Narrative of My Escape from Slavery

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Whipped, beaten, worked to death. Not many escaped this life.

But Moses Roper did.

Born into slavery in Caswell County, North Carolina his father was of English descent while his mother was a slave of African-American and Indian American heritage.

When Roper was six he was separated from his mother as his father exchanged them for some other slaves.

Thus began a long period where Roper was passed from slave trader to slave trader because his almost-white complexion made him difficult to sell.

He changed hands more than seventeen times, but he reflects that his cruellest master was Mr Gooch, a Cotton Planter in Cashaw County, South Carolina.

Owing to his pale complexion, Roper had only worked as a domestic slave prior to being purchased by Mr Gooch, but was quickly put to work in the fields doing a job requiring the strength of a fully-grown man even though Roper was just thirteen.

His inability to keep up with the other field labourers earnt him hundreds of floggings, which increased further each time he attempted to escape.

On one occasion, Roper escaped to North Carolina where he was reunited with his mother and grandmother until he was imprisoned by the authorities and returned to Mr Gooch.

In his final escape attempt, Roper was able to reach New York although it took him over a year and by a highly convoluted route across the South and as far north as Vermont.

Roper describes in detail the attitudes of slave owners and traders, as well as the torture techniques used on disobedient slaves.

He also shows the difficulties experienced by former slaves once they reached the northern states and how hard it was to find work without any recommendations from local employers.

He left New York for the United Kingdom in 1835, where this narrative ends, but the appendix contains a piece written in 1846 covering his life in those intervening years.

In Britain he attended university and published this narrative, campaigning rigorously for the abolition of slavery in the United States. The appendix also includes letters and poems from members of the public responding to Roper’s work, as well as a list of all the British towns he visited when touring the UK and Ireland.

First published in 1848, this book is one of the most authentic accounts of an escape from slavery.

Moses Roper (1815 – 1891) was a mulatto slave who escaped to freedom in England and wrote this book accounting for his experiences.

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