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The Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb: An American Slave (Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography)

The Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb:  An American Slave (Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography)
Author: Henry Bibb
ISBN 13: 9780299168940
ISBN 10: 299168948
Edition: N/A
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
Publication Date: 2000-11-30
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304
List Price: $24.95

    First published in 1849 and largely unavailable for many years, The Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb is among the most remarkable slave narratives. Born on a Kentucky plantation in 1815, Bibb first attempted to escape from bondage at the age of ten. He was recaptured and escaped several more times before he eventually settled in Detroit, Michigan, and joined the antislavery movement as a lecturer.
    Bibb’s story is different in many ways from the widely read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave and Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. He was owned by a Native American; he is one of the few ex-slave autobiographers who had labored in the Deep South (Louisiana); and he writes about folkways of the slaves, especially how he used conjure to avoid punishment and to win the hearts of women. Most significant, he is unique in exploring the importance of marriage and family to him, recounting his several trips to free his wife and child. This new edition includes an introduction by literary scholar Charles Heglar and a selection of letters and editorials by Bibb.


Henry Bibb was born a slave in Kentucky in 1815. Chafing under the abuses of the slave system, he spent his energy plotting and attempting his escapes. He ran away many times as a boy and young man, and once he finally reached Ohio and freedom, he went back time and again to try to rescue his wife and child. Forced to abandon his quest to rescue his family, Bibb became a noted speaker on the anti-slavery lecture circuit and even published his own anti-slavery newspaper, Voice of the Fugitive, in Canada where he eventually settled. While it is not quite clear how Bibb learned enough to write an autobiography and publish a newspaper, all contemporary accounts (provided in the text) seem to indicate that his story is accurate and that his writing needed only spelling and punctuation help from his editor. While the introduction by Charles Heglar to this reprint of the 1849 edition is unnecessarily pedantic, Bibb's text is gripping and fast moving. Accessible to YAs and scholars alike, this is a valuable book for any student of American history. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 258p. illus. bibliog. 22cm. 00-042307., $16.95. Ages 13 to adult. Reviewer: Patricia A. Moore; Brookline, MA , July 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 4)