Autobiografía de un esclavo (The Autobiography of a Slave) is an eloquent account of slavery in the Spanish colonies of the New World, it is the first testimony from a slave written in Spanish, and a document of immense historical and human value. Juan Francisco Manzano began his writing in 1835, encouraged by Domingo del Monte, a writer determined to abolish slavery in Cuba, who a year later would organize a collection to buy the freedom of Manzano.
Autobiografía de un esclavo was unfinished and would only be published for the first time in Spanish in Cuba more than one hundred years later, in 1937 (an English edition had appeared already in 1840 translated by Richard Robert Madden from a copy edited by Anselmo Suárez and Romero).
Manzano, born a slave in the Cuban province of Matanzas, recounts the vicissitudes of his existence before getting freedom, first at the house of his parents slave owner, Beatriz de Jústiz de Santa Ana, a writer and poet relatively tolerant for the time. She allowed him to read poems, short plays, operatic fragments, and even let him use letter paper to doodle, which helped Manzano to learn to write on his own. Later he recounts his experiences in the house of a rather despotic lady , the Marquesa del Prado Ameno, from whose house he would end up escaping.
It should be added that there was a second part of Autobiografía de un esclavo slave today lost.
(In this edition, the author’s spelling and punctuation have been respected.)