Austin Steward, from servitude to authorship


Austin Steward
Date: 
Fri, 1793-02-15

*The birth of Austin Steward in 1793 is celebrated on this date. He was a Black slave, businessman, administrator and biographer of his life as a slave in America.

Steward was born in Prince William County, Virginia where his master, William Helm, owned over a hundred slaves. When Steward was eight years old he became a house servant at Helm's mansion. His master sold his plantation and slaves and moved to Bath in Steuben County. In financial difficulties, Helm also hired his slaves out to local farmers. Some of these men treated Stewart horrifically, which defined his reason to escape. Steward reached Canada in 1815 where he joined the Wilberforce Colony that had been established by the Society of Friends. It was there that he was chosen the settlements president.

In 1817, he created a successful business in Rochester. 9 years later he delivered an oration at the celebration of the New York emancipation act, and in 1830 he was elected vice-president of the National convention of Negroes in Philadelphia. While in Wilberforce, he used his own funds to carry on the affairs of the colony but in 1837, with no more land to be sold to the colonists by the Canada Company, Stewart returned to Rochester. He afterward opened a school in Canada, and after two years became an agent for the "Anti-Slavery Standard."

As an elder he wrote of his experiences in his autobiography, Twenty-Two Years a Slave which appeared in 1857. As an American reference it is considered one of the best slave narratives published. Austin Steward died in 1860.

Reference:
Appleton’s Encyclopedia,
Copyright 2001

The Anti-Slavery Society

To be a Writer

Person / name: 

Stewart, Austin