Grimes, William (1784 – 1865)

Grimes, William (1784 – 1865)

  • <p>This portrait was published with the Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave. The book, the first slave narrative printed in the U.S., was first published in New York City in 1825. Image courtesy of Litchfield Law School.</p> <p>Photograph from Dwight C. Kilbourne, The Bench and Bar of Litchfield County, Connecticut, 1709-1909: Biographical Sketches of Members, History and Catalogue of the Litchfield Law School Historical Notes.</p>

Audio clip: The Words of William Grimes read by John DeMartino.

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Grimes was born into slavery in King George County, Virginia, in 1784. His father was Benjamin Grymes, a wealthy plantation owner and his mother was enslaved on a neighboring plantation. During his years of slavery, Grimes was owned by at least ten different masters, in the States of Virginia, Maryland, and Georgia. He worked as a house servant, valet, field worker, stable boy, and coachman. In 1814, at the age of 30, Grimes escaped from slavery by stowing away on a ship that sailed from Savannah, Georgia to New York City. He passed through Staten Island and its Quarantine Station on his journey to freedom.

Read more about William Grimes at:, and

Read William's book published in 1825 at:

Read a re-published version of William's book from 1855, with a slightly different account of his time on Staten Island at:

Watch the trailer for Gina's Journey: The Search for William Grimes at:

Watch the movie Gina's Journey: The Search for William Grimes on Amazon Prime. (

  • <p>Cover of William Grimes book Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave. Courtesy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.</p>