From Publishers Weekly
Arnold Gragston ferried slaves across the Ohio River, freeing other people while remaining enslaved himself; Nelson Gant was tried for attempting to steal his wife from slavery; Althea Lynch, cook and escaped slave, set off a crisis that involved one military governor, two posses and a U.S. Marshal. That's just a sampling of the stories of former slaves and freedmen who were agile enough to... sneak through holes in the system and take what seemed like very little and turn it into more than enough in award-winning journalist DeRamus's salute to the daring and the inventiveness of those who made history, while not making it into history books. DeRamus's touch is light and journalistic, close in tone to Sunday supplement pieces, and a bit jazzy (It was love bubbling on a stove, love shouting at the low-slung midnight moon). Entertaining and easy reading it is, but as DeRamus reaches beyond the famously heroic figures into the lives of the little known, she enriches and alters our perspective on 19th-century African-American daily life. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
As with so many other aspects of American slavery, achieving freedom carried far more variations than is widely known or understood. Journalist DeRamus follows up Forbidden Fruit (2005) with accounts of the myriad ways that slaves ran away. Her first section reprises some of the love stories from her earlier book, telling of escapes by married couples who faced the threat of separation when one was freed and the other not. She recounts the case of Nelson Gant, a freed Virginia slave, whose offer to buy his wife was refused. Gant’s attempt to steal her resulted in a court trial that eventually upheld their marriage, the first case in Virginia to recognize a marriage involving slaves. The second part of the book features stories of deceptions escaping slaves faced, including fake safe-house operators and tricksters who sometimes ensnared freed blacks. The final section is devoted to California, the destination for many escaped slaves though it had its own dubious policies, and to Mary Ellen Pleasant, a wealthy, powerful black woman who worked for the antislavery cause. --Vanessa Bush