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Octavia V. Rogers Albert

(c. 1824—1890)

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(1824–c. 1890), biographer of former slaves, educator, and community leader.

Octavia Victoria Rogers Albert is best known for her volume of collected slave narratives, The House of Bondage, or Charlotte Brooks and Other Slaves (1890). The collection assembles the brief narratives (as told to Albert) of seven former slaves whose earnest testimonies, Albert believed, exposed the brutality of slaveholding in general and the hypocrisy of Christian slaveholding in particular. But more importantly, the narratives demonstrated, according to Albert, the narrators’ spiritual courage and strong Christian faith.

Albert was born a slave on 12 December 1824 in Oglethorpe, Georgia, but neither slavery nor its far-reaching effects stifled her achievements. After the Civil War, she attended Atlanta University and became a teacher, interviewer, and researcher. Asserting that the complete story of slavery had not been told, she invited former slaves into her home, taught some to read and write, sang hymns and read scriptures to others, and encouraged them all to recount their histories, which she recorded.

In her comments, which weave a sympathetic and outraged voice throughout the narratives, Albert decries the inhumanity of slavery and continually raises the alarm over slaveholders who professed Christian ideals of compassion and brotherhood; they would carry the sin of slavery upon their souls. But as much as Albert yearned to set straight the record of the past, she also looked with optimism toward the future of the freed people. If they saved their earnings, bought homes, educated their children, built up character, obeyed the laws of the country, served God, and protested injustices, their status would improve.

Albert was married to the Reverend A. E. P. Albert. She met him in 1873 during her first teaching assignment in Montezuma, Georgia, where he was teaching at the same school. They were married the following year on 21 October 1874 and moved to Houma, Louisiana (where Albert conducted her interviews with former slaves). In 1877, her husband was ordained a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and in 1878, Albert, who was a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, converted to her husband's denomination. She was baptized by her husband.

Albert's husband and their only child, Laura T. F. Albert, published The House of Bondage a few months after the author's death as a serial story in the Southwestern Christian Advocate. Its popularity encouraged publication in book form as a memorial to the author.

Octavia V. Rogers Albert, The House of Bondage, 1893; rpt. 1988.Frances Smith Foster, Written by Herself, 1993.

Jan Furman

Subjects: Literature

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