Thursday 17 September 2020

Crafts, Hannah "The Bondwoman’s Narrative"

Crafts, Hannah "The Bondwoman’s Narrative" - 1855-69

This narrative was published by Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. who is a US American literary critic. Apparently, he found the manuscript to this book at an auction. They don't know when exactly it was written but (according to Wikipedia), it must have been written between 1855 and 1869 because the author mentions Bleak House which was written in 1852/53. And it must have been written before the civil war because the author is quite meticulous in menitioning other major events, she certainly would not have omitted that one.

A while ago, I posted a list of anti-racism books as part of our Top Ten Tuesday challenge. It was "Books on my summer TBR list" and I thought, there are definitely going to be a few books about anti-racism in there and compiled a list of all those books I have read or still want to read. This was the next one.

Hannah Crafts was a real-life slave who describes her life. Her conditions might have been different than those of other slaves but I doubt that it matters how often you get sold and how many "masters" treat you kindly, you still live in the constant fear that your current situation might end and you will be separated from loved ones and/or get a really cruel person to "look after you". As happened to Hannah several times in her life. How people can endure such a treatment is almost unbelievable but I guess we all try to do that in any circumstances.

This novel certainly proves, if that wasn't clear already, that slaves were human beings with the same feelings and the same capabilities than anyone else. They could learn anything and express anything that their "masters" could. Definitely a book to read.

From the back cover:

"When Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., saw a modest auction catalogue listing for an 'Unpublished Original Manuscript,' he knew he could be on the verge of a major literary find. After exhaustive research, he found that the handwritten manuscript he had purchased was the only known novel by a female African American slave and possibly the first novel written by a black woman anywhere. The Bondwoman's Narrative tells of a self-educated young house slave who knows all too well slavery's brutal limitations, but never suspects that the freedom of her beautiful new mistress is also at risk - or that a devastating secret will force them both to flee the South and make a desperate bid for freedom."


  1. Just today I posted a review of a novel about a 10th century slave in Iceland: The Thrall's Tale. It is a sad fact of human existence that slavery persisted for so long.

    1. And your book shows that slavery existed everywhere. I'm just about to finish The Count of Monte Cristo and there are slaves in France back then, I read a book about slaves in Hungary (Slave of the Huns) or about an English slave in Rome (Stone City) and modern slaves from Africa in Belgium (On Black Sister's Street) and many more. It has to end but I doubt it ever will. :cry: