The slave narrative, an autobiographical story told by a slave, is one of perhaps two unique genres contributed by American literature to world literature, the other being the captivity narrative orstory of a white settler captured by Native Americans.
Hundreds if not thousands of slave narratives were written or recorded in the United States, beginning in the 1700s, maturing in the mid-1800s with the Abolition movement, and continuing even into the 20th century. Most were nonfiction, but eventually, as with the captivity narrative, fictional versions appeared. Many narratives are related in brief interviews or reports; a few hundred were stand-alone texts, many of them book-length; and some were summaries by social researchers.
Slave narratives might be written by the slave, offering a powerful testimony to the humanity of the slave while deploring the inhumanity of slavery. In numerous examples, though, the slave spoke his or her story aloud to a recording scribe or editor. During the New Deal of the 1930s the Federal Writers Project recording hundreds of narratives by still-living former slaves.
Prominent American novels featuring elements from the slave narrative:
A slave narrative's sequence or structure typically involves two or three major phases, with any number of medial or transitional points.
In many regards, these generic features resemble those of the captivity narrative or the conversion narrative.
What conceptual or disciplinary problems rise from describing slave narratives as romance narratives?
Notable Slave Narratives
1760 Briton Hammon, A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings, and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro Man (1st known slave narrative)
1789 Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (prototype of many later slave narratives, especially in combining of quest for freedom with development of literacy)
1853 Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave
1881 Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass
1901 Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery
20th-Century African American fiction and nonfiction influenced by or analogous to the slave narrative:
Richard Wright, Black Boy (1945)
Malcolm X with Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)
Margaret Walker, Jubilee (1965)
Ernest J. Gaines, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971)