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Remembering Author Octavia Albert Known For Documenting U.S. Slavery By Interviewing Ex-slaves

Written by Rewindingblack

Octavia Victoria Rogers Albert (12/24/1853 – 1891) was a Black author known for documenting U.S. Slavery by interviewing ex-slaves. She was born in Oglethorpe, GA under slavery until her emancipation.  Albert became a teacher after attending Atlanta University. She believed that teaching was a form of Christian service and worship. Her first job was in Montezuma, GA. In 1874 at 21 years old she married A.E.P. Albert, another teacher, and had a daughter. Her husband went on to join the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1877 as an ordained minister in 1877. After Albert was married the couple moved to Houma, Louisiana. In Houma Octavia started interviewing former slaves. She used these interviews to create her narratives published in 1890, The House of Bondage or Charlotte Brooks, and Other Slaves. These narratives were graphic accounts of the treatment of Louisiana slaves and the effects of slavery after emancipation.

Octavia wanted to correct all of the inaccurate accounts of slavery. She even added her commentary in addition to the narratives of the slaves. Her stories highlighted the intense labor, divided families, and brutal punishment of slave life. Octavia made sure to include accurate and graphic accounts because she saw herself as an agent of social change and an advocate of oppressed people. Her piece uses dialogue, dialect, and incorporates poems and songs into the text. Albert included in the forward her feelings about slavery.

“It is because American slavery was ‘the vilest that ever saw the sun’ that it is and will remain forever impossible to portray adequately its unspeakable horrors, its heartbreaking sorrows, its fathomless miseries of hopeless grief, its intolerable shames, and its heaven-defying and outrageous brutalities.”

Albert felt the pain of slavery and wanted to make sure that every reader of her manuscript knew how weak the institution was. However, she also believed that God leads her people to freedom.

“the American people may know from what depths of disgrace and infamy they rose when guided by the hand of God, they broke every yoke and let the oppressed go free. Finally, it is well to tell, though only in part, the story of slavery so that every man, woman, and child of the once enslaved race may know the exceeding mercy of God that has delivered them from the hopeless and helpless despair that might have been their portion if the Lord God Omnipotent had not come forth to smite in divine and righteous wrath the proud oppressors and bring his long-suffering people out of the worse than Egyptian bondage.”

Unfortunately, Albert did not live long enough to see The House of Bondage reach the masses as a book. Shortly after her death, the South-western Christian Advocate distributed her work. In 1891, Albert’s husband had the work published as a book.

 

 

 

 

 

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