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Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves Hardcover – March 25, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Eminent historian Berlin revisits and extends by a century the territory of his honored and groundbreaking Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in America (1998), incorporating the "vast outpouring of new research in this field" in the brief period since its publication and mirroring that book's structure. In 150 or so pages here, Berlin recapitulates the argument of his earlier, prize-winning work, delineating "the making and remaking of slavery" as a matter of "Generations": the "Charter Generations," who managed "to integrate themselves into mainline society during the first century of settlement, despite their status as slaves and the contempt of the colony's rulers"; the "Plantation Generations," living in a world where "blackness and whiteness took on new meaning," who managed "to forge new communities as `Africans,' an identity no one had previously considered or even knew existed"; and the "Revolutionary Generations," beneficiaries, victims, and participants in both the "revolutionary ideology [and] evangelical upsurge" of the period. Berlin, president of the Organization of American Historians and an editor of the Remembering Slavery project, is attentive to place as well as time, and focuses first on New Netherland, the Chesapeake, and the North, followed by variants in Florida, the Lower Mississippi Valley and Low Country South Carolina. New to this book are "the Migration Generations," who suffered a Second Middle Passage with the accelerated transcontinental "transfer" of slaves between 1810 and 1861. An epilogue introduces the "Freedom Generations," reaching into the 1860s. While preserving the terrible complexity and diversity of North American slavery, Berlin offers a compact scholarly account of the transformation of a society with slaves into a slave society. He reveals without condescension or simplification the inspiring social structures that arose from a horrific history. While it may not get the attention of Many Thousands, this book follows up with grace and determination.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Although American slavery is generally thought of as dominating and being dominated by the culture, politics, and economics of the South, Berlin charts the dynamic quality of American slavery by placing it into the changing context of American history and various generations overall. The experience of the original settlement population adapting to their new environment produced what Berlin calls the chartered generation. Most often associated with slavery is plantation life and the plantation generation, which reflected the western and southern expansion of the nation as cotton became king of the economy. Following the plantation generation was the revolutionary generation, when worldwide views on slavery and freedom influenced domestic politics and culture. Berlin reflects on the contrasts between the southern experience of slavery and the north's experience and challenges with its freedmen. The Chesapeake, or upper south, was for a period the region that dominated the internal slave trade and facilitated further regional redistribution of slaves. Finally, Berlin examines the migration generation, the substantial shift in the black population to the north and west. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; First Edition edition (March 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674010612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674010611
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #915,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By matthewslaughter on June 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This review is written by someone who has just became acquainted with many of the details of the enslavement of [African][-][Americans] on the land that would eventually become the United States of America. "Generations of Captivity" introduced me to this long and tragic history. Written in a simple narrative format, helpfully broken up into five generations of African American slavery--the Charter [~1600-1720], Plantation [~1720-1776], Revolutionary [1776-1812], Migration [1812-1861] and Freedom generations--as well as geographical regions, Berlin's narrative of this ugly spectacle in American history is easy to follow and extremely informative to newcomers to the subject like myself. That being said, the book appears to be an abridged version of his previous book, "Many Thousands Gone." There are very few direct quotes from primary sources, and the statistics provided during the narrative are general at best (though a table of statistics is provided in an appendix). While Berlin's book introduced me to many of the specificities of slavery in the United States, I got the nagging feeling that, while I was reading this, something was missing. I'm probably being too critical, as each generation he writes about has most likely been the subject of numerous book-length studies in and of themselves, and it is Berlin's job here to condense all of them into a single narrative. This book is a very good introduction to the topic and I feel I have some more insight into it now. But those who have spent plenty of time with this subject material might want to search elsewhere.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Southern Historian on November 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is a very disappointing work from the usually excellent historian Ira Berlin. This book is essentially an abridged (and slightly revised) version of Many Thousands Gone with the addition of a short section on the Antebellum period of black life in the United States. It is disappointing because the addition of the later period coupled with the clear limits that were placed on its lenght lead to a book that is very watered down to the point where the text dwells in generalities and is just not very interesting.
I would say that if you are at all knowledgeable about slavery in America skip this book and look at his other book Many Thousands Gone. If you are not knowledgeable, this book can be a useful introduction to the subject and a spring board to more in depth studies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Snyder on November 27, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Berlin's generational and geographical study is well thought out, researched, and written and would make a good starting point and a great primer for anyone interested in the study of slavery. The book is very general and broad in scope, not focusing on one part of the country or one aspect of slavery for too long. If you want to get a good overall picture of slavery over time this book would be a good place to start.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Greg LaMotta on December 11, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Well written and comprehensive, but still able to capture the nuances of the many experiences of African American history. Ira Berlin blesses us with his years of experience writing about slavery.
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Format: Paperback
I'm not as fond of this book as other Ira Berlin's work. Perhaps because there is just not that much new here.
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