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Literature of
U.S. Slavery

 Slavery in the U.S. was the legal institution of human chattel enslavement, primarily of Africans and African Americans, that existed from its founding in 1776 (and before that in the Thirteen British Colonies)  until passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. As we know, slavery left a deep legacy of inequality and racism, one that is still visible today a century and a half after emancipation. There is a wealth of startlingly fine literature taking us into the heart of that time and the lives of the individual slaves; from this we learn, what so often has not been taught, and can begin to grapple with America’s ugly past.

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Name the book:

1. A realistic novel of the deep south during slavery with the fantastical element of a literal underground railroad with real tracks and trains.

2.   Ditto the above, only here the fantastical element concerning the railroad is a supernatural means of “conduction.”

3. True story of a Black man who lived the first 30 years of his life in freedom, but then was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery by two con men, which landed him in a Louisiana plantation, toiling in hard labor and experiencing horrific abuse.

4. First book of African American literature to become an international best seller, written by a formerly enslaved sailor (1789), born in Africa, who underwent being kidnapped from his family as a boy and transported on the horrific journey to the Americas known as the Middle Passage; the narrative inspired the growth of the abolition movement.

5.   Autobiographical account chronicling the remarkable odyssey of a woman (1813–1897) whose dauntless spirit and faith carried her from a life of servitude and degradation in North Carolina to liberty and reunion with her children in the North, revealing her seven years in self-imposed exile, hiding in a coffin-like "garret" attached to her grandmother's porch.

6.  True story of a slave girl who was just 14 when her owner began raping her regularly. After giving birth to two of his children she reached her breaking point, fought against his advances and killed him in self-defense at which point she suddenly found herself being prosecuted by the state of Missouri. This tragic book epitomizes the evils and trauma of slavery, especially for women.

7.  Life story of a slave boy who painstakingly taught himself to read in secret, chronicling his escape and ascension as a famous orator and world traveler; this memoir was widely read in its time (30,000 copies had been sold by 1860) and it opened people’s eyes to just how hideous the institution of slavery was, thus giving increased momentum to the abolition movement.

8.  In this novel, a former slave in 1873 Cincinnati, Ohio, whose family is haunted by a spirit, must confront her repressed memories of trauma and her past life in bondage.

9.   Tells the stories of John Washington and Wallace Turnage, two former slaves who risked their lives for the sake of freedom. 

10. Story of one of George Washington’s slaves who, though treated relatively well, wanted her freedom; therefore, at age 22, she escaped Pennsylvania (where Washington was circumventing the Gradual Abolition Act in order to retain his slaves) and entered New England. Washington employed illegal tactics and leveraged his political connections to relentlessly pursue the woman he regarded as his property, but she was never caught.

11.  And lastly, in a more modern tale of servitude and degradation set in the1960s, this novel focuses on the lives of two black boys in a vile and corrupt juvenile reformatory in Florida, from where they attempt an escape to save their lives, echoing the horrors of slave days past.


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