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From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family 1st Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0823239504
ISBN-10: 0823239500
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Editorial Reviews

Review


". . . a masterfully researched detective story with a wealth of detail about the rise of an African-American family."-John R. Wennersten, University of Maryland, Eastern Shore


". . . Portray[s] an illuminating, thought-provoking, relatively unusual moment in early American history."-Publishers Weekly


"James H. Johnston has given us a clear and vivid look at a long-neglected aspect of American history. This book is in turn disturbing and elevating, horrifying and inspiring. It is impossible to ignore."-Harold Holzer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art


"An absorbing study and story of a slave in America. Once begun, this book is very hard to put down. It weaves a prodigious amount of research into a compelling narrative, of not just one man's journey, but also of the struggle of every man and woman to achieve identity and success against often overwhelming odds. This is a book that no book club and no course on slavery in America should be without."-Edward Papenfuse, Director of the Maryland State Archives


"Part historical narrative, part genealogical detective work, this book will appeal to a range of academic and general readers, especially those interested in race relations in early America."-Library Journal


"Johnston has given Americans a rare treasure, a true story of an African American family, and its triumph over slavery. The great American painter Charles Willson Peale, best remembered for his portrait paintings of leading figures of the American Revolution, would have very much approved--Johnston's done with a whole lot of research, patience, and writing, what Peale did with his brush almost 200 years ago."-Sidney Hart, Senior Historian, National Portrait Gallery


About the Author


JAMES H. JOHNSTON, an attorney and journalist, has published extensively on national affairs, law, telecommunications, history, and the arts. His contributions include papers on local Washington, D.C., history, Yarrow Mamout, and an edition of The Recollections of Margaret Cabell Brown Loughborough.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Fordham University Press; 1 edition (May 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823239500
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823239504
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 1 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #577,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With clear writing and impressive detail, James H. Johnston provides his readers with the truly remarkable saga of Yarrow Mamout, the African who arrived in the English colonies in 1752, spent over four decades as a slave, and lived on in Georgetown (now part of Washington, D.C). As others have noted, there are two compelling reasons why one should read this book: the incredible life that Yarrow lived, from beginning to end; and, secondly, the masterful way that the author researched and narrated the book. Johnston is as careful and meticulous a historian of what he has uncovered as anyone would ever want to have the pleasure of reading. In his hands, Yarrow and the world that he was forced into by slavery comes alive in all respects. For any reader interested in seeing through contemporary Washington, D.C. and the broader geographic area into the early 19th century, i.e. life on Dent Place, N.W. Washington then and now as an example, this is the book. It will transport you back into an earlier time in a way you could never imagine.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a revelation of lives well lived. Two Hundred and Sixty Years ago (June 4, 1752) Yarrow Mamout arrived at the port of Annapolis Maryland and began a life in a new land. 260 years later sitting in my living room I was able to read the remarkable story of Yarrow Maout's life and the lives of his descendants. I use the word remarkable because to have had his portrait painted twice was itself remarkable but to now have his story and that of his family told in such detail and with such love just adds to the remarkableness that began in June 1752.

I know that James Johnston was amazed at the portrait that was painted by James Simpson in 1822 and is in the Peabody Room of the Georgetown Library. I have a gut feeling that Yarrow Mamout looked out at Mr. Johnston and was saying, "please tell my story" and what a story that needs to be heard by many of us today in 2012.

On reflection I have to say that one thing amazed me was that Yarrow Mamout remained a faithful Muslim all his life. He practiced his faith faithfully and even when Mr. Johnston and Nancy Kassner, then archaeologist of the District of Columbia, looked for his grave they looked in the place where Yarrow Mamout would have gone to pray, the south east corner facing Mecca. His faithfulnes to his faith must have been a remarkable witness to the Beall family as well as all who knew him and should be a witness to all of us.

If all of us could have some small degree of the spirit that Yarrow Mamout had we would be far better for it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first ran across reference to this book more than a year ago but only recently (finally) bought it. I read it in two evenings. While the subject matter interests me both from the historical and local aspects, the easy reading style of James Johnston's writing made it a joy to read. Genealogy can be an exceedingly dry subject when it's someone else's family your reading about, but the explanations of relationships, historically correct practices and documentary evidence and the way he ties things together from previous chapters make it read very much like a mystery being unraveled (which it is!), than a genealogical text. Well done Mr. Johnston. Well done indeed!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book adds to our knowledge of the curse of slavery in our midst and also the triumph of the family, whether it be black or white. We also learn along the way that there were in fact early slave owners who did the right thing by either freeing slaves or letting them buy their slavery much like an indentured worker might. In the South there was a different standard and perception of African Americans, but the book does at least make one realize that many of our forbears were more morally advanced than I had thought. There is a great deal of needless repetition in the book, but aside from this, it is easy to follow and informative. In the Kindle format, it was well worth the few dollars it cost.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Enlightening. An interesting historical figure that I would have never met except to pick up this book with the catchy title. I was most surprised how colonial, significant historical figures were so interconnected. Slave owners were interconnected more than I realized by marriage, business, and societal interaction. That this slave was painted by a well-known artist was also fascinating. Not the easiest of reads but still glad I took the time.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Terrific scholarship and writing bring the life of a typical, and yet special, slave to life. Fascinating interplay of events with the people and places that created the early America that we all know.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Johnston has written a very interesting book about this incredible man, Yarrow Mamout and the history of slavery in Maryland. The journey of Mamout and his descendants in slavery and free into the 20th century is like fiction. How can he have had that much determination starting as a young man plucked from Africa and his familiar world and thrust into an alternate universe? The history of how slavery worked in Maryland and DC is not at all what I assumed and Mr. Johnston writes about this subject in a way that allows the standards of the time to leaven our modern viewpoint, it's always more complicated than "black and white." Great story, excellent research, well worth reading.
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