Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion


In his fugitive slave ad, Dugal describes Skundus describes "how sleepy he wuz." This is one example of how Chesnutt imbues his tales with historical reality, a fact evident by the many testimonies of nineteenth-century slave narratives. Chesnutt was no doubt aware of the most famous sleeper slave, Harriet Tubman. Her lifetime of lethargy was literally inflicted upon her by her violent environment. Harriet, therefore, was a real-life “Deep Sleeper.” In Tubman’s 1886 biography,* Bradford describes “the turns of somnolency to which [Harriet] has always been subject” (82) and explains that her head injury “left her subject to a sort of stupor or lethargy at times; coming upon her in the midst of conversation, or whatever she may be doing, and throwing her into a deep slumber, from which she will presently rouse herself, and go on with her conversation or work” (110-111). 


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