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Early African American Print Culture


University of Pennsylvania Press


In 1824, in a fury over the injustices of slavery, racism in the North, and exploitation of the workingman, William Grimes wrote the story of his life. The Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave (1825) ends with a visceral and violent image of literary sacrifice: Grimes offers to skin himself in order to authorize the national story of the United States:

If it were not for the stripes on my back which were made while I was a slave, I would in my will leave my skin as a legacy to the gover(n)ment, desiring that it might be taken off and made into parchment, and then bind the constitution of glorious, happy, and free America. Let the skin of an American slave bind the charter of American liberty."


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