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In 1859, with the United States on the verge of secession and civil war, H. Dayton published Fifty Years in Chains, an incredible true story told to him by a lifelong slave in the antebellum South. The man provides an invaluable account of life on a Georgia plantation, as well as his escape from slavery, his capture, and then his second escape. Dayton explains in the preface, in an obvious reference to the Fugitive Slave Act, The language of the slave has not at all times been strictly adhered to, as a half century of bondage unfitted him for literary work The subject of the story is still a slave by the laws of this country, and it would not be wise to reveal his name. The author would later be identified as Charles Ball, a slave who was born around 1780 and had participated in the War of 1812 as well. This edition of Fifty Years in Chains, or The Life of an American Slave is specially formatted with 19th century depictions of slaves in American literature and pictures of famous Civil War generals and leaders. It also includes a table of contents for easier navigation.

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