Speaking Lives, Authoring Texts

Three African American Women's Oral Slave Narratives

Edited by DoVeanna S. Fulton Minor & Reginald H. Pitts

Subjects: African American Studies, Oral History, Women's Studies
Paperback : 9781438429649, 332 pages, November 2009
Hardcover : 9781438429656, 332 pages, November 2009

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Table of contents

Speaking Lives, Authoring Texts: African American Women's Voices Raised for Freedom
Louisa Picquet, The Octoroon: A Tale of Southern Slave Life (1861)
Hiram Mattison
The Story of Mattie J. Jackson(1866)
L. S. Thompson
Sylvia Dubois (Now 116 Years Old), A Biography of the Slave Who Whipped Her Mistress and Gained Her Freedom(Translation of C. W. Larison's original phonetic text)
Silvia Dubois (Now 116 Yers Old), A Biografy of The Slav Who Whipt Her Mistress and Gand Her Fredom(1883) (Facsimile)
C. W. Larison

Critical edition of three women’s oral slave narratives.


Speaking Lives, Authoring Texts is a critical collection of three women's oral slave narratives, Louisa Picquet, the Octoroon: A Tale of Southern Slave Life (1861), The Story of Mattie J. Jackson (1866), and Sylvia Dubois, A Biography of The Slave Who Whipped Her Mistress and Gained Her Freedom (1883), that have received little scholarly attention owing both to the oral nature of the texts and the circumstances of their publication and republication. Taken together, these narratives display African American women's discursive practices that subvert oppression, assert agency, and create representations of the past that counter dominant narratives of both slavery and American culture. This volume ensures that twenty-first-century readers "hear" these voices to not only gain historical knowledge, but also to understand the dynamics of literacy and self-representation, and to locate oral narratives in the spectrum and tradition of African American literary production.

DoVeanna S. Fulton Minor is Associate Professor and Chair of Women's Studies and Director of African American Studies at the University of Alabama. She is the author of Speaking Power: Black Feminist Orality in Women's Narratives of Slavery, also published by SUNY Press. Reginald H. Pitts is Associate Editor, Clarence Mitchell Jr. Papers. He is the coeditor (with P. Gabrielle Foreman) of Harriet E. Wilson's Our Nig, or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black.


"These three oral life narratives of ex-slave women, originally spoken through a second-person interviewer, will interest all readers … The book is a welcome addition for the fields of oral history, women's studies, African American studies, and US history and culture. " — CHOICE

"This book provides an important chronology of nineteenth-century women's life. It organizes and summarizes a wealth of historical materials, offering scholars and other readers an unprecedented and rich resource. " — Joycelyn Moody, author of Sentimental Confessions: Spiritual Narratives of Nineteenth-Century African American Women