black Preacher (1798)

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pp. 14-39

Slave narratives often tell of harrowing journeys on roads besieged with patrollers and bounty hunters who were eager to seize unaccompanied blacks,whether free or slaves. Many nineteenth-century slaves escaped by boat or train or through the woods primarily to avoid the dangers of public roads.Boston King’s account of trekking by foot through Patriot-held territory in...

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"Clarinda: A Pious Colored Woman of South Carolina” (1875)

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pp. 40-48

Sexual abuse of women was often represented in traditional slave narratives as a predictable, if horrendous, outcome of a system in which absolute power was accorded one person over another.* In a complex departure from this familiar formulation, the story of Clarinda depicts the protagonist her-self leading others down the path of sexual sin. “By her own confession,” as...

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“Recollections of Slavery by a Runaway Slave” (1838)

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pp. 49-82

“Recollections of Slavery by a Runaway Slave” tells the story of a young man who, in the winter of 1837, escaped from slavery near Charleston, South Carolina. While the narrator never identifies himself by name, he more than compensates for that omission by providing the reader with precise accounts of persons, places, and events. These details render his story credible even at ...

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The Experience of a Slave in South Carolina, by John Andrew Jackson (1862)

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pp. 83-126

When John Andrew Jackson heard of Mack English’s death, he realized that it was an opportunity to reevaluate God’s plan. English, a brutal man slated to inherit Jackson, was now out of the picture, and for the first time Jackson could view his future with some hope. English’s death renewed Jackson’s conviction that God loved him, and this thought inspired Jackson ...

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My Life in the South, by Jacob Stroyer (1885)

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pp. 127-166

When he was fourteen years old, Jacob Stroyer was sent along with a team of other slaves from his Sumter County plantation to serve with the Confederate army at Fort Sumter.* During the time he spent at the fort in 1864, Stroyer witnessed the death knells of the army that defended the system that had encircled his childhood in pain, destruction, and cruelty. He wrote...

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Life on the Old Plantation in Ante-Bellum Days, or a Story Based on Facts by the Reverend I. E. Lowery (1911)

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pp. 167-227

Just a few short years after the Civil War, Rev. I. E. Lowery, a nineteen-year-old former slave, became the first student to be admitted to Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, in the year 1869.* Moreover, as the first student at Claflin, he was also the very first student enrolled at a black university in the entire state. Young Irving Lowery embodied all the hope that...

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Before the War and after the Union: An Autobiography, by Sam Aleckson (1929)

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pp. 228-293

One might think that the hardships of life under slavery would so alienate people from their surroundings that they would cast off any allegiance to the place of their bondage. After all, many enslaved people were certainly haunted by dreams of escaping and leaving their farms, their states, or the United States itself. And yet, as the life of Sam Aleckson illustrates, enslaved...

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Afterword—the Slave Experience in South Carolina

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pp. 294-305

Out of hundreds of published American slave autobiographies, fewer than a dozen address in any detail the slave experience in South Carolina.In light of the fact that slaves comprised over 50 percent of South Carolina’s population throughout the nineteenth century, the historical and literary value of the few known extant memoirs is tremendous.* I Belong...


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pp. 307-317

E-ISBN-13: 9781611171679
Print-ISBN-13: 9781570039010

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2012