Rare firsthand accounts of slavery from across the Palmetto
State collected together for the first time
Out of the hundreds of published slave narratives,only a handful exist specific to South Carolina, and most of these are not readily available to modern readers.
Edited by Susanna Ashton, this collection restores to print
seven slave narratives documenting the lived realities of
slavery as it existed across the Palmetto State's upcountry,
midlands, and lowcountry, from plantation culture to
urban servitude. First published between the late eighteenth
century and the dawn of the twentieth, these richly
detailed firsthand accounts present a representative cross
section of slave experiences, from religious awakenings and
artisan apprenticeships to sexual exploitations and harrowing
escapes. In their distinctive individual voices, narrators
celebrate and mourn the lives of fellow slaves, contemplate
the meaning of freedom, and share insights into the social
patterns and cultural controls exercised during a turbulent period in American history.
Each narrative is preceded by an introduction to place
its content and publication history in historical context.
The volume also features an afterword surveying other significant
slave narratives and related historical documents
on South Carolina. I Belong to South Carolina reinserts a
chorus of powerful voices of the dispossessed into South Carolina's public history, reminding us of the cruelties of
the past and the need for vigilant guardianship of liberty in
the present and future.
Susanna Ashton is an associate professor and associate chair in the Department of English at
Clemson University. She is the author of Collaborators
in Literary America, 1870–1920 and
coeditor of These "Colored" United States: African American Essays from the 1920s.
"Capturing with fidelity the texture of life for enslaved South Carolinians has challenged even the most thoughtful students and scholars of slavery. That challenge has now been lessened with the publication of I Belong to South Carolina. It is at once a well edited collection of rare and under-studied slave narratives, a powerful retelling of the slave experience in the Palmetto state, and, perhaps most conspicuously, a window into the complex cultural and social topography of one of America's most robust slave societies."—Mark M. Smith, editor of Stono: Documenting and Interpreting a Southern Slave Revolt