Humanizing the Dehumanized: The Complex Connections between William Lloyd Garrison’s Preface and Fugitive Slave Advertisements


  • Micah Hallman


By connecting nineteenth-century slave advertisements and the preface provided by William Lloyd Garrison to Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, this article argues that Garrison’s preface provides a moment in history when the voice of a specific person, speaking for a group of people who were frequently silenced, is recovered. Examining particular slave advertisements published around the time of Douglass’s 1845 narrative, it is possible to see that these advertisements tend to high-light the lack of voice provided to slaves while being focused on the body and the kinds of work that the slave was capable of doing. Other types of writing, such as the authenticating preface written by Garrison, also serve as advertisement, which recognizes the implicit silencing of Afri-can American humanity while also acknowledging slaves as authorities to tell their own stories.


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