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Chronological List of Slave and Ex-Slave Biographies

This section of the bibliography lists biographies published in English before 1940 that were written by or about slaves or former slaves. Much less well known than autobiographical slave narratives, the biographies of slaves or former slaves constitute an abundant resource for the study of the nineteenth-century slave narrative tradition. In addition to book-length biographies, the following listing comprises biographical pamphlets, books of biographical sketches, historical volumes that contain a significant proportion of biographical narratives, and substantial biographical introductions to editions of authors' works. Generally more sermonic than narrative, eulogies are not listed here. Also excluded from this bibliography are various other non-narrative biographical forms, for example, the commemorative speech, the newspaper, magazine, or journal article, and the obituary, even though they were sometimes used for biographical purposes.


Bluett, Thomas. Some Memoirs of the Life of Job, the Son of Solomon, the High Priest of Boonda in Africa; Who Was a Slave about Two Years in Maryland; and Afterwards Being Brought to England, Was Set Free, and Sent to His Native Land in the Year 1734. London: R. Ford, 1734.

Total biographies, 1730-1739: 1


The Royal African: or, Memoirs of the Young Prince of Annamaboe [William Ansah Sessarakoo]. London: W. Reeve, 1749.

Total biographies, 1740-1749: 1


Norris, Robert, d. 1791. Memoirs of the Reign of Bossa Ahadee, King of Dahomy, an Inland Country of Guiney: to which are Added, the Author's Journey to Abomey, the Capital; and a Short Account of the African Slave Trade. London: W. Lowndes, 1789.

Total biographies, 1780-1789: 1


Mott, Abigail, 1766-1851, ed. Biographical Sketches and Interesting Anecdotes of Persons of Colour. To Which is Added, a Selection of Pieces in Poetry. New-York: M. Day, 1826.

Mitchell, Joseph, 1798-1864. The Missionary Pioneer, or, a Brief Memoir of the Life, Labours, and Death of John Stewart, (Man of Colour) Founder, under God, of the Mission among the Wyandotts at Upper Sandusky, Ohio. New York: The Author, 1827.

Gallaudet, Thomas H., 1787-1851. A Statement with Regard to the Moorish Prince, Abduhl Rahhahman. New York: D. Fanshaw, 1828.

Total biographies, 1820-1829: 3


Brown, Rebecca Warren. Memoir of Mrs. Chloe Spear, a Native of Africa: Who Was Enslaved in Childhood, and Died in Boston, January 3, 1815, aged 65 Years. Boston: J. Loring, 1832.

Hopper, Isaac Tatem, 1771-1852. Narrative of the Life of Thomas Cooper. New York: The Author, 1832.

Anecdotes and Memoirs of William Boen, a Coloured Man, Who Lived and Died Near Mount Holly, New Jersey. To Which Is Added the Testimony of Friends of Mount Holly Monthly Meeting Concerning Him. Philadelphia: J. Richards, 1834.

Thatcher, Benjamin Bussy, 1809-1840. Memoir of Phillis Wheatley, a Native African and a Slave. Boston: George W. Light, 1834.

Wheatley, Phillis, 1753-1784, and Margaretta Matilda Odell. Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley, a Native African and a Slave. Dedicated to the Friends of the Africans. Boston: Published by Geo. W. Light, 1834.

"Captain Stuart". Reuben Maddison: A True Story. Birmingham, Eng.: B. Hudson, 1835.

Gurley, Ralph Randolph, 1797-1872. Life of Jehudi Ashmun, Late Colonial Agent in Liberia. With An Appendix, Containing Extracts from his Journal and Other Writings; With a Brief Sketch of the Life of The Rev. Lott Cary. Washington: James C. Dunn, 1835.

The Life of Joice Heth, the Nurse of Gen. George Washington, (the Father of Our Country,) Now Living at the Astonishing Age of 161 Years, and Weighs Only 46 Pounds. New York: The Author, 1835.

Vale, Gilbert, 1788-1866. Fanaticism: Its Source and Influence, Illustrated by the Simple Narrative of Isabella, in the Case of Matthias, Mr. and Mrs. B. Folger, Mr. Pierson, Mr. Mills, Catherine, Isabella, &c. &c. A Reply to W. L. Stone, with the Descriptive Portraits of All the Parties, While at Sing-Sing and at Third Street. - Containing the Whole Truth—and Nothing but the Truth. New York: Gilbert Vale, 1835. (Note: "The Simple Narrative of Isabella" is the narrative of Sojourner Truth.)

Taylor, James Barnett, 1804-1871. Biography of the Elder Lott Carey, Late Missionary to Africa. Baltimore: Armstrong & Berry, 1837.

