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Truth Be Told

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Truth Be Told

Three Classic Black Women’s Narratives

“The war of my life had begun; and though one of God’s most powerless creatures, I resolved never to be conquered.”—Harriet Jacobs


From Harriet Jacobs’ experience as a fugitive, to Susie King Taylor’s life as a nurse and teacher for the Union Army, to the powerful life of journalist and activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Black women have always stood at the center of the fight for freedom and progress. All three were born enslaved, yet each found the courage and grit to push back against societal norms to fight for or simply take their freedom. Truth Be Told comprises three powerful narratives written by formerly enslaved women who lived long past emancipation. Each narrative offers a window into time and moves the listener along chronologically from the early years of a new nation, through the Civil War, and up through the perilous years of Reconstruction.

Award-winning author and historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar provides an accessible and engaging introduction and afterword for each narrative, tying these figures’ lives to the arc of Black history and illuminating connections to the current global social justice movement that focuses on Black life. The afterword for Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl focuses on sexual violence, escape, being hunted, and looking for safety in the United States. For Susie King Taylor’s Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops: Late 1st S. C. Volunteers, the conclusion focuses on women and military service, war, Confederate monuments, and federal occupation. Finally, the afterword for Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases focuses on the rise of racial violence and the murder of Black men, women, and children at the hands of citizens and law enforcement. This compilation serves as the ultimate collection of classic narratives written by three Black women social justice advocates who provided gripping testimony about their experiences in order to remind their nineteenth-century readers that Black lives mattered.

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About the author

Erica Armstrong Dunbar is the Charles and Mary Beard Distinguished Professor of History at Rutgers University. She currently serves as the National Director of the Association of Black Women Historians—the only professional organization focused on Black women’s history. Dunbar’s first book, A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City was published by Yale University in 2008. Her second book, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge (Simon & Schuster) was a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction and a winner of the 2018 Frederick Douglass Book Prize. The young readers version of Never Caught (Aladdin/Simon and Schuster) was published in January 2019. In the fall of 2019, Dunbar published She Came To Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman, an accessible biography of one of the most remarkable social activists of the 19th century. In March of 2021, Dunbar will release the audiobook, Truth Be Told: Three Classic Black Women’s Narratives. This audiobook includes three powerful narratives written by formerly enslaved women who lived long past emancipation—women who stand as examples of nineteenth-century social justice activists. Dunbar’s op-eds in outlets such as the New York Times, The Nation, TIME, Essence, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, her commentary in media outlets such as CNN and the LA Times, and her appearances in documentaries such as "The Abolitionists” an American Experience production on PBS, the History Channel’s biopic of George Washington, as well as Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s Black Patriots place her at the center of America’s public history.

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