American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Reason

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A Narrative of
Uncommon Sufferings

A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings.
A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings.

Boston: Green & Russell, 1760
Rare Book & Special Collections Division

This first slave narrative independently printed in the North American colonies recounts the adventures of Briton Hammon (fl. 1760) during an extended absence from his master, which included shipwreck off the Florida capes, captivity among cannibalistic Indians, imprisonment by pirates in Havana, and service on several British gun ships, one of which saw action against the French.

Told in the picaresque style of the popular "rake's progress" literature, this tale is representative of the early slave narrative genre and at the same time an example of another popular genre--captivity tales:

As soon as the Vessel was burnt down to the Water's edge, the Indians stood for the Shore, together with our Boat, on board of which they put 5 hands. After we came to the Shore, they led me to their Hutts, where I expected nothing but immediate Death, and as they spoke broken English, were often telling me, while coming from the Sloop to the Shore, that they intended to roast me alive. But the Providence of God order'd it otherways, for He appeared for my Help, in this Mount of Difficulty, and they were better to me than my Fears, and soon unbound me, but set a Guard over me every Night.

This copy is one of only two known extant and was formerly in the great Americana library of the nineteenth-century collector George Brinley of Hartford Connecticut.

Among the nearly six thousand known slave narratives, the Library has significant examples of all types, including eighteenth-century pieces published separately for slave or former-slave authors, those published with the aid of nineteenth-century abolitionist editors, and an extensive compilation of ex-slave testimonials by the Works Progress Administration's Federal Writers' Project in the 1930s.

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