Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Andre Lapierre and PG Distributed
[Transcriber’s note: The spelling irregularities of the original have been
retained in this etext.]
Life of a Slave Girl.
Written by Herself.
“Northerners know nothing at all about Slavery. They think it is perpetual
bondage only. They have no conception of the depth of degradation
involved in that word, SLAVERY; if they had, they would never cease their
efforts until so horrible a system was overthrown.”
A Woman Of North Carolina.
“Rise up, ye women that are at ease! Hear my voice, ye careless daughters!
Give ear unto my speech.”
Isaiah xxxii. 9.
Edited By L. Maria Child.
Boston: Published For The Author.
Preface By The Author
Reader be assured this narrative is no fiction. I am aware that some of my
adventures may seem incredible; but they are, nevertheless, strictly true.
I have not exaggerated the wrongs inflicted by Slavery; on the contrary, my
descriptions fall far short of the facts. I have concealed the names of
places, and given persons fictitious names. I had no motive for secrecy on
my own account, but I deemed it kind and considerate towards others to
pursue this course.
I wish I were more competent to the task I have undertaken. But I trust my
readers will excuse deficiencies in consideration of circumstances. I was
born and reared in Slavery; and I remained in a Slave State twenty-seven
years. Since I have been at the North, it has been necessary for me to work
diligently for my own support, and the education of my children. This has
not left me much leisure to make up for the loss of early opportunities to
improve myself; and it has compelled me to write these pages at irregular
intervals, whenever I could snatch an hour from household duties.
When I first arrived in Philadelphia, Bishop Paine advised me to publish a
sketch of my life, but I told him I was altogether incompetent to such an
undertaking. Though I have improved my mind somewhat since that time, I
still remain of the same opinion; but I trust my motives will excuse what
might otherwise seem presumptuous. I have not written my experiences in
order to attract attention to myself; on the contrary, it would have been
more pleasant to me to have been silent about my own history. Neither do I
care to excite sympathy for my own sufferings. But I do earnestly desire to
arouse the women of the North to a realizing sense of the condition of two
millions of women at the South, still in bondage, suffering what I
suffered, and most of them far worse. I want to add my testimony to that of
abler pens to convince the people of the Free States what Slavery really
is. Only by experience can any one realize how deep, and dark, and foul is
that pit of abominations. May the blessing of God rest on this imperfect
effort in behalf of my persecuted people!
Introduction By The Editor
The author of the following autobiography is personally known to me, and
her conversation and manners inspire me with confidence. During the last
seventeen years, she has lived the greater part of the time with a
distinguished family in New York, and has so deported herself as to be
highly esteemed by them. This fact is sufficient, without further
credentials of her character. I believe those who know her will not be
disposed to doubt her veracity, though some incidents in her story are more
romantic than fiction.
At her request, I have revised her manuscript; but such changes as I have
made have been mainly for purposes of condensation and orderly arrangement.
I have not added any thing to the incidents, or changed the import of her
very pertinent remarks. With trifling exceptions, both the ideas and the
language are her own. I pruned excrescences a little, but otherwise I had
no reason for changing her lively and dramatic way of telling her own
story. The names of both persons and places are known to me; but for good
reasons I suppress them.
It will naturally excite surprise that a woman reared in Slavery should be
able to write so well. But circumstances will explain this. In the first
place, nature endowed her with quick perceptions. Secondly, the mistress,
with whom she lived till she was twelve years old, was a kind, considerate
friend, who taught her to read and spell. Thirdly, she was placed in
favorable circumstances after she came to the North; having frequent
intercourse with intelligent persons, who felt a friendly interest in her
welfare, and were disposed to give her opportunities for self-improvement.
I am well aware that many will accuse me of indecorum for presenting these
pages to the public; for the experiences of this intelligent and
much-injured woman belong to a class which some call delicate subjects, and
others indelicate. This peculiar phase of Slavery has generally been kept
veiled; but the public ought to be made acquainted with its monstrous
features, and I willingly take the responsibility of presenting them with
the veil withdrawn. I do this for the sake of my sisters in bondage, who
are suffering wrongs so foul, that our ears are too delicate to listen to
them. I do it with the hope of arousing conscientious and reflecting women
at the North to a sense of their duty in the exertion of moral influence on
the question of Slavery, on all possible occasions. I do it with the hope
that every man who reads this narrative will swear solemnly before God
that, so far as he has power to prevent it, no fugitive from Slavery shall
ever be sent back to suffer in that loathsome den of corruption and
—L. Maria Child
The New Master And Mistress
The Slaves’ New Year’s Day