Plantation Slaves, Beaufort, South Carolina, 1862; Image Reference LOC-SC-1, as shown on, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.

Slavery Narratives

The enslavement of the African peoples, the transatlantic slave trade, and the plantation system that followed initiated the largest sustained commercial trading of human beings in history. Some scholars estimate that more than 20 million Africans were transported to the New World.

The few slave narratives that are presented in this exhibit reflect only a fraction of the millions upon millions of stories that could have been told by people who had the misfortune to toil under the yoke of slavery.

Although each of their stories is as unique and individual as a fingerprint, describing as they do, a different heartbreak and a different survival strategy. The brief glimpse provided in this exhibit will give you an introduction to the ways in which lives were affected.

Narration by Maya Angelou