Henry Clay Bruce was the author of The New Man: Twenty-nine Years a Slave and Twenty-nine Years a Free Man. He was also the brother of the first black U.S. Senator Blanche K. Bruce.
Bruce was born into slavery in Virginia to parents owned by Lemuel Bruce. He spent the first years of his life in Virginia before he and his family were sold to Jack Perkinson in 1844, and were taken to Chariton County, Missouri.
Bruce was eventually rented out as a laborer as many slaves were during that time. During this time, he learned how to read before being sent back to Virginia in 1847. Back in Virginia, he worked a variety of odd and end jobs.
In 1864, Henry Bruce encountered some trouble due to his literacy. The owner of his fiancée opposed the couple’s marriage because he was concerned that because Bruce knew how to read it would spoil the other slaves on the plantation. The couple planned their escape and successfully fled to Kansas that same year. Once in Kansas, Bruce found work as a bricklayer, and several years later the couple bought a house.
Bruce stayed in Kansas for many years, owning several businesses, running unsuccessfully for public office, and serving a term as an elected doorkeeper for the state senate. In 1881, his brother Blanche got him a job working at the post office and his family moved to Washington, D. C., where he remained for the rest of his life.
Henry Clay Bruce, The New Man: Twenty-nine Years a Slave, Twenty-nine Years a Free Man (Miami, Ohio: Mnemosyne Pub. Co, 1969