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Runaway America: Benjamin Franklin, Slavery, and the American Revolution Hardcover – August 18, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; First Edition edition (August 18, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809083140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809083145
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,411,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Why another biography of Franklin? Because this is a distinctive, long-overdue effort to ask some tough questions about someone who is usually given a pass for his genius and charm by otherwise critical historians and biographers. If Waldstreicher's writing isn't as deft as, say, David McCullough's, it's more searching and more balanced. This biography explores Franklin's relationship to free labor and slavery. Himself an indentured servant in his youth, Franklin was inordinately sensitive to questions of freedom and servitude. Yet he was a slaveholder for part of his life and, in Waldstreicher's telling, spoke in circles to avoid having to take a stand for or against racial slavery and those who sought to flee it. Temple University historian Waldstreicher (In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes) skillfully sets Franklin's posture in the context of 18th-century Northern prevarication and racism, but the book's effect is to desacralize Franklin. It reveals the founder's dissimulation in his brilliant, beloved Autobiography and other writings that have been used—wrongly, it turns out—to place him among the nation's early antislavery reformers. Waldstreicher might have dug more deeply into the psychological roots of Franklin's complex behavior. Yet this penetrating interpretation, one that's likely to dismay Franklin's hagiographers, is true to the man, his times and the facts. 16 pages of b&w illus. not seen by PW.
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About the Author

David Waldstreicher, professor of history at Notre Dame, is author of In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of American Nationalism and editor of Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia (Bedford Books).

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11 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Historian on July 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It should merit 3 stars alone just to have Prof. Waldstreicher actually come out with a book that people can read! His other works have been dreadfully written (esp. his work in Journal of the Early republic), the worst prose in the business. However, not only is this book very nicely written, for which he deserves commendation, but its also interesting. What Waldstreicher does is demostrate how labor inthe 1st half of the 18th century in America was quite often "unfree": either due to slavery, indentured servitude or an apprenticeship. Waldstreicher's contribution here si to show how BF's life was marked by all three. He was an apprentice himself, kept Indentured servants and owned a slave or two. It is a great way to explore this issue of labor and freedom in the colonies, and to do so by using the life of a Founding Father.

Given the subject and the prose, I have no reservations at all about rating this book 5 stars.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book takes many of the preconceptions we have about the framers of early American society, and turns them on their head. The author uses Benjamin Franklin to do so, with extraordinary detail and poignancy. If you would like to keep that farily tale version of colonial America your first grade teacher gave you, don't read this book. If, however, you'd like ot learn about the Americcan colonies, and its leadership, at an adult level of analysis, check this thing out.
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