Form and Content
Briton Hammon’s narrative is the first known slave autobiography in American literature. Hammon dictated his factual story to a writer who probably recorded the account in almost the exact way Hammon delivered it. The narrative style is plain and straightforward and marked by many awkward and ungrammatical sentences.
The slave’s story is only fourteen pages long and, as Hammon himself states, deals mostly with matters of fact. His story is interesting, however, because he describes exciting adventures resulting from his captivities at the hands of Indians and Spaniards. Furthermore, his work is related to spiritual autobiography and contains many biblical references and quotations. Hammon constantly thanks the Lord for delivering him from the dangers of captivity.
Published in Boston, Hammon’s brief account covers his experiences from 1747 to 1760. With his master’s consent, the loyal Hammon signs aboard a vessel bound for Jamaica. After loading up with wood in Jamaica, the ship heads back, but it soon meets with disaster when it is wrecked on a Florida reef. A boat with nine men aboard, including Hammon, is sent out to reach the shore, but a large band of Indians in twenty canoes surprises the sailors. The Indians capture them and then proceed to attack the ship and kill the captain and remaining crew members. Hammon, the sole survivor, is taken prisoner. The Indians treat him cruelly and threaten to roast him alive; but after five...
(The entire section is 502 words.)