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Charles A. Garlick, 1827-
Life, Including His Escape and Struggle for Liberty of Charles A. Garlick, Born a Slave in Old Virginia, Who Secured His Freedom by Running Away from His Master's Farm in 1843.
Jefferson, Ohio: J.A. Howells & Co., Printers, 1902.


According to his autobiography, Charles A. Garlick (whose birth name was Abel Bogguess) was born in February 1827 near Shinnston, West Virginia, on the plantation of Richard Bogguess. His parents and his 11 brothers and sisters were all enslaved on the 300-acre plantation. Garlick escaped when he was about 16 years old, relying heavily on the Underground Railroad to make his way north. Garlick came to stay with Anson Kirby Garlick, a supporter of the Underground Railroad, with whom he remained. He worked, and took classes at the local district school for three years (Garlick adopted his benefactor's name during this stay). Garlick traveled through Northern states and Canada frequently over the years, often in search of his family. He briefly attended Oberlin College in 1847 but had to quit because of illness. He often returned to work for Anson Kirby Garlick and his family. The narrative, published in 1902, offers no information about the remainder of Garlick's life.

At the beginning of his short autobiography, Garlick discusses his escape from the Bogguess Plantation after the death of Richard Bogguess in late 1842 or early 1843. Although Bogguess' will provides for the freedom of his slaves, Garlick (who is 16 years old at the time) fears the will may be contested and thus flees the plantation with his mother and five of his siblings. When they are discovered by a friend and a relative of Abel Bogguess, all but Garlick are persuaded to return under the belief that the will "would probably stand" (p. 6). Garlick notes that the will is in fact contested, leading the reader to assume that those who returned were re-enslaved.

Garlick praises the aid he receives from the Underground Railroad along his route. He eventually reaches the home of Anson Kirby Garlick (presumably in Ohio). Garlick wishes to continue on to Canada, but Anson Kirby Garlick convinces him to "remain with him and go to school" (p. 7). Garlick does remain for three years, both working and attending "district school a portion of the time during the winter" (p. 7). While there, Garlick receives "the second prize for the greatest improvement in writing," an accolade of which he is clearly proud (p. 7).

In 1846, Garlick locates his brothers in the North and remains with them for a year before returning to the home of Anson Kirby Garlick. Garlick works on his benefactor's new farm and briefly attends Oberlin in the fall of 1847. He becomes one of "a class of sixty or seventy colored boys," but was "prevented from attending a portion of the time by sickness" and thus returns to Mr. Garlick's home the following spring. He remains there until Anson Kirby Garlick dies in 1852. Garlick, fearing that the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 will result in his own re-enslavement, moves to Canada briefly before returning "to the states . . . [to] take my chances" (p. 10). Garlick uses his narrative to recount the various homes and positions he holds after returning to the United States.

Toward the end of his narrative, Garlick writes, "I can only express gratitude that I Have been allowed to live to see the downfall of the accursed institution of human slavery in our glorious contry and to see the countrymen of my race, many of them taking such advanced positions in national affairs, to see them given the advantages of schools and colleges and become thus fitted for greater usefulness to them selves and their race" (p. 12). The final pages of Garlick's narrative include a series of letters to and from myriad individuals that describe, among other things, family life, escapes, and the destructive nature of slavery.

Meredith Malburne

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