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A Slave’s Story: Eliza Suggs’s "Shadows and Sunshine"

Since I am on spring break and I’m not sitting on a beach – not skiing – not resting – but really, I’m not complaining. I have my health and that’s what’s important. In the midst of my break, I’ve had some time to research my family tree. I wish, or maybe there is, a national standard for ancestry. As educators we could easily build the topic of ancestry into our curriculum. Right? How cool to learn history through our own history. Anyway, in my own genealogical research, I’ve been down some eye-opening paths. And in my near futile attempts to find information about my slave ancestors on my mother’s side, I stumbled upon a little slave girl, Eliza Suggs, who authored the book Shadow and Sunshine. Her book depicts the difficult times she endured as a slave with handicaps – in all my time of being interested in the lives of slaves, it never dawned on me that some were born with handicaps. What that must have been like?  
(Photo and book jacket come courtesy of Documenting the American south website)
Here’s a portion of what Burton Jones wrote in her introduction "While the reader will be touched by the scenes of suffering related in this narrative, he will be impressed that Eliza does not belong to the despondent class. She is evidently of a cheerful temperament, possessing an overcoming faith which gives her the assurance that the God whom she loves and serves, intends to provide for and sustain her until life’s journey is ended. She saw light where others would have seen only darkness; she cherished hope where others would have felt only despair; and fearing it might displease her Master, she rejected offers of worldly gain which others would have eagerly grasped. Of humble parentage, limited advantages, physical embarassments, she is shedding rays of light along her pathway, and making impressions for good on the hearts and lives of those with whom she associates. What a marvel of grace!"

Indeed, and as we near the end of Women’s History Month I am honored to introduce you to Eliza Suggs. Her book is available here, in digital form. It’s riveting.


  1. sick story wow amy she musta been in HELL!!!!!!!

  2. When I examined the picture, initially I wondered did this individual have dwarfism. How fasinating! As much as I’ve studied American slavery, it never crossed my mind that some slaves had to deal with being born with physical challenges, or birth defects. This topic adds a new dimension on the challenges of slavery and fosters addition questions in my mind. Were there any that escaped? Were they mistreated even more so than the other slaves? What jobs were they expected to do? What was done to the mentally challenged slave? I must read this book to gain more insight. Thank you.