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Autobiography Review    



Thirty Years A Slave:
From Bondage to Freedom, The Institution of Slavery as Seen on the Plantation in the Home of a Planter
The Autobiography of Louis Hughes
With a New Foreword by William Andrews
NewSouth Books, 2003
Trade Paper, $15.95 (152 pages)
ISBN: 1-58838-091-2

NewSouth Publishing should be congratulated for reprinting Thirty Years A Slave. Like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, Louis Hughes wrote an impassioned, unvarnished memoir of the years he and his family spent in slavery. 

Born in Virginia and initially sold away from his mother at twelve, Louis was a house servant. After spending time in several households, he was sold to a wealthy slaveholder in Mississippi, where he lived until near the end of the Civil War. He not only plotted his own escape, he also found a way to come back to the plantation with the paid help of two Union soldiers. (He made five attempts to run away before succeeding.) 

The couple went to Canada until after the war; and returned to Chicago and Detroit, eventually settling in Milwaukee. They built a comfortable live for themselves. Hughes worked as a hotel attendant and started a business for himself as a laundry operator. 

Self-educated, he wrote and privately published his memoir in 1897. Written as a series of vignettes, the book is an easy and rapid read. 

William A. Andrews, the E. Maynard Adams Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has written and edited several books on African-American culture and history. He operates a website on American slave narratives.
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Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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