- Paperback: 324 pages
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (May 15, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226034046
- ISBN-13: 978-0226034041
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #600,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives 1st Edition
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It has been said that the Indian captivity narrative, in which kidnapped or captured colonials reported the hardships of imprisonment at the hands of native people, is the first truly American literary genre. In White Slaves, African Masters, historian Paul Baepler shows that this genre had a precursor in the so-called Barbary captivity narrative, in which some unlucky European (or, later, American) describes life as a slave of the Algerian and Moroccan pashas, rulers of the Barbary Coast. Such narratives form part of Cervantes's Don Quixote and Defoe's Robinson Crusoe; they also make up a large canon of literary, historical, and autobiographical works that are scarcely known today, even among historians. Yet in their time, these writings were widely circulated. Cotton Mather, the famed New England cleric, used several of them to denounce the Muslims of North Africa, proclaiming from the pulpit that being their prisoner was "the most horrible captivity in the world," and Benjamin Franklin drew on Barbary captivity narratives to decry the slave trade of the Southern United States.
In this one-of-a-kind anthology, Baepler gathers several noteworthy examples from American sources, beginning with Cotton Mather's sermons, continuing through post-Revolutionary War writings, such as Jonathan Cowdery's "American Captives in Tripoli" (whose daring rescue by U.S. marines provided us with the phrase "the shores of Tripoli"), and ending with a bogus narrative by one Eliza Bradley, whose 1820 memoir went into 13 U.S. editions. The narratives, Baepler reminds us, point to the long pattern of mutual misunderstanding that has prevailed between the United States and the Muslim world. Read as history and literature, these narratives also help illuminate a dark corner of the past. --Gregory McNamee
From Library Journal
Baepler (Univ. of Minnesota) has done American literary and cultural historians a service by collecting these long-out-of-print Barbary captivity narratives. These accounts of persons captured by Morocco and the Barbary regencies of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli inform study of the more familiar American slave and Indian captivity narratives. The nine pieces included here (mostly excerpts) span two centuries, from Cotton Mather's "The Glory of Goodness" to Ion Perdicaris's "In Raissuli's Hands," which led to Teddy Roosevelt's launching of warships to Morocco. Most of the works, though, are from 1790 to 1820, when the genre was enormously popular, probably because of the nation's increasing interest in the question of slavery. Baepler's excellent introduction and full bibliography of primary and secondary sources greatly enhance our knowledge of this fascinating genre. Recommended for all collections in American studies.ALouis J. Parascandola, Long Island Univ., Brooklyn, NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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I do not find him wanting. He has brought together a very unique collection that needs greater public scrutiny. It is intriguing to see all the ways the myth of slavery by whites alone is exploded. While the evils of slavery under whites in America are great indeed, so is all slavery, in all times, and this is shown very clearly in this collection. It is horrible to hear the events in these stories, and to contemplate how much more horrible are the stories of those who never got a chance to speak, for they were in slavery throughout their lives. Of little better joy are those who apostocized to Islam simply to avoid the horrors of slavery, exposing another interreligious myth.
It would be nice to have more detail on how reliable these stories are. Although there is a long introduction in the beginning, it doesn't fully give us the information we need to judge the authenticity of these narratives. For instance, it seems very likely that the story of Adams was at least in part manufactured, as the animals he describes do not exist or else do not act in the manner that he ascribes to them. But the editor only mentions that another author has shown with a great deal of evidence that Adams' story has veracity, and then we never hear what that evidence is. Also, it would be more helpful if Cotton Mathers sermon were updated. Frankly, the language has changed so much in 300 years, that a partial translation is in order. I found myself skimming over this first installment as I could not understand a lot of the language from the turn of the 18th century.
Small detractions. I would heartedly recommend this work. The stories are enthralling, and it is helpful to understand the history that went into the end of the Islamic Slavery Era, as well as the events around the first American war, the War with Tripoli/Tunisia. Just be sure to remember that not all events in the stories can be considered verifiable, and there may be some exaggerations by the storytellers who saw the world in stark Western-Islamic terms, with the "evil Musselman" and the "good Christian".