What are some accounts of black slavery in America?
April 25, 2011 7:44 AM   Subscribe

What are some good recent fictional and non-fictional accounts of African-American slavery in pre-Civil War America?

After watching PBS's "Slavery and the Making of America" documentary, I would like to know more about the specifics of what it was like for individual black slaves.

Specifically interested in fictional or novelized historical accounts or documentary accounts of individuals rather than comprehensive histories of slavery. Not interested in original slave narratives or older accounts at the moment (say, only stuff post-1970.).

Also I'm particularly interested in stories about runaway slaves, the underground railroad and the time period after the fugitive slave act. Accuracy is somewhat important, but even unrealistic adventure stories will be appreciated.

Books, movies, TV shows, comics, whatever.
(I have seen Roots already too).
posted by Potomac Avenue to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: By the way, that PBS documentary is on Youtube in its entirety: Here.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:47 AM on April 25, 2011

Best answer: 12 Years a Slave is the autobiography of a freeman from upstate NY who was kidnapped and sold into slavery for 12 years during the 1840's (I am pretty sure, it might have been the 20's or 30's its been a while). This book was tremendously important to the abolition movement, and as a bonus gives you a unique perspective on the peculiar instituation. Beyond that I would recommend most of Frederick Douglas's writings, and that you stay away from Uncle Tom's Cabin because the latter is pretty terrible.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:00 AM on April 25, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks Bobby, I'm sure those are good, but I am not seeking original narratives from long ago or even before 1970, only recent accounts, either fictional or non-fiction.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:02 AM on April 25, 2011

Best answer: It sounds like Jubilee might fit the bill. I read it in college and do not remember that much about it, but it seems to cover the time period and the subject matter you are asking about.
posted by Danf at 8:03 AM on April 25, 2011

Best answer: Queen, also by Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest Gaines, Beloved by Toni Morison, Jubilee by Margaret Walker.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 8:04 AM on April 25, 2011

Octavia Butler's Kindred, which is a time travel novel about a modern-day black woman who keeps getting pulled back to the pre-civil-war south.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:15 AM on April 25, 2011

Best answer: Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill is amazing. Not all of it is set in the US - there's some in Africa, Canada and England as well - but it's excellent.
posted by kyla at 8:15 AM on April 25, 2011

Best answer: At the extreme of the "unrealistic adventure stories" but terrific: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, by M.T. Anderson – Amazon, NYTimes review
posted by nicwolff at 8:30 AM on April 25, 2011

Best answer: The mystery series by Barbara Hambly takes place in New Orleans during the era of slavery so that although the series star (Benjamin January) is a free man, he is always worried about being taken up as an escaped slave (and I think that that does happen to him at some point). The first book is A Free Man of Color.
posted by hydrobatidae at 9:49 AM on April 25, 2011

Oh, yes! I forget about the Hambly books. I've read "A Free Man of Color" and really enjoyed it. 2nding that recommendation.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:00 AM on April 25, 2011

Best answer: I've recently discovered the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast - a particular episode, The Crafts' Escape to Freedom might be of interest to you.

Also from Stuff You Missed in History Class:

How the Underground Railroad Worked

How the Stono Rebellion Worked

The Amistad Mutiny
posted by leastlikelycowgirl at 10:05 AM on April 25, 2011

Here's a recent book by Ntozake Shange and her sister.
posted by mareli at 11:06 AM on April 25, 2011

Best answer: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
posted by mamaquita at 2:35 PM on April 25, 2011

Best answer: I highly recommend Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America's First Civil Rights Movement by Fergus Bordewich. It's excellent - carefully researched and beautifully written with fascinating stories about individual slaves and anti-slavery advocates on nearly every page. It starts in the year 1800 and describes early Quaker resistance, the "saltwater underground" along the east coast, the most famous episodes involving the Fugitive Slave Act that inflamed the country, Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Frederick Douglass and much more I'd never known about. It's a great, rich, informative read from start to finish.
posted by mediareport at 6:32 AM on April 26, 2011

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