A Narrative of
A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings.
Boston: Green & Russell, 1760
Rare Book & Special Collections
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.