|THE ALLEN PARKER SLAVE NARRATIVE|
Introduction to Site
Allen Parker's Worcester
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Site design by Joyce Joines Newman.
All original contents copyright © 2000
Welcome to the web site for the Allen Parker Slave Narrative Project! This site is the first scholarly treatment of Allen Parker's Recollections of Slavery Times, an important but little known slave narrative published in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1895. Parker was an illiterate popcorn and candy peddler in Worcester when he came, through avenues unknown, to relate the story of his life in slavery to a sympathetic friend, also unknown. Published by a small local press, Parker's Recollections quickly faded into obscurity and was lost to the general public and scholars alike until rediscovered in the last few years.
Parker's Recollections tells the saga of his years as a slave in the coastal region of North Carolina from his birth in 1838 to his flight to a Union gunboat in 1862. One of the most exceptional parts of Parker's story is that he was hired out, originally with his mother Millie, later on his own, to approximately a dozen different owners while he was a boy and young man. These owners included sizable planters, of the sort described so often in American slave narratives, but also included small planters, loggers, yeoman farmers and poorer farm families. In describing his early life, Parker provides a remarkably comprehensive view of slavery and antebellum society in at least one corner of the rural South.
This website was created by the students in my seminar, "The Slave Narrative in American History," at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. The site includes the full text of Allen Parker's Recollections of Slavery Times, as well as scholarly annotations that examine the places, individuals, and events described in the text. As you go through Recollections, just click on the highlighted terms in order to read the accompanying annotations. A number of annotations also provide background on slave culture and folk life, antebellum politics, and various aspects of Allen Parker's antebellum world that we hope will put his tale in a broader perspective, and perhaps refer you to other sources where you may learn more. On the website's pages, we have also included a sidebar that will lead you to maps; genealogical charts; local, state, and national timelines; and other supportive materials. One section that I would like to mention in particular is "Finding Allen Parker Today," which features photographs and text that chronicle the class's trips to Parker's former plantation in Chowan County, North Carolina.
I know I should resist, but I cannot help saying a few words about the students in this seminar. I never expected that any group of college students could accomplish so much original research on this difficult a subject in a semester's time. I cannot commend their enthusiasm, dedication or skill enough. All of them spent long hours with the federal censuses at the North Carolina Collection at Joyner Library here at East Carolina University (ECU). Dividing other research tasks among themselves, they investigated Allen Parker's life in documents at the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh; the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the Manuscripts Collection at Joyner Library at ECU; the Chowan County Courthouse in Edenton, N.C.; the Perquimans County Courthouse in Hertford, N.C.; and the National Archives in Washington, DC. A number of students also visited with local residents, both African-American and white, in Chowan and Perquimans counties, including descendents of Allen Parker's owners. There they heard personal stories and reviewed family papers that helped them to chart the two neighborhoods where Allen Parker lived as a slave. Eventually, they discovered the plantation of Parker's owner, the Martinique plantation, in the Rockyhock community of Chowan County, and led the entire class to the site. We found the original plantation house and a slave cabin still standing, as well as a burial plot that may be the final resting place of Parker's mother Millie. That was a day that few of us are likely to forget.
Parker says little about his life after slavery in Recollections, but the students filled in many of the gaps by tracing Civil War documents about his escape from slavery and his year of service enrolled in the Union navy during the federal occupation of the North Carolina coast. They also learned a great deal about his later years in the north by obtaining documents from the Worcester Public Library, the Worcester Historical Museum, Hope Cemetery, the American Antiquarian Society, and several branches of the Worcester city government. We undoubtedly have more to learn about Parker's life in that era, but you can find a fairly extensive review of those years by clicking on the last few annotations in our text copy of Recollections. We hope that teachers, students, and scholars alike will find Allen Parker's Recollections a useful and fascinating way for understanding better an important part of American history. Our web page is an evolving work, one that my students intend to refine in coming months, and we welcome information and ideas for improvement. We especially welcome ideas for making the web site a more useful educational resource for teachers. Above all, we hope that our presentation of the narrative's text, as well as the accompanying annotations, charts, maps and photographs, will help make Allen Parker and his times come as alive for you as they have for us.
East Carolina University
The Waterman's Song
Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina
by David S. Cecelski
University of North Carolina Press , September 2001
A Historian's Coast:
Adventures into the Tidewater Past
University of North Carolina Press , April 2000
Recollections of My Slavery Days
David S. Cecelski, Editor
North Carolina Division of Archives & History, March 2000
The Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and Its Legacy
Edited by David S. Cecelski and Timothy B. Tyson
University of North Carolina Press , November 1998
Along Freedom Road
Hyde County, North Carolina, and the Fate of Black Schools in the South
by David S. Cecelski
University of North Carolina Press, April 1994
ISBN 0-8078-2126-8 OP