Moses Roper

Roper’s Narrative was one of the first to visually depict the horrors of slavery. Throughout this lecturing tours in the British Isles, countless Britons accused him of exaggerating the violence enslaved individuals faced, to which Roper responded: I’ll tell you my story.

The statement give by Roper was really harrowing to the mind. The sufferings he endured when under the wretched system of slavery, were intolerable great. His object in stirring up British benevolence is to enable him to purchase the emancipation of his mother and sister who are now in bondage in that boasted land of freedom, America.

The Essex Standard, and General Advertiser for the Eastern Counties, Friday February 1 1839.

Roper was born enslaved in North Carolina around 1815. As with thousands of other enslaved individuals, his father was also his white master and as a result Roper had a fair complexion. He was severely punished for his numerous escape attempts (around 16). He was whipped one hundred times in one sitting, and in another instance, was chained to a female enslaved individual for several months. Whilst enslaved he also heard of and witnessed brutal violence: a neighbouring plantation master forced some enslaved men and women into barrels, nailed them shut so the nails protruded in the inside, and rolled them down the hill.

Picture of Moses Roper Moses Roper (Wikipedia)

Remarkably, Roper escaped from Florida (where he had been sold to another master and travelled to New York. Eventually, he visited Britain and attracted large crowds in London and towns in the North.

He was very fluent in his language and eloquent in his description, but it was quite plain, even to the most casual and unreflecting observer, that his mind was often recalled to far distant climes and painful memories, when referring to his early days to the homes of his childhood and his awful hair-breadth escapes, through woods and wilds, over lake and river, now etched up a tree to escape the ruthless pursuit of men and now immersed in water to evade the scent of blood-hounds, with one of which he gave palpable proofs of a sanguinary encounter. And no wonder he should be depressed when he knows that his mother, if living, besides nine brothers and sisters are all still at the mercy of the overseer’s lash.