Famous African American Slaves

“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” Abraham Lincoln, 1865

African American Slaves - Slavery in the United States

It is estimated that approximately 12.5 million Africans were imported via the slave trade, however, only a small percentage by comparison were shipped direct to North America; the majority of slaves at the time of the Civil War were descended from enslaved Africans.

The life of a slave was often hard; punishment was severe and masters frequently abused their power. Sadly as slaves were considered chattels and not citizens, they were not adequately protected by the law and were subject to the will of the African American slave owners. Despite the fact that it was illegal to teach a slave to read or write in most states, some escaped and emancipated slaves published their accounts in an effort to draw attention to their plight.

  • Learn about the treatment of African American slaves.
  • Read about the childhood of famous slaves.
  • Discover what made some slaves particularly noteworthy.
  • Read about the ways in which some slaves fought against the institution of slavery.
  • Learn about the lives of famous African American slaves and the struggles that they faced.

Famous African American Slaves

Frederick Douglass

An escaped slave who gained notoriety as an abolitionist, Frederick Douglass was famed for his speech ‘What to the slave is the fourth of July’ and wrote numerous articles against slavery.

Harriet Jacobs

An escaped slave who spent years hiding from her lascivious master in the crawl space of her grandmother’s shed; Harriet Jacobs was the first female former slave to write about the treatment that African American women had to endure.

Solomon Northup

Born free, Solomon Northup was kidnapped and illegally sold to slavers. The film ’12 Years a Slave’ was based upon his memoirs.

Dred Scott

A slave who filed a lawsuit against his mistress on the basis that after living in slave free states, his family should be free. The legal battle spanned a decade and the outcome was said to have contributed to the Civil War.

Sojourner Truth

The first African American woman slave to win a legal battle against a white man after her son was illegally sold, Sojourner Truth went on to give famous speeches such as ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’ and supported gender and racial equality.

Harriet Tubman

As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman led thousands of slaves on foot to Canada and assisted The Union in liberating Southern slaves.