Yale Acquires 1850s Prison Memoir of African-American Man

via NYTimes:

“…The 304-page memoir, titled “The Life and Adventures of a Haunted Convict, or the Inmate of a Gloomy Prison,” describes the experiences of the author, Austin Reed, from the 1830s to the 1850s in a prison in upstate New York.

Caleb Smith, a professor of English at Yale who has written extensively about imprisonment, said he believed the manuscript to be authentic. Reed’s account was corroborated through newspaper articles, court records and prison files, with help from Christine McKay, an archivist and researcher who also works for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Manhattan…

…Reed is believed to have been born a free man near Rochester. As a young man, according to Yale’s research, he was sent to the New York House of Refuge, a juvenile reform school in Manhattan, where he learned to read and write. By the 1830s, a string of thefts resulted in his incarceration in a state prison in Auburn, now known as the Auburn Correctional Facility, which was built in 1816.

The manuscript, written with the dramatic flair of a natural storyteller but in unpolished English, with grammatical and spelling errors, traces his life from childhood to his years at Auburn. It is written under the name Rob Reed, although it is unclear why he used that name, according to Yale…”

Read the rest.

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