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William J. Anderson, b. 1811
Life and Narrative of William J. Anderson, Twenty-four Years a Slave; Sold Eight Times! In Jail Sixty Times!! Whipped Three Hundred Times!!! or The Dark Deeds of American Slavery Revealed. Containing Scriptural Views of the Origin of the Black and of the White Man. Also, a Simple and Easy Plan to Abolish Slavery in the United States. Together with an Account of the Services of Colored Men in the Revolutionary War--Day and Date, and Interesting Facts
Chicago: Daily Tribune Book and Job Printing Office, 1857.


William J. Anderson was born to a free mother and slave father in Hanover County, Virginia in 1811. After Anderson's father, a Revolutionary War veteran, died, his indigent mother was forced to hire him out to a Virginia slaveholder. While serving in this capacity, Anderson learned to read and write covertly. His master sold him despite his free status, and he was forced to endure slave auctions in Tennessee and Natchez, Mississippi. While living on a plantation near Vicksburg, Mississippi, Anderson escaped by forging a pass and made his way to Madison City, Indiana in 1836. The next year he married, but his wife died in 1849. Anderson became a successful free man, owning three farms and operating businesses both in Madison City and later in Indianapolis, Indiana. He also was active in aiding fugitive slaves. Anderson converted to Christianity as a young man, and after escaping from slavery he got his license to exhort and then to preach. After joining the African Methodist Episcopal Church, he began a preaching circuit and also was a minister for a local church in addition to his secular work.

William Anderson's narrative, Life and Narrative of William J. Anderson (1857), describes his personal experiences in slavery, including the several times he was sold, the harsh punishments he endured, and his attempted escapes. Anderson also tells about the immoral liberties slave owners took with their female slaves and their brutality towards both male and female slaves. Anderson also includes a simple plan for abolishing slavery in the United States, which was: to set apart a large tract of land in the United States for blacks and to compensate slaveholders for their financial loss. The slaveholders, in turn, would liberate their slaves and hire them as paid workers if they did not move to the new territory. The narrative also includes descriptions of black service during the Revolutionary War, broken down by state, as well as songs of freedom.

Monique Prince

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