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PHOTO ESSAY

Slave Narratives

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The Fugitive's Song, 1845.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Frederick Douglass' autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was so popular that in addition to its wide readership it also inspired music. This sheet music cover for the 1845 piece "The Fugitive's Song" depicts Frederick Douglass in 1938 as he fled from Maryland to the free state of Massachusetts. The cover reads that the song was "composed and respectfully dedicated, in token of confident esteem to Frederick Douglass. A graduate from the peculiar institution. For his fearless advocacy, signal ability and wonderful success in behalf of his brothers in bonds. (and to the fugitives from slavery in the) free states & Canadas by their friend Jesse Hutchinson Junr." Douglass' memoir of his experience as part of the "peculiar institution"—a popular way to describe the system of slavery in his day—is still one of the most widely read slave narratives.

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