Twenty-two Years a Slave and Forty Years a Freeman; Embracing a Correspondence of Several Years, while President of Wilberforce Colony, London, Canada East.
“The author has endeavored to present a true statement…of the system of Slavery, as he has seen and felt it himself”
Autobiography of former Virginia-born slave turned anti-slavery reformer Austin Steward (1793–1865). After moving to New York State and having there asserted his freedom from slavery, he became a successful grocer and prominent public anti-slavery activist including serving three times as president of the New York Convention of Colored Men.
He was an agent for two black newspapers, Freedom’s Journal and the Rights of All, vice president of the first Annual Convention for the Improvement of Colored People, held in Philadelphia, and, after removing to Canada, helped establish the black community of Wilberforce.
Steward’s narrative contains four, full-page wood engravings, two of which are quite dramatic depictions of self-liberation from slavery. One shows a slave wresting a whip from an overseer and flogging him and the other showing a slave from Maryland cutting his own throat to “...escape a life-long scene of unrequited toil and degradation.” (p248)
“Steward is best remembered for his autobiography, Twenty-Two Years a Slave and Forty Years a Freeman, published in 1857. ... It testifies primarily to the vicissitudes that African Americans experienced even in the North in its depiction of the struggle of one exceptional black man against social and economic discrimination and exclusion from the full political and legal privileges that white citizens enjoyed. ... His autobiography was his most effective undertaking; his strongest message was a plea to ‘those who have the power’ to ‘have the magnanimity to strike off the chains from the enslaved, and bid him stand up, a Freeman and a Brother!’” (ANB)
Description: Twenty-two Years a Slave and Forty Years a Freeman; Embracing a Correspondence of Several Years, while President of Wilberforce Colony, London, Canada East.
Rochester, N.Y.: Published by Allings & Cory, 1859. Engraved portrait frontispiece, xii, , 14–360pp +  plates of wood engravings. Second Edition. 8vo. Publisher’s original brown cloth with blindstamped decorations and gilt spine titling. Slightly cocked; only brief wear to binding with dulled gilt and tiny hole at tail of upper joint; one signature loosening; overall, good to very good with tight hinges.