From Library Journal
Narratives recorded by fugitive slaves in the antebellum South or former slaves after the Civil War were promoted by abolitionists and sold at antislavery meetings. This genre documented the harsh reality of slavery, the desire for personal and economic freedom, and the relationships between blacks and whites. Well known among African American scholars (the manuscript was first published in 1849), Brown's story was brought to the publisher's attention by Newman (W.E.B. DuBois Inst.). It is a testament to ingenuity and fortitude. Strongly motivated by the sale of his wife and children, in 1849 Brown escaped from servitude by having himself crated in a box 3' long x 2' wide. and shipped to an abolitionist in Philadelphia. After his 27-hour, 350-mile journey, he emerged to drink a glass of water and sing the 40th psalm. Not unexpectedly, word of his unorthodox journey spread to bring him celebrity status. Brown became a lecturer on the abolitionist circuit, singing his songs and telling his story. In his introduction, Newman delineates the circumstances of Brown's escape, the many instances of slave resistance, and the development of the slave narrative. A brief foreword by Henry Louis Gates, chair of African American studies at Harvard, relates the significance of Brown's tale. This important and moving document is recommended for academic libraries. Kathleen M. Conley, Illinois State Univ., Normal
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Apologists for the antebellum South often assert that slavery was "not that bad." This compact, engrossing narrative certainly belies those claims. Brown was a slave in Virginia, where conditions for slaves were supposedly less onerous than in the Deep South. Yet Brown's description of daily slave life is infuriating and chilling. He recounts the constant intimidation, the countless humiliations, and the occasional but sickening physical brutality that slaves endured. Perhaps the most heartbreaking and terrifying threat was the possibility that one's family could be split apart forever if a family member was "sold south." When Brown's family was sold, he determined to escape to the North. The story of that escape provides an inspiring and thrilling climax to what otherwise would be a depressive chronicle of human cruelty and degradation. This is an important work that is necessary for all who wish to appreciate the bitter harvest of our "peculiar institution" of slavery. Jay FreemanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved