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Amanda Smith  Booker T. Washington  Title Page from A Narrative of Events Since the First of August, 1834, by James Williams  Hallie Q. Brown  Portrait of Omar ibn Said 
About North American Slave Narratives

"North American Slave Narratives" documents the individual and collective story of the Black struggle for freedom and human rights in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is the goal of the University Libraries at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to digitize all known extant narratives written by self-emancipated and formerly enslaved people and published as broadsides, pamphlets, or books in English up to 1920, as well as many of the biographies of self-emancipated and formerly enslaved people published in English before 1920. This collection was largely funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which awarded the University Libraries a two-year grant and a one-year extension grant. Further funding was provided by The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and the University Libraries continues to fund further expansion of this collection. The extensive offerings within this collection are made possible through the collaboration of the more than seventy repositories throughout the country that loaned original editions or provided photocopies of rare narratives.

A crucial resource for historians of the American South and slavery, first person accounts of enslavement are an important foundation of African American literature and culture and have had a profound impact on the development of American literature. From their beginnings in the late eighteenth century, narratives by enslaved people aimed to inform a largely white readership of the inhumanity of enslavement. By the mid-nineteenth century authors of first-person accounts of enslavement, among them internationally famous fugitives from slavery such as Frederick Douglass, expanded the form to engage white people in a dialogue on the meaning of the American ideal of freedom. After Emancipation, formerly enslaved people continued to write of their experience in bondage and in freedom.

Yet, despite their importance, most narratives by enslaved people remain inaccessible to scholars, students, and general readers. The originals are scattered among many repositories, often surviving only in fragile copies that circulate heavily. This project makes these texts widely available by digitizing them, encoding them, and publishing them on the Internet, where they are available world-wide at no charge to anyone with Internet access.

William L. Andrews, E. Maynard Adams Professor of English, is Series Editor of this collection. Author of the most complete bibliography of first-person accounts of enslavement ever compiled, Professor Andrews selected texts for "North American Slave Narratives" from the University Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, North Carolina Central University, and from other repositories around the country. An Editorial Board composed of University faculty, librarians, and UNC Press staff guided this development of this collection and all phases of Documenting the American South.

Language updated in 2021.

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