Slave narrative

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The slave narrative is a literary form which grew out of the written accounts of enslaved Africans in Britain and its colonies, including the later United States, Canada and Caribbean nations. Some six thousand former slaves from North America and the Caribbean gave accounts of their lives during the 18th and 19th centuries, with about 150 narratives published as separate books or pamphlets. In the 1930s in the United States, during the Great Depression, additional oral narratives on life during slavery were collected by writers sponsored and published by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration.

Some of the earliest memoirs of enslavement were written by white Europeans and Americans captured and enslaved in North Africa, usually by Barbary pirates. These were part of a broad category of "captivity narratives", which later included accounts by colonists and American settlers in North America and the United States who were captured and held by Native Americans. Several well-known ones were published before the American Revolution. Later accounts were by Americans captured by western tribes during 19th century migrations.

In addition, the division between slaves and prisoners of war, for example, was not always clear. A broader name for the genre is "captivity literature". As more attention is paid to the problem of contemporary slavery in the 20th and 21st centuries, additional slave narratives are written and published.


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