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Twelve Years a Slave

Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853

Solomon Northup Edited by David Wilson

After living as a free man for the first thirty-three years of his life, Solomon Northup was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery, leaving behind a wife and three children in New York. Sold to a Louisiana plantation owner who was also a Baptist preacher, Northup proceeded to serve several masters, some who were brutally cruel and others whose humanity he praised. After years of bondage, he met an outspoken abolitionist from Canada who notified Northup's family of his whereabouts, and he was subsequently rescued by an official agent of the state of New York. ###Twelve Years a Slave# is his account of this unusual series of events. Northup describes life on cotton and sugar cane plantations in meticulous detail. One slave narrative scholar calls his narrative "one of the most detailed and realistic portraits of slave life." He also leavens his account with wry humor and cultural commentary, making many parts of the narrative read more like travel writing than abolitionist literature. ###Twelve Years a Slave# presents the remarkable story of a free man thrown into a hostile and foreign world, who survived by his courage and cunning.

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Uncle Tom's Story of His Life

An Autobiography of the Reverend Josiah Henson

Josiah Henson

Born into slavery in North Carolina around 1786, Moses Grandy was bequeathed to his young playmate, his original owner's son, when they were both eight years old. Hired out until he was twenty-one, Grandy describes each of his temporary masters--some cruel and some kind. His first wife is sold shortly after they marry, and he never sees her again. After saving his money whenever possible and buying his freedom for $600, Grandy is betrayed by his childhood friend, who sells him. Grandy marries again and purchases his freedom a second time, only to be once again betrayed. With the assistance of white friends, Grandy buys his freedom a third time and moves north. He is also able to purchase the freedom of his second wife, but their children remain in slavery. Grandy wrote this ###Narrative# to raise funds for the freedom of his children.

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Walker's Appeal, in Four Articles

Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America

David Walker

First published in 1829, Walker's ###Appeal# called on slaves to rise up and free themselves. The two subsequent versions of his document (including the reprinted 1830 edition published shortly before Walker's death) were increasingly radical. Addressed to the whole world but directed primarily to people of color around the world, the 87-page pamphlet by a free black man born in North Carolina and living in Boston advocates immediate emancipation and slave rebellion. Walker asks the slaves among his readers whether they wouldn't prefer to "be killed than to be a slave to a tyrant." He advises them not to "trifle" if they do rise up, but rather to kill those who would continue to enslave them and their wives and children. Copies of the pamphlet were smuggled by ship in 1830 from Boston to Wilmington, North Carolina, Walker's childhood home, causing panic among whites. In 1830, members of North Carolina's General Assembly had the ###Appeal# in mind as they tightened the state's laws dealing with slaves and free black citizens. The resulting stricter laws led to more policies that repressed African Americans, freed and slave alike.

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A Woman's Wartime Journal

An Account of the Passage over Georgia's Plantation of Sherman's Army on the March to the Sea, as Recorded in the Diary of Dolly Sumner Lunt (Mrs. Thomas Burge)

Dolly Sumner Lunt

Dolly Sumner Lunt begins her diary, A Woman's Wartime Journal, published in 1918, by recalling her anxiety about the approach of General Sherman's Union army on January 1, 1864. While she worries about the arrival of Sherman's troops and their habit of pillaging and burning everything in their path, she records stories of visits by local raiders posing as U.S. soldiers and the sleepless nights she has spent watching fires on the horizon. Despite Lunt's efforts to hide her valuable possessions, which include sending her mules into the woods, dividing her stores of meat among the slaves, and burying the silver, the passing Union troops raid her house and plantation and take her slaves with them. They also set fire to cotton bales in her barn, but the blaze burns out before spreading, largely sparing Lunt’s property the widespread destruction suffered by neighboring plantations. In her last entries, dated December 1865, Lunt writes optimistically about the recovery of her farm, her new sharecropping system, and the first cheerful Christmas in years.

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