Out of the hundreds of published slave narratives, only a handful exist specific to South Carolina, and most of these are not readily available to modern readers. This collection restores to print seven slave narratives documenting the lived realities of slavery as it existed across the Palmetto State's upcountry, midlands, and lowcountry, from plantation culture to urban servitude. First published between the late eighteenth century and the dawn of the twentieth, these richly detailed firsthand accounts present a representative cross section of slave experiences, from religious awakenings and artisan apprenticeships to sexual exploitations and harrowing escapes. In their distinctive individual voices, narrators celebrate and mourn the lives of fellow slaves, contemplate the meaning of freedom, and share insights into the social patterns and cultural controls exercised during a turbulent period in American history. Each narrative is preceded by an introduction to place its content and publication history in historical context. The volume also features an afterword surveying other significant slave narratives and related historical documents on South Carolina. I Belong to South Carolina reinserts a chorus of powerful voices of the dispossessed into South Carolina's public history, reminding us of the cruelties of the past and the need for vigilant guardianship of liberty in the present and future.I Belong to South Carolina is edited and introduced by Susanna Ashton with the assistance of Robyn E. Adams, Maximilien Blanton, Laura V. Bridges, E. Langston Culler, Cooper Leigh Hill, Deanna L. Panetta, and Kelly E. Riddle.
Susanna Ashton is an associate professor and associate chair in the Department of English at Clemson University. She is the author of Collaborators in Literary America, 1870–1920 and coeditor of These "Colored" United States: African American Essays from the 1920s.
"Capturing with fidelity the texture of life for enslaved South Carolinians has challenged even the most thoughtful students and scholars of slavery. That challenge has now been lessened with the publication of I Belong to South Carolina. It is at once a well edited collection of rare and under-studied slave narratives, a powerful retelling of the slave experience in the Palmetto state, and, perhaps most conspicuously, a window into the complex cultural and social topography of one of America's most robust slave societies."—Mark M. Smith, editor of Stono: Documenting and Interpreting a Southern Slave Revolt
Winner, 2010 Choice Outstanding Academic Title