Green, Frances Harriet (Whipple), 1805-1878), and Elleanor Eldridge, 1784-1845? Memoirs of Elleanor Eldridge. Providence, RI: B. T. Albro, 1838.

Stedman, John Gabriel. Narrative of Joanna; an Emancipated Slave, of Surinam. (From Stedman's Narrative of a Five Year's Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam). Boston: Isaac Knapp, 1838.

Weld, Theodore Dwight, 1803-1895, ed. American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses. New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1839.

Total biographies, 1830-1839: 13


Barber, John Warner, 1798-1885. A History of the Amistad Captives: Being a Circumstantial Account of the Capture of the Spanish Schooner Amistad, by the Africans on Board: Their Voyage, and Capture Near Long Island, New York: with Biographical Sketches of Each of the Surviving Africans: Also, an Account of the Trials had on Their Case, Before the District and Circuit Courts of the United States, for the District of Connecticut. New Haven: E. L. & J. W. Barber, 1840.

A Narrative of "Griswold," the African Youth, from the Mission School, at Las Palmas, Who Died in Boston, May 16, 1844. Boston: A Friend of Missions, 1845.

Armistead, Wilson, 1819-1868. A Tribute for the Negro: Being a Vindication of the Moral, Intellectual, and Religious Capabilities of the Coloured Portion of Mankind: With Particular Reference to the African Race: Illustrated by Numerous Biographical Sketches, Facts, Anecdotes, etc. Manchester, Eng.: W. Irwin, 1848.

White, William Spotswood, 1800-1873. The African Preacher: An Authentic Narrative. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board, 1849.

Total biographies, 1840-1849: 4


Green, Augustus R. The Life of the Rev. Dandridge F. Davis of the African Methodist E. Church with a Brief Account of His Conversion and Ministerial Labors, from August 1834, till March 1847: Also a Brief Sketch of the Life of the Rev. David Conyou of the A. M. E. C. and His Ministerial Labors: To Which is Annexed the Funeral Discourse Delivered at the Ohio Conference, in Zanesville, on the Decease of the Rev. D. F. Davis, by the Author: Published by Order of the Ohio Conference. Pittsburgh: Ohio A. M. E. Conference, 1850.

Upham, Mrs. T. C. Narrative of Phebe Ann Jacobs. London: W. and F. G. Cash, 1850.

Allinson, William J., 1810-1874. Memoir of Quamino Buccau, a Pious Methodist. Philadelphia: Henry Longstreth, 1851.

Thompson, Mary W. Broken Gloom. Sketches of the History, Character and Dying Testimony of Beneficiaries of the Colored Home, in the City of New-York. New York: J. F. Trow, 1851.

Edwards, John Passmore, 1823-1911. Uncle Tom's Companions: or, Facts Stranger Than Fiction: a Supplement to Uncle Tom's Cabin, Being Startling Incidents in the Lives of Celebrated Fugitive Slaves London: Edwards, 1852.

Lewis, John W. The Life, Labors and Travels of Elder Charles Bowles, of the Free Will Baptist Denomination, by Eld. John W. Lewis. Together with an Essay on the Character and Condition of the African Race by the Same. Also, an Essay on the Fugitive Law of the U. S. Congress of 1850, by Rev. Arthur Dearing. Watertown, MA: Ingalls and Stowell's, 1852.

Beard, J. R. (John Relly), 1800-1876 The Life of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Negro Patriot of Hayti: Comprising an Account of the Struggle for Liberty in the Island, and a Sketch of Its History to the Present Period. London: Ingram, Cooke, and Co, 1853.

Adams, H. G. (Henry Gardiner), 1811 or 2-1881, ed. God's Image in Ebony: Being a Series of Biographical Sketches, Facts, Anecdotes, etc., Demonstrative of the Mental Powers and Intellectual Capacities of the Negro Race London: Partridge and Oakey, 1854.

Anonymous. Biography of London Ferrill, Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Colored Persons, Lexington, Ky. Lexington, KY: A. W. Elder, 1854.

Lee, Hannah Farnham Sawyer, 1780-1865. Memoir of Pierre Toussaint, Born a Slave in St. Domingo. Boston: Crosby, Nichols, 1854.

Nell, William Cooper, 1816-1874. The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution, with Sketches of Several Distinguished Colored Persons: To Which Is Added a Brief Survey of the Condition and Prospects of Colored Americans. Boston: Robert F. Wallcut, 1855.

Thompson, Matilda G. Aunt Judy's Story: A Tale from Real Life. Written for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Fair. Philadelphia: Merrihew & Thompson, Printers, 1855.

Brown, Josephine. Biography of an American Bondman, by His Daughter. Boston: Robert F. Wallcut, 1856.

Pickard, Kate E. R. The Kidnapped and the Ransomed. Being the Personal Recollections of Peter Still and His Wife "Vina," after Forty Years of Slavery.Syracuse, NY: William T. Hamilton; New York: Miller, Orton and Mulligan, 1856.

