Best Books of the Month Shop Costumes Learn more nav_sap_SWP_6M_fly_beacon Chad Valley All-New Amazon Fire TV Grocery Amazon Gift Card Offer gdwf gdwf gdwf  Amazon Echo Starting at $49.99 Kindle Voyage Fall Arrivals in Amazon Outdoor Clothing Halloween
Family or Freedom: People of Color in the Antebellum South and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

Buy New
Only 3 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.
Family or Freedom: People... has been added to your Cart
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 3 images

Family or Freedom: People of Color in the Antebellum South (New Directions In Southern History) Hardcover – October 18, 2012

1 customer review

See all 2 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$35.64 $47.91

"Courage to Act" by Ben S. Bernanke
Rich with detail of the decision-making process in Washington and indelible portraits of the major players, "The Courage to Act" recounts and explains the worst financial crisis and economic slump in America since the Great Depression, providing an insider’s account of the policy response. See more
$50.00 FREE Shipping. Only 3 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

  • Family or Freedom: People of Color in the Antebellum South (New Directions In Southern History)
  • +
  • Families in Crisis in the Old South: Divorce, Slavery, and the Law
Total price: $59.43
Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews


"Bondage, race and status mixed in 19th century America in a most bedeviling way, and West's Family First is an innovative and intense excavation of neglected aspects of slavery's most destructive influences. Her original and engaging research fits together pieces of our historical jigsaw into a new and dramatic portrait of the antebellum South."―Catherine Clinton, Queen's University Belfast

"Emily West's Family or Freedom does what every good monograph should: it takes a small slice of a history and illuminates the whole. This persistent, thoughtful inquiry into why some free black people gave up their freedom tells us a great deal about slave kinship, the nature of the master-slave relationship, and slavery itself―about the fluidity of the lines between slaves and free black people, between slavery and freedom."―Anthony Kaye, author of Joining Places: Slave Neighborhoods in the Old South

"Family or Freedom is a sophisticated and subtle work that sheds important new light on the legal and social complexities that underpinned both slave and free societies in the late antebellum and Civil War South. West locates the uneasy and little understood subject of enslavement petitions within the broader history of the hardening of the color line and the growth of the proslavery argument. A triumph of scholarship and a master-class into how to persuade dry archival evidence to yield up its all-too-human and sobering stories, Family or Freedom is a marker for the future of slavery studies as well as a path-breaking and perceptive study of the ties that bind."―Susan-Mary Grant, author of A Concise History of the United States of America

"An elegant and deftly argued study. Family or Freedom reveals the blurry, hazy line between slavery and freedom, it explores the myriad of marital, familial, and emotional ties that crossed the slave-free divide, and it fathoms the initiative, poverty, and anguish of those people who struggled to keep their families together. West's account of these complex, thoughtful, and painful decisions, helps us understand the diverse and often contradictory meanings attached to slavery and freedom in the antebellum South."―Richard Follett, author of The Sugar Masters: Planters and Slaves in Louisiana's Cane World, 1820-1860

"Emily West's bold and imaginative study adds immeasurably to the literature on central themes in the history of slavery and race relations in the antebellum South. A subtle, complex and stylistically elegant work that will command wide and entirely deserved attention."―Betty Wood, Girton College, Cambridge

"West offers a deeply original and path-breaking study of African Americans' petitions for re-enslavement and for residency in locales that sought to exclude free people of color. Her impressive, innovative research and expansive analysis forces historians to reconsider our presumptions about the polarity of slavery and freedom, the gendering of familial and affective ties among enslaved and free people, and the challenge of negotiating the continuum between slavery and freedom in racially-stratified societies. West's book is a must-read for scholars of slavery and freedom in the antebellum South."―Leslie A. Schwalm, author of Emancipation's Diaspora

"West delivers a sophisticated analysis of the porous boundaries between slavery and freedom for African Americans of the era, demonstrating with startling clarity the networks of affective relationships that existed between slave and free and black and white, and why, despite the consequences, free blacks may have submitted a request for enslavement."―Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"Emily West's Family or Freedom offers a straight-forward examination of the rare phenomenon of voluntary enslavement in the late antebellum South. [...] her work nevertheless sheds light on an obscure topic and makes a compelling case for its significance [...]""―The Journal of American History

"West's study as a whole would be very valuable reading in undergraduate and graduate courses that examine race relatios in the antebellum South, concepts of slavery and freedom, or famiy history."― Andrew C. Lannen, Stephen F. Austin University

"West's analysis helps to open a new and exciting phase in the historical study of free blacks in antebellum America."―Gregory D. Smithers, American Historical Review

About the Author

Emily West is lecturer in history at the University of Reading and author of Chains of Love: Slave Couples in Antebellum South Carolina.

If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle Edition for FREE. Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Series: New Directions In Southern History
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky (October 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081313692X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813136929
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,307,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
See the customer review
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Whereas the idea of free(d) blacks returning to slavery may seem unthinkable (except for those with slavery nostalgia or who need for slavery to be not so bad and therefore okay a la the people trying to rewrite history and history textbooks replacing the word "slave" with "servant"), West makes clear that a desire to be with family, economic hardship when free blacks were denied access to certain occupations, and the passage of laws forcing free(d) blacks to leave their states is the force behind the antebellum petitions she discovered. One thing I really appreciated was West's careful analysis of her sources. There aren't a lot of petitions for a variety of reasons and there is often a certain subtext embedded within each of them, especially within the cases where whites hoping to make their way into the planter class are initiating the petitions, which she illuminates in thoughtful ways.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more
Family or Freedom: People of Color in the Antebellum South (New Directions In Southern History)
This item: Family or Freedom: People of Color in the Antebellum South (New Directions In Southern History)
Price: $50.00
Ships from and sold by
Want to discover more products? Check out these pages to see more: civil war history, louisiana history