University of Missouri-St. Louis
Thomas Jefferson Library
Reference Department

The Slave Consultant's Narrative

The life of an Urban Myth?

Correspondence with Dr. William Piersen, including critique of the Narrative.
Resent-Date:  Wed, 05 Jul 95 10:48:26 CDT
Resent-From:  Frances 
Resent-To:    Anne 
Date: Tue, 4 Jul 1995 09:27:59 +0600
From: (William Piersen)
Content-Length: 1198

Here's the e-ref message about the A-A gopher item.  FP

    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =  = =
    =     E-REF          E-REF@UMSLVMA.UMSL.EDU / Electronic Reference     =
    =    SERVING         Thomas Jefferson Library Reference Department     =
    =  UM-ST. LOUIS           University of Missouri - St. Louis           =
    =   SINCE 1993       8001 Natural Bridge Road, St. Louis, MO 63121     =
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =  = =

----------------------------Original message---------------------------- 

Reference Librarian:  

I came across an odd document from your reference department on an African-American guide on the net.

The item in question was entitled "The Slave Consultant's Narrative" of William Lynch from 1712 Virginia.  Since it
read far more like a twentieth century fabrication, I wondered if you have any historical annotation for the piece?

 Internet Gopher Information Client v2.0.15

 Items of Historical Interest - Black and African American Studies 

1.  ******* Via the University of Missouri - St. Louis *******
2.  African American Heritage of St. Louis / St. Louis Pub. Lib, 1992/
3.  Black Experience in America / Norman Coombs, 1972, 1993/
4.  Emancipation Proclamation (1863)
5.  Fugitive Slave Act (1850)
6.  Joys of Being a Negro (1906) / Edward E. Wilson
7.  Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 1994 Memorial Issue (1863-1910)/
8.  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,An American Slave (184../
9.  Negro National Anthem (1900)
 -->  10. Slave Consultant's Narrative (1712)

Thanks for whatever information you can give me on this matter.

William Piersen
Professor of History
Fisk University

        To: wpiersen@dubois.fisk,edu (William Piersen)
    From: (Anne Taylor)
Subject: Re:

/\/\  Repeat of preceding post deleted for brevity /\/\

Hello, Prof. Piersen

I'm Anne Taylor, the collection development librarian responsible for Black Studies.  And, I am 
the one responsible for the "Slave Consultants Narrative" being posted to UM-St. Louis' gopher.  
The librarian doing electronic reference this week forwarded your question to me.

Neither I nor the publication I found this narrative in can find its origins (the publication has requested 
that I not post their title as a reference.)  My forays into the "Biography and Genealogy Master Index" 
haven't turned up a William Lynch with the correct birth and death dates for me to follow through on, 
but that doesn't prove it real or false.  I leave the narrative up in hopes that someone will contact me 
with information--which is what you have done.

You state that it reads like a 20th century fabrication.  Why?  Please don't read this as a challenge.  
The narrative has been the source of some lively debate hereabouts and anything you can tell me 
about how it's written would further my search.

Ms. Ywone Edwards, an historian with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, also contacted me 
asking about the narrative.  I asked her to treat it as anecdotal and if one of us finds provenance, 
we'll contact the other.

I think I will post a caveat about the narrative's provenance with the university disclaimer already 
posted.  It is not my intention to endorse it as fact, but I do think it an important piece whether it's an 
authentic historical document or an example of 20th century black revisionism.

I'm looking forward to your comments,


Date: Wed, 5 Jul 1995 15:03:33 +0600
From: (William Piersen) 
Content-Length: 1605

Dear Ms. Taylor:

I sympathize with your task.  It is impossible to prove a negative (e.g. that the document was never written in 1712)
and, in this case, probably equally difficult to find an eighteenth-century source for what is likely a late 20th
century manufacture.

I expect what caught Ms. Edwards' attention, was that the narrative doesn't read at all like eighteenth-century prose.

I suspect that the narrator's name--Mr. Will Lynch--is a humorous put-on.  Moreover, when Mr. Lynch thinks about
dividing the slaves, he forgets the division that was most  obvious to a West-Indian planter: nationality--both African
ethnic divisions--Akan, Ibo, Mandingo and American divisions between so-called new Negroes [native Africans]
and those born in the New World.  His old vs young and dark vs light divisions would be most peculiar among early
eighteenth-century African Americans (in both the West Indies and Virginia) who did not have such color gradations
as in our own time and who still maintained the near absolute African respect for age.

It might be better to take the document off the net, in part because its provenance is questionable, and in part because
such arguments about unity are debilitating for the young who sometimes assume they should not act until people are
unified, being too young to realize no people is ever unified.

I did send a note about the document to folklorist Patricia Turner (I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE)
suggesting she might be interested in it as a 20th century artifact.

Respectfully yours,

William D. Piersen 
Professor of History 
Fisk University 

        To: wpiersen@dubois.fisk,edu (William Piersen)
    From: (Anne Taylor)
Subject: Re:

/\/\  Repeat of preceding post deleted for brevity /\/\

Prof. Piersen,

With your permission, I'd like to forward portions of your critique of the "Narrative" to some listserv 
members who are in the midst of a debate about it.

Hope this finds you well,

Date: Fri, 3 Nov 1995 15:40:04 -0600
From: (William Piersen)
Subject: Re:
Content-Length: 158

Dear Anne:

Sure, go ahead and share my reactions if you find them useful.  Thanks for asking.

William D. Piersen
Professor of History
Fisk University

Return to Narrative's main page.