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Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave

Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave is the first fugitive slave narrative in American history. Because Grimes wrote and published his narrative on his own, without deference to white editors, publishers, or sponsors, his Life has an immediacy, candor, and no-holds-barred realism unparalleled in the famous antebellum slave narratives of the period.


This edition of Grimes's autobiography represents an historic partnership between noted scholar of the African American slave narrative, William L. Andrews, and Regina Mason, Grimes's great-great-great-granddaughter. Their extensive historical and genealogical research has produced an authoritative, copiously annotated text that features pages from an original Grimes family Bible, transcriptions of the 1824 correspondence that set the terms for the author's self-purchase in Connecticut (nine years after his escape from Savannah, Georgia), and many other striking images that invoke the life and times of William Grimes.

Regina Mason shows how historical investigation is not a dull endeavor but is the center of an impassioned journey of self-discovery and that self-discovery can be an important component of historical research. It is her ability to connect the personal journey with William Grimes's. They are many generations apart, yet each plays an important function in illuminating the story of the other. She shows how dusty archival (and now internet) resources have the power to transform our lives.

Caroline Cox, Professor of History, University of The Pacific

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