Welcome to "Slave Narratives."
Use this guide to find the most important resources on the "Slave Narratives" through UMKC and on the Web. Click on the tabs above to go to each area of interest.
What is a slave narrative?
"A slave narrative is an account of the life, or a major portion of the life, of a fugitive or former slave, either written or orally related by the slave personally." Usually these refer to African-American accounts of U.S. slavery and comprise an important contribution to American Literature. (Encyclopedia Britannica, "Slave Narratives.")
Four important categories of the slave narratives are usually noted:
1. Pre-Civil War
From 1760 to the end of the Civil War in the United States, approximately 100 autobiographies of fugitive or former slaves appeared.
2. Post Civil War
After slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, at least 50 former slaves wrote or dictated book-length accounts of their lives.
3. WPA Slave Narratives.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the WPA (Work Progress Administration) Federal Writer's Project gathered oral personal histories from 2,500 former slaves, whose testimony eventually filled 40 volumes. These important full-text accounts can be found here:
a. African-American Experience.(click on the databases tab above)
b. The Library of Congress has a complete digitized collection of the slave narratives, with commentary and additional photos. (click on Websites tab above.)
4. Commentary and Analysis of the Slave Narratives.
Most of the Slave Narratives have some of this material added. Additional material can be found in books and by searching databases.