Friday, November 17, 2017

Go Online For Slavery Biography Sites

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By Laura Carter

There are many fascinating stories of men, women, and children who lived at least part of their lives as slaves. In America, we tend to think of enslaved blacks before the Civil War. However, there have been slaves all over the world, many of whom influenced history. Reading slavery biography is a good way to learn world history, as well as appreciate the nature of people denied freedom.

Many sites are devoted to keeping the memory of famous slaves alive. Often we know of these 'hidden' people through their own words, either spoken or written. Sometimes their history is recorded in newspapers or in the words of others who were their contemporaries. Scholars have long loved to piece together the life stories of people which illustrate dramatic events in the past.

Many of the best known slaves were in ancient times, before America was even 'discovered'. Aesop, the author of the fables most children read, was a slave. Spartacus was a gladiator, and a slave, who led a slave revolt against Rome. Saint Patrick, slayer of the dragon, was an English boy captured by raiders and enslaved in Ireland. He later escaped back to England, returned to Ireland as a missionary, and converted the country to Christianity.

Moses was born a slave in ancient Egypt, although he was raised in Pharoah's household. He discovered he was a Hebrew, defended one of his people against an Egyptian overseer (unfortunately killing the man) and ran away to a far country. God called him back to the country of his enslavement to free his people and lead them to the Promised Land. We have his biography - some of it written by him - in the Bible.

It's easy to search online for brief accounts of slaves that have impacted history. After reading the short biographical notes online, those who want more information can look for autobiographies, collections of letters, or records of speeches that may have brought the person into prominence.

Dred Scott sued for his freedom and that of his family. Although he was unsuccessful, public opinion was on his side and this helped further the cause of emancipation for all blacks. A young slave named Celia killed her abusive master and was tried for his murder. Margaret Garner, a slave who escaped with her husband and children, was tried for the murder of her young daughter, whom she killed during their recapture. She preferred to see her children dead than returned as slaves.

There are books based on true events that tell of settlers along the frontier captured and enslaved by Indians. Ann Calhoun was a white girl captured by the Cherokee at age 4 who spent three years as a slave, being fairly kindly treated. Tales of dramatic escapes and harrowing rescues are part of American folklore and history.

To really understand the plight - and the bravery - of enslaved peoples, read their personal accounts. Many blacks were uneducated - teaching them to read and write was against the law - so they are remembered for their words. A famous speech by Sojourner Truth, a former New York slave, entitled 'Ain't I A Woman?' has been immortalized in prose and a film. Frederick Douglas escaped slavery in Maryland to become a prominent abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman in Massachusetts. He fought for an end to slavery, rights for women, and better treatment for Irish immigrants.

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