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J. D. Green


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(1813-?), slave narrator.

Jacob D. Green was born a slave in Queen Anne's County, Maryland, and during his boyhood served as a house servant on a large plantation owned by Judge Charles Earle. When he was twelve years old his mother was sold; he never saw her again. He began thinking of escape while a teenager but did not attempt it because religious teachings convinced him that running away from his master would be a sinful act. When his wife was sold away from him in 1839, however, Green made the first of three escape attempts, the last of which took him from Kentucky to Toronto, Canada, in 1848 and soon thereafter to England. Working as an antislavery lecturer, Green published his forty-three page Narrative of the Life of J. D. Green, a Runaway Slave in England in 1864. According to its title page, eight thousand copies of Green's Narrative were printed. The Narrative is notable for its depiction of Green as a wily and unapologetic slave trickster who exploits whites and blacks alike to achieve his ends. Green's unsentimental, rough-and-tumble portrayal of life on the plantation is one of several distinctively unconventional features of his Narrative.

William L. Andrews, To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760–1865, 1986.William L. Andrews and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds. Slave Narratives, 2000.

— William L. Andrews

Subjects: Literature

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