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Fri, 02.15.1793

Austin Steward, Author, and Businessman born

Austin Steward

*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. Steward became a house servant at Helm's mansion when he was eight years old. 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, joining the Wilberforce Colony established by the Society of Friends.  It was there that he was chosen as the settlement's president.

In 1817, Stewart 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 funds to carry on the colony's affairs, but in 1837, with no more land to be sold to the colonists by the Canada Company, Stewart returned to Rochester. After two years, he opened a school in Canada and 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.

To be a Writer


Appleton’s Encyclopedia,
Copyright 2008

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