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Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation Hardcover – April 29, 1999
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Runaway Slaves is yet another masterpiece from the esteemed African American historian John Hope Franklin, author of the influential From Slavery to Freedom. Along with history professor Loren Schweninger, Franklin examines the often unexplored phenomenon of slave resistance--specifically, that of runaway slaves. For too long, there has been a myth that slaves were happy with their condition. Armed with the data from numerous Wanted posters, letters, county-court petitions, and newspapers, Franklin and Schweninger prove that slaves were in a constant state of rebellion with their masters. The intense circle of violence between blacks and whites was marked by property sabotage, work stoppage, assault, murder, and escape into the North. "Perhaps the greatest impact runaways had on the peculiar institution," the authors suggest, "was in their defiance of the system. Masters and slaves knew that there were blacks who were willing to do almost anything to extricate themselves from bondage." Comprehensive in scholarship and compelling in prose, this book sheds light on an underappreciated aspect of the American quest for freedom. --Eugene Holley Jr.
From Library Journal
Franklin (history, emeritus, Duke Univ.) and Schweninger (history, Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro) have written an exhaustive account of slaves who escaped during the antebellum period. Organized topically, this scrupulously detailed work is based primarily on advertisements for runaways and records of court cases involving escaped slaves. While the book is longer on description than analysis, the authors do agree on one theme: that the substantial number of runaways makes it clear that slaves were hardly content with their condition. Because of its careful, sometimes overwhelming detail, this work can serve as both a reference book and a monograph.AA.O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, IN
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
So what you get is an examination of the slave system as told through the many examples of those who absconded. Some for days, others for weeks and months. It is not a book about the planning of escapes and what happened to the individuals who escaped, the book paints the picture of how abhorrent a system of bondage is. It also explodes the myth of a happy plantation system and contented "slaves."
Even in the face of the most horrific corrections, the absconding continued and the discontent remained extremely high. What becomes extremely clear is the profits involved in the trafficking of human beings was apparently worth all the trouble that plantation owners went through. Runaways were a cost of doing business that many southerners tried to hide from the larger public. The obvious reason for this was to keep the lie of happy and contented bondsmen and bondswomen alive.
"Masters were forced to explain how 'contented' and 'well cared' servants abandoned them in such large numbers."Although the stories of absconders are told in paragraphs and sometimes mere sentences the courage and boldness that African people displayed is simply amazing. Every African-American should be proud of how our ancestors were committed to freedom under the most heinous conditions. Never again should you believe in the docility of "slaves" as a whole.
The use of notices of runaways and petitions to legislatures and county courts was a brilliant deployment of sources. These two sources "provide a number of unique strengths. Masters who advertised for a return of their property had little reason to misinform their readers and every reason to be as precise as possible."
The takeaway for the reader is the information and inspiration you will receive from the story of consistent and constant resistance to slavery in this book. You will also have a great resource for any other reading you may want to do in the area of slavery and resistance to bondage.