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NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF WILLIAM W. BROWN, AN AMERICAN SLAVE. WRITTEN BY HIMSELF.
1859
Courtesy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Documenting the American South
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Photo of the front page of NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF WILLIAM W. BROWN, AN AMERICAN SLAVE.
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Document Description
In the narrative of his life as a slave, William Wells Brown describes his experience with being "hired out" in St. Louis. Brown remembers the cruel treatment he and other servants received from their employer and notes his master's reluctance to step in so long as he was making money from Brown's labor.

Transcript
SOON afterwards, my master removed to the city of St. Louis, and purchased a farm four miles from there, which he placed under the charge of an overseer by the name of Friend Haskell. He was a regular Yankee from New England. The Yankees are noted for making the most cruel overseers.

My mother was hired out in the city, and I was also hired out there to Major Freeland, who kept a public house. He was formerly from Virginia, and was a horse-racer, cock-fighter, gambler, and withal an inveterate drunkard. There were ten or twelve servants in the house, and when he was present, it was cut and slash-knock down and drag out. In his fits of anger, he would take up a chair, and throw it at a servant; and in his more rational moments, when he wished to chastise one, he would tie them up in the smoke-house, and whip them; after which, he would cause a fire to be made of tobacco stems, and smoke them. This he called "Virginia play."

I complained to my master of the treatment which I received from Major Freeland; but it made no difference. He cared nothing about it, so long as he received the money for my labor.

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