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.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation Hardcover – November 5, 2007
|New from||Used from|
Curated Collections of History Books
Browse through handpicked collections of rare, vintage and antiquarian history books. Learn more on AbeBooks.com.
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
From Publishers Weekly
Three fascinating works are packaged here: two unpublished manuscripts by former slaves Wallace Turnage (1846–1916) and John Washington (1838–1918), and an illuminating analysis of them by award-winning historian Blight. Turnage's journal (a sketch of my life or adventures and persecutions which I went through from 1860 to 1865) is about his attempted escapes and their dire consequences: from his first, when he didn't know where to go, to his successful fifth and last runaway. His account is particularly noteworthy in its revelation of the slave and free-black networks he found and utilized. Washington's Memorys of the Past moves from his most pleasant early childhood through the many trials of slavery and the disruptions of the Civil War, ending with his successful escape in 1862. As Blight observes, it's very much a coming of age story, offering a unique window on life (learning to read, falling in love, finding religious faith) in a slave society. Blight provides an accessible historical and literary context for the manuscripts and explores, as fully as possible, the men's lives not covered in their manuscripts (both are self-emancipated). These powerful memoirs reveal poignant, heroic, painful and inspiring lives. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Rowing to Freedom is a remarkable and rare volume. We are fortunate that David Blight, a foremost authority on the slave narrative, has applied his considerable skills as historian and detective to these extraordinary stories of 'ordinary' men. As if their own stories of slavery and the flight to freedom were not fascinating enough, Blight has filled in the details of their lives after slavery in a way that re-creates both the turbulence and nearly unfathomable joy of emancipation. The narratives of Turnage and Washington will surely take their place among the most moving and instructive examples of the genre." --Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
"Together, Blight's meticulous research and the previously unknown autobiographical writings of these two men bring to life with unprecedented power the human dimensions of slavery and emancipation." --Eric Foner
"Rowing to Freedom presents two of the most significant finds in the entire genre of slave narratives and of the primary material from the Civil War." --David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868–1919
"David Blight combines the authority of a great historian with the humanistic zeal of a novelist . . . Rowing to Freedom is a compelling account of two men of remarkable courage who, by writing down their stories, sought to make themselves visible. Neither man could have wished for a more sympathetic or knowledgeable interpreter than David Blight." --Caryl Phillips, author of A Distant Shore
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
Blight starts the book with a brief review of the history of slave narratives, the distinct differences between pre and post-emancipation narratives, and how these two remarkable narratives fell into his possession, both within six months of each other. He then retells their own lives, giving background and general information (including some from other slave narratives) to make the two men's accounts more whole.
The rest of the book is the actual narratives of both John Washington and Wallace Turnage. And what a powerhouse of writing both of these narratives are. Both men, finding their path to freedom during the Civil War, both with help from the Union army. But each man found his path to freedom in his own unique way, and both accounts are riveting memoirs of using wits, guts, and determination to ensure their survival.
It's so personal to read these. You get a sense of the men behind the words, it's almost like you are eavesdropping on a grandfather recounting his younger days to a granddaughter. The narratives are edited by Blight, but he largely seems to keep a hands-off attitude with both of them, leaving the reader the chance to experience the author first hand. You leave the narratives painfully wanting more ... even though Blight has provided more.
These narratives paint a picture of true American heroes. Men who lasted, despite incredible odds against them, to live and thrive beyond the situations they found themselves in. When Washington gets to live, as a freed man, in the same house in which he served as a slave, the sense of triumph is palpable, even though Washington is not gloating one bit. Much has been said about the brave soliders that lived and died for the American cause. These two men exemplify that to the fullest.
I finished this book with a sense of awe and wonder with these two men, and a desire to want more. This book is a true piece of scholarship, adding to the growing richness of slave narratives. Hopefully, as time progresses, we will unearth more views of this time long past, to remember and appreciate once again.
A true five star book!
Blight is the director of Yale's Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition. He wrote, among other books, RACE AND REUNION, winner of the Frederick Douglass Prize, the Lincoln Prize and the Bancroft Prize. He is dedicated to the principle that slavery has no benign aspect and that the sufferings and trials of men like Washington and Turnage to attain freedom are testament to the absolute brutality of the Southern system. With frequent quotes not just from the two narratives (which are included in their totality in the book, Washington and Turnage being uniquely credited as co-authors of A SLAVE NO MORE) but from the writings of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs among others, Blight illustrates what privations the Southern slave was willing to endure in the pursuit of the prize of freedom, a prize that brought no property, no wealth and few rights, but secured the right to pursue wealth and eventually own property.
Wright extols the sacrifices of the Union Army and the efforts of good souls who helped to manage "contraband camps" where ex-slaves gathered in their thousands to pray, practice their new vocations and get a start at life as free human beings. He has found scant evidence of the largely mythological kindly slave owners and records that after the word of the Emancipation Proclamation spread, mostly by hearsay amongst the illiterate "property" of the embattled South, "good slaves" in their droves left "good masters." As one slave owner admitted, "Those we loved best, and who loved us best --- as we thought, were the first to leave us."
John Washington was an urban black living in northern Virginia whose treatment was not as animalistic as that of Turnage, a North Carolina fieldhand sold first to an owner in Virginia and then to Alabama. Washington was taught to read at an early age, and by the time the war broke out, he had a free black woman for a wife and various well-paid jobs for the Confederates. He slipped into Union territory at great risk and assisted the Union Army, identifying Confederate traitors in his hometown. His story very poignantly highlights the sorrow of a young person who longs for the simple joys of freedom. Eventually he and his descendants became professional people.
Turnage did not fare so well in the aftermath of the war, his continuing "persecutions" as he put it, probably owing to his lower social status, as were his savage beatings at the hands of sadistic overseers and masters as a cocky teen. It was the refusal to accept being whipped that caused Turnage to try five times to escape. He hid from patrols, sentinels, police and even other slaves who fearfully would report escapees in order to avoid bloody reprisals. Through the two ex-slaves' eyes and Blight's extensive research, we see the repugnant details of slave marketing and exploitation. Both men were almost certainly the offspring of their white masters, and both revered their enslaved mothers and helped bring them into freedom's light.
Neither man ever knew the other. The diaries were presented to Blight almost simultaneously but separately. Both accounts are short, obviously composed so that generations to come would understand the impulse and the effort to attain freedom, and are truncated at the point when freedom was gained. Blight has filled in as much as possible the biographies of Washington and Turnage in the post-war years, a super-charged time when African Americans were both elated and dubious about their new status, and whites both North and South were trying to solidify personal and public attitudes about race.
Wallace Turnage, upon finding himself at last among friendly Yankees, wrote, "I now dreaded the gun, the handcuffs and pistols no more. Nor the blewing (sic) of horns and the running of hounds; nor the threats of death from the rebel's authority. I could now speak my opinion to men of all grades and colors, and no one to question my right to speak." John Washington underlined these words twice: "It was the First Night of my freedom" and declared, "It was Good Friday and the Best Friday I had ever seen."
--- Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott