Henry Bibb, Voice of the Fugitive , 1851-52

The African American autobiographical slave narrative has become the most significant document for understanding the history of slavery and the literature of the black diaspora. Even though twenty-seven of the ninety-four narratives printed before Emancipation were published not in the Americas but in Britain and the Commonwealth, no corresponding search has ever been performed. Recently, UK-based scholars have found five slave narratives. I have found two of these: one in an Australian database, the other in the British Library.

“The British Slave Narrative” will conduct the first systematic search of British and Commonwealth archives and databases for African American autobiographical slave narratives. Combining data mining techniques from the digital humanities with traditional archival methods, it seeks to reconstruct the paths of black abolitionists across the former empire, recover their lost autobiographies, bring these narratives to publication, and open up new horizons for the study of slavery and the black diaspora.

When funded, this project will benefit from the support of the following advisory board:

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