Andrews, William L., ed. North Carolina Slave Narratives.

Author:Puffer, Raymond
Position:Young Adult Review - Book Review
 
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ANDREWS, William L., ed. North Carolina Slave narratives. Univ. of North Carolina Press, 279p. notes, c2003. 0-8078-5658-4. $19.95. SA

For those who want to get some idea of what slavery in the South was like before the Civil War, this is the book. It's an academic presentation of the recollections of four black men--Moses Roper, Lunsford Lane, Moses Grandy, and Thomas H. Jones--who were born and raised in rural servitude in North Carolina. Each escaped his condition as an adult, either through flight or emancipation at the close of the Civil War. Each either penned his memoirs or went on the lecture circuit, intent on telling his own story. The four narratives are each preceded by a scholarly introduction, as is the book as a whole. These discussions are fine for serious academics but may be skipped by the average reader without harm.

Insights are everything in a book of this nature, and this one abounds in them. The numerous tales of cruelty, punishment and hard treatment are to be expected, of course, but the almost casual way in which each of the narrators mentions "a cowhide" [whip] is more chilling than the most lurid description of an actual whipping. The book is at its best when it challenges casual assumptions. Cruelty often wore a distressingly human face....

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