From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Narratives of Fugitive Slaves (literature influence)

In 1849, The Christian Examiner recognized the narratives of fugitive slaves as a new and marketable addition to American literature; it also provided an early analysis of the potential impact and influence of African American literature. Five authors were noted: Frederick Douglass (pub.  1845), Henry Watson (pub. 1848), and Kentucky authors William W. Brown (pub. 1847), Lewis and Milton Clarke (pub. 1848), and Josiah Henson (pub. 1849). T

he biographies were expected to have a major effect on public opinion because it was the beginning of an era of more widely-produced book-formatted literature from the voices of those who had been enslaved. The books were translated into European languages and sold overseas. William W. Brown's book had sold more than 8,000 copies in 1848, and Frederick Douglass's went through seven editions before it went out of print.

The first slave narratives were written in the latter half of the 1700s and gained wider recognition beginning in the 1840s. The five narratives  mentioned above and many others are available online at the UNC Documenting the American South website.

For more see The Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany, 4th Series, vol. 12 [available online at Google Books]; and Slave Narratives and Uncle Tom's Cabin at the PBS website.

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Brown, William W.
NKAA Entry: Clarke, John Milton and Lewis Garrard (brothers)
NKAA Entry: Henson, Josiah
NKAA Source: The Christian examiner and religious miscellany (periodical)

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Narratives of Fugitive Slaves (literature influence),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 25, 2024,

Last modified: 2021-01-25 18:52:49