Digital Collections -> Pathfinders -> Many Roads to Freedom -> Slave Narratives and Biographies


Accounts of the lives of escaped and former slaves performed the valuable service of making the horrors of slavery real to their readers. Those written during the pre-war period were powerful propaganda tools in the struggle for abolition. Those written after the end of slavery also offer valuable insight and witness to the experience of slavery in America.

In addition to narratives written by slaves themselves, there are biographical books about former slaves. Here is a selection of digital texts on the slave experience:

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Slave Narratives

Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: His Early Life as a Slave, His Escape from Bondage, and His Complete History to the Present Time, Including His Connection With the Anti-Slavery Movement [pdf, 24.54 MB] by Frederick Douglass

My Bondage and My Freedom [pdf, 20.7 MB] by Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself [pdf, 6.5 MB]
by Frederick Douglass

Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northrup, a Citizen of New York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853, from a Cotton Plantation Near the Red River, in Louisiana [pdf, 22.7 MB] by Solomon Northup

Twenty-two Years a Slave, and Forty Years a Freeman [pdf, 15.1 MB] by Austin Steward

Wonderful Eventful Life of Rev. Thomas James, by Himself [pdf, 13.4 MB]
by Thomas James



Frederick Douglass [pdf, 17.9 MB]
by Booker T. Washington

Frederick Douglass: The Colored Orator [pdf, 18.1 MB]
by Frederic May Holland

Frederick Douglass, the Orator [pdf, 22.4 MB]
by James Monroe Gregory

Narrative of Sojourner Truth; a bondswoman of olden time, emancipated by the New York Legislature in the early part of the present century; with a history of her labors and correspondence, drawn from her "Book of Life" [pdf, 8.0 MB] by Olive Gilbert

Rochester's Frederick Douglass, Part One
by Schmitt, Victoria Sandwick
Rochester History, Vol 67 No(s) 3 (Summer 2005)

Rochester's Frederick Douglass, Part Two
by Schmitt, Victoria Sandwick
Rochester History, Vol 67 No(s) 4 (Fall 2005)

Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman [pdf, 5.07 MB]
by Sarah H. Bradford