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May 12, 1991|Charles Solomon

THE HOUSE OF BONDAGE or Charlotte Brooks and Other Slaves by Octavia V. Roberts (Oxford: $9.95). Originally published in 1890, this compilation of former slaves' stories offers a nonfiction counterpoint to "Uncle Tom's Cabin." The accounts of families torn apart, beatings, rapes and forced labor confirm Roberts' opening declaration: "None but those who resided in the South during the time of slavery can realize the terrible punishments that were visited upon the slaves. Virtue and self-respect were denied them." Although marred by what may strike the modern reader as excessive sermonizing, "The House of Bondage" stands as an eloquent document of the early days of the struggle for freedom. Roberts' book is one of the first entries in Oxford's reprint of the 30-volume Schomberg Library of Nineteenth Century Black Women Writers. Other titles issued at this time include: "Four Girls at Cottage City" by Emma D. Kelley-Hawkins, "Contending Forces" by Pauline E. Hopkins and "Spiritual Narratives" (various authors).

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