Published January 13, 2015
Yale University says an 1858 manuscript it acquired is the earliest known prison memoir written by an African-American.
The book-length manuscript is titled "The Life and Adventures of a Haunted Convict" and was written under the name Robert Reed. It describes the author's experiences while incarcerated in New York from the 1830s through the 1850s.
It was acquired by Yale's Beinecke (BY'-nuh-kee) Rare Book & Manuscript Library in 2009.
Yale says English and American studies professor Caleb Smith authenticated the manuscript and identified its author as Austin Reed, a free black man who was born in upstate New York.
Yale says Reed's account aimed to expose the brutal punishments at the prison. The punishments included whippings and something called shower baths, similar to the simulated drowning technique water-boarding.