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From John Hope Franklin, America's foremost African American historian, comes this groundbreaking analysis of slave resistance and escape. A sweeping panorama of plantation life before the Civil War, this book reveals that slaves frequently rebelled against their masters and ran away from their plantations whenever they could. For generations, important aspects about slave life on the plantations of the American South have remained shrouded. Historians thought, for instance, that slaves were generally pliant and resigned to their roles as human chattel, and that racial violence on the plantation was an aberration. In this precedent setting book, John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger demonstrate that, contrary to popular belief, significant numbers of slaves did in fact frequently rebel against their masters and struggled to attain their freedom. By surveying a wealth of documents, such as planters' records, petitions to county courts and state legislatures, and local newspapers, this book shows how slaves resisted, when, where, and how they escaped, where they fled to, how long they remained in hiding, and how they survived away from the plantation. Of equal importance, it examines the reactions of the white slaveholding class, revealing how they marshalled considerable effort to prevent runaways, meted out severe punishments, and established patrols to hunt down escaped slaves. Reflecting a lifetime of thought by our leading authority in African American history, this book provides the key to truly understanding the relationship between slaveholders and the runaways who challenged the system-illuminating as never before the true nature of the South's "most peculiar institution".

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780195084511
ISBN-10: 0195084519
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 156mm x 32mm)
Pages: 480
Imprint: Oxford University Press Inc
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Publish Date: 26-Apr-2000
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » In a searing indictment of plantation life in the antebellum South, noted historian Franklin (professor emeritus at Duke Univ.) and Schweninger (History/Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro) use primary documents such as court records, newspapers, and letters of contemporaries, including slaves themselves, to show that slaves often resisted their condition by means direct and indirect, and frequently to the point of running away. Historians traditionally have depicted antebellum plantation slaves as docile and resigned to their fate. Indeed, early studies of American slavery, such as Ulrich Phillips's Life and Labor in the Old South (1929), romanticized plantation slavery and even portrayed slaves as generally contented with their lot. While modern scholarship has exposed the harsh aspects of plantation life, the image of the slave as passive victim has survived. The reality was vastly different, say the authors; quiet resistance and open rebellion were common occurrences on the typical Southern plantation, and the average plantation owner had several runaways every year. In a meticulous survey of primary sources, the authors examine multiple aspects of slave resistance, including passive resistance and outright racial violence on the plantation; the motives of runaways, which included, commonly, the desire to be reunited with family members; and typical opportunities for running away, such as the death of the master. Runaways faced tremendous obstacles, the authors point out: they had to travel hundreds of miles to freedom amid a well-organized system of slave catching and retrieval that was so efficient and vicious that it even enslaved free blacks, and runaways faced drastic penalties, including physical punishment and even death, if caught. Most were caught, but thousands continued to seek their freedom, and many made it, whether alone, through the solicitude of free blacks or by the Underground Railroad of clandestine assistance, to the promised land of the free states or Canada. A well-crafted and carefully researched account that opens a new window onto a dark and painful chapter in American history. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - John Hope Franklin

John Hope Franklin is James B. Duke Professor of History, Emeritus, at Duke University. He is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the author of numerous books, including the epic From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans, which boasts more than three million copies in print. Loren Schweninger is Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

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