Stevens, Charles Emery, 1815-1893. Anthony Burns: A History. Boston: John P. Jewett, 1856.

Long, John Dixon, 1817-1894. Pictures of Slavery in Church and State; Including Personal Reminiscences, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, etc. with an Appendix, Containing the Views of John Wesley and Richard Watson on Slavery. Philadelphia: The Author, 1857.

Barrett, Philip. Gilbert Hunt, the City Blacksmith. Richmond, VA: James Woodhouse, 1859.

Cox, Mary L. and Susan H. Cox, eds. Narrative of Dimmock Charlton, a British Subject, Taken from the Brig "Peacock" by the U.S. Sloop "Hornet," Enslaved while a Prisoner of War, and Retained Forty-five Years in Bondage. Philadelphia: The Editors, 1859.

Total biographies, 1850-1859: 18


Troy, William. Hair-breadth Escapes from Slavery to Freedom. Manchester: Bremner, 1861.

Beard, John Relly, 1800-1876. Toussaint L'Ouverture. A Biography and Autobiography. Boston: J. Redpath, 1863.

Brown, William Wells, 1814?-1884. The Black Man: His Antecedents, His Genius, and His Achievements. New York: T. Hamilton, 1863.

Hawkins, William G. (William George), 1823-1909 Lunsford Lane; or, Another Helper from North Carolina. Boston: Crosby and Nichols, 1863.

Simpson, John Hawkins. Horrors of the Virginian Slave Trade and of the Slave-Rearing Plantations. The True Story of Dinah, an Escaped Virginian Slave, Now in London, on whose Body are Eleven Scars Left by Tortures which were Inflicted by Her Master, Her Own Father. Together with Extracts from the Laws of Virginia, Showing that Against these Barbarities the Law gives not the Smallest Protection to the Slave, but the Reverse. London: A. W. Bennett, 1863.

Twelvetrees, Harper, 1823-1881. The Story of the Life of John Anderson, the Fugitive Slave. London: W. Tweedie, 1863.

Jennings, Paul. A Colored Man's Reminiscences of James Madison. Ed. J.B.R. Brooklyn: George C. Beadle, 1865.

A Sketch of the Life of Thomas Green Bethune (Blind Tom). Philadelphia: Ledger Book and Job, 1865.

Total biographies, 1860-1865: 8
Total biographies, 1734-1865: 49


Dungy, J. A. A Narrative of the Rev. John Dungy, Who Was Born a Slave. Written by His Daughter. Rochester, NY: The Author, 1866.

Foster, Gustavus Lemuel, 1818-1876. Uncle Johnson, the Pilgrim of Six Score Years. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board, 1867.

Bradford, Sarah Hopkins, b. 1818. Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman. Auburn, NY: W. J. Moses, 1869.

Wickham, Elizabeth Merwin, 1810-1901. A Lost Family Found: An Authentic Narrative of Cyrus Branch and His Family, Alias John White, of Manchester, Vermont. Manchester, VT: s. n. 1869.

Total biographies, 1866-1869: 4
Total biographies, 1860-1869: 13


Pancoast, William H. (William Henry), 1834-1897. The Carolina Twins. [Philadelphia?, PA.: s.n., 187-?]. Rpt. from the Photographic Review of Medicine and Surgery.Vol. 1, no 5 (1871).pp. 43-57.

Bleby, Henry, 1809-1882. Josiah: the Maimed Fugitive. London: Wesleyan Conference Office, 1873.

Mott, Abigail, 1766-1851, and M. S. (Mary S.) Wood, 1805-1894, eds. Narratives of Colored Americans. New York: W. Wood, 1875.

Total biographies, 1870-1879: 3


Randolph, Edwin Archer, b. 1854 The Life of Rev. John Jasper Pastor of Sixth Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Richmond, Va., from His Birth to the Present Time, with His Theory on the Rotation of the Sun. Richmond, VA: R. T. Hill, 1884.

Eliot, William Greenleaf, 1811-1887. The Story of Archer Alexander: From Slavery to Freedom, March 30, 1863. Boston: Cupples, Upham, 1885.

Bradford, Sarah Hopkins, b. 1818. Harriet, the Moses of Her People. New York: George R. Lockwood, 1886.

Straker, David Augustus, d. 1908. Reflections on the Life and Times of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Negro Haytien, Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Ruler Under the Dominion of France, and Author of the Independance of Hayti. Columbia, SC: C. A. Calvo, 1886.

Simmons, William J., 1849-1890. Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising. Cleveland: Rewell, 1887.

A Sketch of Henry Franklin and Family. Philadelphia: Collins, 1887.

