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Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South Paperback – April 17, 1986


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Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South + The Origins of American Slavery: Freedom and Bondage in the English Colonies (Critical Issue)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (April 17, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393303144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393303148
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #937,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Never before have I found the experience of the free slaveholding caste of antebellum Negroes brought to live in such vibrant detail. To be able to detect what Henry James called the 'density of felt experience' behind the enigmatic details of the letters is indeed a scholarly achievement of a high order and, I think, a contribution to all who would grasp the complexity of our American past.” (Ralph Ellison)

About the Author

Michael P. Johnson is professor of history at the University of California in Irvine.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By events3 on June 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
This was the first book (aside from narratives by Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass & etc) I read concerning antebellum black and bi-racial history. It was so interesting I have since read a dozen others. As the authors state in the Introduction, this book really focuses on biracial persons of white/black ancestry. However, because, presently, persons who tend to be dark complected often consider themselves (and are considered by others) to be black and because the laws of antebellum South Carolina clearly differentiated between whites and free persons who did not fall into the white category (including pure blacks and biracial persons), the authors used the term BLACK MASTERS in the title.
The book is generally about William "April" Ellison, born a slave but well treated, trained in mechanical skills and then freed as a young man. Because of this, the authors believe him to be the biracial son of the white planter Robert or William Ellison. Once freed, April officially had his name changed to William Ellison and moved to Statsburg, a wealthy suburb away from his previous owner. He slowly amassed a fair amount of wealth; although, unlike many of the more aristocratic planters of South Carolina, William "April" Ellison worked his own fields and, in his role as a mechanic, had to walk a fine line between independence and not overstepping the bounds permitted to a free person of color. His was the only family not considered white by his fellow South Carolinans who was able to sit in the church on the ground floor in the pews reserved for well-off whites and wealthy planters.
William Ellison's family interacted with and married into some of the better off free families of color in Charleston.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By "drhist00" on April 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
A great read. I am a history major and was very pleased with the content of this book. It makes it known that there are exceptions to all popular history. If you like the comfort of being told the generic old history of the South than I do not suggest this work. It is as provocative as it is interesting. It also an enjoyable read following the modern trend of being understandable and fun yet informative at the same time.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By mat on August 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
i am an author of children's books who is currently writing a story about an african-american teen who discovers that her family were slave owners at one time.this book really gave me some perspective on the subject and as an african-american i feel more comfortable and more informed in writing my story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. G on July 17, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book of South Carolina history.The history in the book is very interesting and sheds new light on an old problem.
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Format: Paperback
Very informative about what life was like for blacks and colored people in the early days of this country. Learned things I never knew from the history books.
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