A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings, and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, a Negro Man

by Briton Hammon
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Critical Context

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Hammon’s captivity narrative was not the only work of its kind. An Indian captivity tale by Thomas Brown also was published by another Boston printer in 1760. It was a popular work and went through two editions that same year. Hammon and Brown must have been aware of each other’s works, because both their texts bear resemblances to each other that cannot be considered coincidental. As to which author borrowed from whom, it is impossible to tell. Hammon may have inspired Brown, or Brown may have influenced Hammon, but the relationships between the two narratives are certainly clear from the works. Hammon’s and Brown’s titles, prefatory remarks, and closing religious exhortations are practically the same word for word. Brown’s tale also contains elements similar to those that appear in Hammon’s work, such as accounts of Indian duplicities, captivity, danger of exposure to the alien faith of Roman Catholicism (in Brown, the French Canadians pose the threat), and kind acts by a governor and a woman. In addition, Brown and Hammon end their narratives with a religious plea taken from the same source in the Bible (Psalm 107).

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Although it seems that Hammon’s narrative is authentic mainly because of its ingenuous style and unique voice, the difference of tone in the short beginning and ending sections seems to indicate the work of another person. Most of the narrative, however, is presented as a plain and circumstantial account told directly by an unschooled religious person, and the consistency of language, feeling, and viewpoint supports the narrative’s claim to veracity.

Hammon’s description of his adventures is important for historical reasons, because it is the first autobiographical slave narrative...

(The entire section contains 425 words.)

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