The University of Wisconsin Press

Anthropology / Autobiography / African American Studies / History / American Studies


Witnessing Slavery
The Development of Ante-bellum Slave Narratives
Second Edition
Frances Smith Foster

Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography
William L. Andrews, Series Editor

“Foster’s able literary study could help both the scholar and the non-academic reader approach these works with their eyes open.”
—Charles B. Dew, Florida Historical Quarterly

Frances Foster’s classic study of pre-Civil War American slave autobiography is now issued in an accessible paperback edition. The first book to represent these slave narratives as literary in the complete sense of the word, and the first study to call attention to the significance of gender in the narratives, Witnessing Slavery will be welcomed by both general readers and students of the American south, slavery, the Civil War, and race issues. Here is how the critics greeted the first edition:

“An important, seminal work. . . . Frances Smith Foster has created a masterful account and interpretation of the earliest black and black-related literature. . . . It can and should be read by any general reader, black or otherwise, who is interested or concerned with the painful but exhilarating struggle of a people searching for not only freedom, but identity and humanity.”
—William J. Teague, Journal of Negro History

“Foster does not forget that her slave narratives are literature. But, also, she does not forget the culture outside the narratives. . . . She is, of course, at pains to demonstrate how, and how much, the two were interactive. . . . An excellent general introduction.”
—Blyden Jackson, American Literature

Witnessing Slavery is a classic work: it identifies pattern, explains cause, suggests implications. The kernel of its thesis, that black writers have been constrained by the attitudes of white publishers and audiences, is axiomatic in the study of Afro-American literature. . . . Its achievement is that it demonstrates in concrete and convincing detail how these principles function, while illuminating the literary qualities of a body of literature generally considered to lack them.”
—Susan L. Blake, Black American Literature Forum

Frances Smith Foster is professor of literature at the University of California, San Diego, and the author of many books and articles on African American history and issues.

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Cover of book is red with white type, and there is a red and black photo of chains in the background.

April 1994
LC: 93-034490 PS
200 pp., 5 1/2 x 8 1/2

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