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New Image Guide: The Life and Adventures of a Haunted Convict

The James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection is pleased to announce a new digital image guide: Robert Reed, The Life and Adventures of a Haunted Convict, or the Inmate of a Gloomy Prison; an unpublished manuscript, [ca. 1858] (View all images).

In his memoir, written around 1859, Robert Reed attributes the wayward course of his life to the tragic loss of his father at the age of six. Reed recounts his experiences at the New York House of Refuge, the first juvenile reformatory in the United States, and later in New York’s Auburn State Prison. Reed provides a wealth of vivid detail about his incarceration at Auburn, including a description of the horizontal black-and-white striped uniform which originated at the prison: “streaked clothes of shame and disgrace.” Released from Auburn on May 1, 1842, he was reincarcerated there before the close of the year, “I return’d home and committed a crime wich brought me back to a gloomy prison.” This unparalleled narrative is a unique resource documenting the lives of African-American prisoners in antebellum America.

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