Henry Bibb

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Henry Bibb, copper engraving by Patrick H. Reason

Henry Walton Bibb (May 10, 1815 in Shelby County, Kentucky – 1854) was an American author and abolitionist who was born a slave. After escaping from slavery to Canada, he founded an abolitionist newspaper, The Voice of the Fugitive. He returned to the US and lectured against slavery.


Bibb was born to an enslaved woman, Milldred Jackson, on a Cantalonia, Kentucky, plantation on May 10, 1815. His people told him his white father was James Bibb, a Kentucky state senator, but Henry never knew him.[1] As he was growing up, Bibb saw each of his six younger siblings, all boys, sold away. Bibb was also very attached to his original owner's dog, which he named Geels, but the dog died at only 5 years of age.

In 1833, Bibb married another enslaved mulatto, Malinda, who lived in Oldham County, Kentucky. They had a daughter, Mary Frances.[1]

In 1842, he managed to flee to Detroit, from where he hoped to gain the freedom of his wife and daughter.[1] After finding out that Malinda had been sold as a mistress to a white planter, Bibb focused on his career as an abolitionist. He traveled and lectured throughout the United States.[1]

In 1849-50 he published his autobiography Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An American Slave, Written by Himself,[1] which became one of the best known slave narratives of the antebellum years. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 increased the danger to Bibb and his second wife, Mary E. Miles. It required Northerners to cooperate in the capture of escaped slaves. To ensure their safety, the Bibbs migrated to Canada and settled in Sandwich, Upper Canada, now Windsor, Ontario.[2]

In 1851, he set up the first black newspaper in Canada, The Voice of the Fugitive.[1] The paper helped develop a more sympathetic climate for blacks in Canada as well as helped new arrivals to adjust.[3] Henry and Mary E. Bibb managed the Refugee Home Society, which was founded in 1851. Mary established a school for children.[4]

Due to his fame as an author, Bibb was reunited with three of his brothers, who separately had also escaped from slavery to Canada. In 1852, he published their accounts in his newspaper.[1] He died on August 1, 1854, at Windsor, Canada West, at the age of 39.[5]


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  1. ^ a b c d e f g "canada.com - Page Not Found". Archived from the original on 2007-09-29 – via Canada.com. Cite uses generic title (help)
  2. ^ "Biography – BIBB, HENRY WALTON – Volume VIII (1851-1860) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography". ourfutureourpast.ca.
  3. ^ "Viewing page Black press of The ethnic press in Ontario". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
  4. ^ "The Refugee Home Society". www.windsor-communities.com. Retrieved 2021-05-31.
  5. ^ "Death of Henry Bibb," Anti-Slavery Bugle (Lisbon, Ohio), Aug. 12, 1854, page 2.

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