First Edition of Anti-Slavery Testimonies, with the Only Work of Fiction by Frederick Douglass
[Frederick Douglass, contributor]. [Julia Griffiths,
editor]. Autographs For Freedom. Boston: John P.
Jewett and Company, 1853. First edition. Small octavo. viii, 263
pages. Three engraved plates, including frontispiece. Bound in
publisher's apparent variant (de luxe?) binding of full red cloth,
boards triple-ruled in gilt, with gilt cornerpieces and gilt
central medallion, spine elaborately stamped in gilt and lettered
in gilt. Yellow coated endpapers. Some mild edgewear to binding,
front joint torn (yet still solid), mild soiling to binding,
corners bumped, text somewhat foxed. Still, a near fine copy.
The Heroic Slave (first published earlier the same year in his newspaper The North Star) appears on pages 174-239. Published the same year as William Wells Brown's Clotelle, this is the first book printing. Douglass's piece certainly can claim to share the title of "first substantial piece of fiction by an African-American." Blockson, 9204. Not listed in Whiteman's Century of Fiction by American Negroes.
Douglass's only attempt at fiction, The Heroic Slave was a dramatization of the events surrounding the actual rebellion led by Madison Washington on the slave ship Creole. On November 7, 1841, while en route from Virginia to New Orleans, the crew was overtaken by a contingent of the slaves being transported, who redirected the ship to the British free port of Nassau. Once there, the British authorities detained nineteen identified leaders of the rebellion. All remaining passengers, both crew and slave, were allowed to disembark freely. Five months later, the nineteen slaves, including Madison Washington, were set free due to lack of evidence.
A collection of anti-slavery "testimonies" gathered by the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society, including essays, poems and fiction by such notables as William H. Seward, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Horace Mann, John Greenleaf Whittier, Lewis Tappan, Horace Greeley, et al., each contribution accompanied by the author's signature in facsimile. Also included in this is Frederick Douglass' "The Heroic Slave," Douglass' only work of fiction. BAL 11177.
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