Total biographies, 1880-1889: 6


Edwards, S. J. Celestine. From Slavery to a Bishopric, or, The Life of Bishop Walter Hawkins of the British Methodist Episcopal Church, Canada. London: J. Kensit, 1891.

Gregory, James Monroe, 1849-1915. Frederick Douglass the Orator: Containing an Account of His life; His Eminent Public Services; His Brilliant Career as Orator; Selections from His Speeches and Writings. Springfield, MA: Willey, 1893.

Early, Sarah J. W. Life and Labors of Rev. Jordan W. Early, One of the Pioneers of African Methodism in the West and South. Nashville: Publishing House A.M.E. Church Sunday School Union, 1894.

Holland, Frederick May, 1836-1908. Frederick Douglass: the Colored Orator. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1895.

Levering, Sarah R. Memoirs of Margaret Jane Blake of Baltimore, Md.: and Selections in Prose and Verse. Philadelphia: Innes, 1897.

Robinson, Nina Hill. Aunt Dice: The Story of a Faithful Slave. Nashville, TN: M. E. Church, South, Barbee & Smith, 1897.

McCray, S. J. Life of Mary F. McCray: Born and Raised a Slave in the State of Kentucky. By Her Husband and Son. Lima, OH: s. n., 1898.

Chesnutt, Charles Waddell, 1858-1932. Frederick Douglass. Boston: Small, Maynard, 1899.

Total biographies, 1890-1899: 7


Biographical Sketch of Millie Christine, the Carolina Twin, Surnamed the Two-Headed Nightingale and the Eighth Wonder of the World. Cincinnati: Hennegan & Co. Print, [between 1902 and 1912].

Floyd, Silas Xavier, b. 1869. Life of Charles T. Walker, D.D. ("The Black Spurgeon") Pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, New York City. Introduction by Robert Stuart MacArthur, D. D. Nashville: National Baptist Publishing Board, 1902.

Suggs, Eliza. Shadow and Sunshine. Omaha, NE: The Author, 1906.

Washington, Booker T., 1856-1915. Frederick Douglass. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1906.

Capehart, L. C. Reminiscences of Isaac and Sukey, Slaves of B. F. Moore, of Raleigh, N. C. Raleigh: Edwards, 1907.

Hatcher, William Eldridge, 1834-1912. John Jasper: The Unmatched Negro Philosopher and Preacher. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1908.

Fleming, Walter Lynwood, 1874-1932. "Pap" Singleton, the Moses of the Colored Exodus. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Bulletin, 1909.

Total biographies, 1900-1909: 7


Pendleton, Leila Amos, b. 1860 A Narrative of the Negro. Washington, D. C.: Press of R. L. Pendleton, 1912.

Nicholson, Alfred W. Brief Sketch of the Life and Labors of Rev. Alexander Bettis. Also an Account of the Founding and Development of the Bettis Academy. Trenton, SC: The Author, 1913.

Alexander, Charles, b. 1868. Battles and Victories of Allen Allensworth, A. M., Ph. D. Lieutenant-Colonel, Retired, U. S. Army. Boston: Sherman, French, 1914.

Bragg, George Freeman, 1863-1940. Men of Maryland. Baltimore: Church Advocate, 1914.

Bragg, George Freeman, 1863-1940. Richard Allen and Absalom Jones. Baltimore: Church Advocate, 1915.

Scott, Emmett Jay, 1873-1957, and Lyman Beecher Stowe, 1880-1963. Booker T. Washington, Builder of a Civilization. Garden City, New York: Doubleday Page, 1916.

Rudd, Daniel A., b. 1854, and Theophilus Bond, b. 1879. From Slavery to Wealth: The Life of Scott Bond, the Rewards of Honesty, Industry, Economy and Perserverance. Madison, Ark.: The Authors, 1917.

Total biographies, 1910-1919: 7


Bruce, John Edward, b. 1856. Prince Hall, the Pioneer of Negro Masonry; Proofs of the Legitimacy of Prince Hall Masonry. New York: s. n., 1921.

Brown, Hallie Quinn. Homespun Heroines and other Women of Distinction. Xenia, OH: Aldine, 1926.

Merritt, Raleigh Howard. From Captivity to Fame; or, The Life of George Washington Carver. Boston: Meador, 1929.

Newbold, Virginia. Carney: A Sketch. Philadelphia: the Author, 1929.

Total biographies, 1920-1929: 4


Hamilton, Jeff, 1840-1950?. "My Master," The Inside Story of Sam Houston and His Times, by His Former Slave, Jeff Hamilton, as Told to Lenoir Hunt. Dallas: Manfred, Van Nort & Co., 1940.

Total biographies, 1940-1949: 1

Total biographies, 1866-1940: 39

Total biographies, 1734-1940: 92