by [SLAVE NARRATIVE]. Williams, James; [John Greenleaf Whittier]
New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, No. 143 Nassau Street. Boston: Isaac Knapp, 25 Cornhill., 1838. . 12mo in half sheets; pale green paper-covered printed boards; cloth spine. Later printing, published the same year as the first. Possibly BAL 22247. Printer's slug on the verso of the title: "Stereotyped at Geo. A. & J. Curtis's Type & Stereotype Foundry.ÑBoston". The back cover contains "NEW BOOKS, | For Sale by | ISAAC KNAPP, 25 CORNHILL, BOSTON."Some controversy surrounded the publication of this work as some of the dates and persons mentioned did not tally with known facts. It was among the first of the Anti-Slavery Society's. The following is adapted from the Encyclopedia of Alabama.Although there is an appendix of statements by white witnesses who corroborate the story, the accuracy of Williams's narrative was heavily challenged, particularly by J. B. Rittenhouse, editor of the Beacon, a Greensborough , Alabama newspaper Rittenhouse claimed that no persons named Huckstep lived in Greene County, and also challenged the dates of events as well as the distances Williams claimed to have traveled in his escape.On November 3, 1838, The Liberator, the leading abolitionist newspaper of the day, renounced the narrative as false and advocated withdrawing the book from circulation. Williams had, by this time, already moved to England and could not be found to address concerns. An American Anti-Slavery Society committee determined that Williams made false statements and ended the sale of the book but never said that the book itself was a scam. The abolitionists trusted Williams' general storyline because of its specificity, powerful episodes, and convincing characterizations. The society described him in Christ-like terms, emphasizing that he had not been resentful or angry in talks about his former experiences but expressed sorrow and intelligence. Whether or not Williams intentionally deceived his readers is unknown.The publication and subsequent discrediting of Narrative of James Williams, an American Slave had a substantial effect on future slave narratives. Abolitionists took more precautions in choosing writers for publication and confined former slaves to the bare facts of their lives. The prefaces, appendices, and testimonies by white editors and abolitionists verifying the stories contained in the slave narratives became more elaborate. Although Williams named 17 southern slaveholders, future narratives changed the names of those involved, making it more difficult to verify (or discredit) the details within the narratives. (Inventory #: 2667)
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