The Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 76 pages of information about The Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave.

When I learned the fact of my having been hired to a negro speculator, or a “soul-driver” as they are generally called among slaves, no one can tell my emotions.  Mr. Walker had offered a high price for me, as I afterwards learned, but I suppose my master was restrained from selling me by the fact that I was a near relative of his.  On entering the service of Mr. Walker, I found that my opportunity of getting to a land of liberty was gone, at least for the time being.  He had a gang of slaves in readiness to start for New Orleans, and in a few days we were on our journey.  I am at a loss for language to express my feelings on that occasion.  Although my master had told me that he had not sold me, and Mr. Walker had told me that he had not purchased me, I did not believe them; and not until I had been to New Orleans, and was on my return, did I believe that I was not sold.

There was on the boat a large room on the lower deck, in which the slaves were kept, men and women, promiscuously—­all chained two and two, and a strict watch kept that they did not get loose; for cases have occurred in which slaves have got off their chains, and made their escape at landing-places, while the boats were taking in wood;—­and with all our care, we lost one woman who had been taken from her husband and children, and having no desire to live without them, in the agony of her soul jumped overboard, and drowned herself.  She was not chained.

It was almost impossible to keep that part of the boat clean.

On landing at Natchez, the slaves were all carried to the slave-pen, and there kept one week, during which time, several of them were sold.  Mr. Walker fed his slaves well.  We took on board, at St. Louis, several hundred pounds of bacon (smoked meat) and corn-meal, and his slaves were better fed than slaves generally were in Natchez, so far as my observation extended.

At the end of a week, we left for New Orleans, the place of our final destination, which we reached in two days.  Here the slaves were placed in a negro-pen, where those who wished to purchase could call and examine them.  The negro-pen is a small yard, surrounded by buildings, from fifteen to twenty feet wide, with the exception of a large gate with iron bars.  The slaves are kept in the buildings during the night, and turned out into the yard during the day.  After the best of the stock was sold at private sale at the pen, the balance were taken to the Exchange Coffee House Auction Rooms, kept by Isaac L. McCoy, and sold at public auction.  After the sale of this lot of slaves, we left New Orleans for St. Louis.


On our arrival at St. Louis, I went to Dr. Young, and told him that I did not wish to live with Mr. Walker any longer.  I was heart-sick at seeing my fellow-creatures bought and sold.  But the Dr. had hired me for the year, and stay I must.  Mr. Walker again commenced purchasing another gang of slaves.  He bought a man of Colonel John O’Fallon, who resided in the suburbs of the city.  This man had a wife and three children.  As soon as the purchase was made, he was put in jail for safe keeping, until we should be ready to start for New Orleans.  His wife visited him while there, several times, and several times when she went for that purpose was refused admittance.

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The Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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