First edition of this complex autobiography by a formerly enslaved man of Virginia, comparing his days in slavery and in freedom.
"Of course our people did not know what the word abolitionist meant; they evidently thought it meant some wild beast or Negro-trader."
Henry Clay Bruce was born to enslaved parents in Virginia in 1836. Bruce himself was educated and "tenderly treated" as a child, "having been peculiarly fortunate in all his surroundings during the period of his slavery." The work indeed stands out for its sometimes defensively positive tone regarding the general conditions of enslaved Americans, perhaps informed by Bruce's own experiences. Nevertheless, he both witnessed and felt the violence of slaveholders before escaping to Kansas in the midst of the Civil War. The work is divided into two main sections: "Slavery as I Saw It, " and "Freedom as Seen by Me." Firsthand recollection is emphasized as a theme throughout. One of his major conclusions looking back on his life is "his belief, that one of the most stupendous of the wrongs which the Negro has suffered, was in turning the whole army of slaves loose in a hostile country, without money, without friends, without experience in home getting or even self-support. Their two hundred and fifty years of unrequited labor counted for naught. They were free but penniless in the land which they had made rich." Bruce found it difficult to maintain employment as a free Black man, but eventually settled in Washington D.C. as a clerk in the United States Pension Office through the help of his brother Blanche Bruce, the first elected Black man to serve a full term in the Senate. An important personal record of life in the South as a Black man before and after emancipation.
York, Pennsylvania: P. Anstadt and Sons, 1895. 9'' x 5.5''. Original full navy cloth, blind-stamped borders and cornerpieces, gilt-stamped spine. Green endpapers. Frontispiece portrait of the author. 4 pages of endorsements at rear. x, 11-176 pages. Gilt rubbed, a couple spots to cloth. Toning to endpapers and text block edges.
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