From Publishers Weekly
During the Revolutionary War, thousands of black slaves served with, and sought refuge from, the British forces in hope of attaining freedom—among them escapees from the plantations of George Washington and Patrick Henry. Australian historian Pybus follows the path some of these former slaves took to London and then "into two bizarre colonial experiments that began in 1787: the Province of Freedom in Sierra Leone on the west coast of Africa, and the penal settlement of Botany Bay on the east coast of Australia." Readers familiar with the American perspective (the escape North, the Liberian settlement) will experience a kaleidoscopic shift through the lens of British history. Pybus's prose is weighted by her "diligent excavation in vast Revolutionary-era archival materials, both American and British." But the ships' logs, muster lists and parish records as well as the newspapers, memoirs and journals she's ploughed through in her successful attempt "to recover the lives of individuals" constitute a significant contribution to contemporary studies of the Black Atlantic. Dauntingly full of minutiae, Pybus's text is made more accessible to the ordinary reader through a biographical appendix that provides brief sketches of the "significant black refugees." (Feb.)
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In the midst of the American Revolution when the nation's powerful were considering the fate of the fledgling U.S., scores of those who were their slaves were also taking action to guarantee their freedom. The choice they made to side with the British set many former slaves on an eventual diaspora to Britain, Canada, Australia, and West Africa. Historian Pybus traces the paths of several former slaves, including those of George Washington, as they fled America for freedom, and she profiles famous and lesser-known figures who fought for freedom for enslaved blacks during the American Revolution. Pybus also offers a rare look at how the former slaves were received in London and how they fared in the two colonies set aside by the British for them in Sierra Leone, Africa, and Botany Bay, Australia. Along with detailing the personal challenges facing these former slaves and showing how they managed, while enslaved, to forge ideals of individual freedom, Pybus demonstrates that the Civil War and the civil rights movement have roots in the American Revolution. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved