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Slave Narratives

African slaves brought a tradition of oral narratives to the U.S., a tradition that persisted after the abolition of slavery.
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Immeasurable Distance

I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, lowering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin!

—Frederick Douglass's 1852 Independence Day address, “What to a Slave Is the Fourth of July?”

Sojourner Truth's Narrative appeared five years after Douglass's print debut. Her volume was “as told to” abolitionist Olive Gilbert. The detailed story told how Truth, born Isabella Baumfree, survived and escaped slavery to become a New England preacher, and, later, an abolitionist.

To learn more about slave narratives, visit “American Slavery: A Composite Autobiography” at www.slavenarratives.com—the excellent site sponsored by Greenwood Publishing Group.

Excerpted from

The Complete Idiot's Guide to African-American History
Melba J. Duncan
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to African-American History © 2003 by Melba J. Duncan. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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