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Race & Demographics

How Class Shaped Which Enslaved People Became Free

The book cover featuring a photo of Isaac Granger Jefferon, a Virginia tinsmith circa 1847.
Amanda Magnus/WUNC
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The cover of 'Slavery and Class in the American South: A Generation of Slave Narrative Testimony 1840-1865.'

The slave narrative was the first form of literature indigenous to the United States. William L. Andrews analyzed more than 60 slave narratives published between 1840 and 1865 for his latest book, “Slavery and Class in the American South: A Generation of Slave Narrative Testimony, 1840–1865” (Oxford University Press/2019).

He uses those narratives to paint a picture of class distinctions that existed within slave communities and argues that status and class were key factors in the process of liberation.

Andrews is the E. Maynard Adams Distinguished Professor in the department of English and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He joins host Frank Stasio to discuss the wide range of narratives he analyzed and to explain how social and economic differences shaped the lives of some of the most well-known fugitives, including Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs.

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