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A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to…
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A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own… (urspr publ 2007; utgåvan 2009)

av David W. Blight Ph. D. (Författare)

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291770,929 (4.11)6
Slave narratives are extremely rare, with only 55 post-Civil War narratives surviving. A mere handful are first-person accounts by slaves who ran away and freed themselves. Now two newly uncovered narratives join that exclusive group. Handed down through family and friends, they tell gripping stories of escape: Through a combination of intelligence, daring, and sheer luck, the men reached the protection of occupying Union troops. Historian Blight prefaces the narratives with each man's life history. Using genealogical information, Blight has reconstructed their childhoods as sons of white slaveholders, their service as cooks and camp hands during the Civil War, and their climb to black working-class stability in the North, where they reunited their families. In the stories of Wallace Turnage and John Washington, we find portals that offer a rich new answer to the question of how four million people moved from slavery to freedom.--From publisher description.… (mer)
Medlem:garym1031
Titel:A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation
Författare:David W. Blight Ph. D. (Författare)
Info:Mariner Books (2009), Edition: First, 352 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
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Taggar:Slavery

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A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including their own Narratives of Emancipation av David W. Blight (2007)

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In 2003, two separate, unconnected manuscripts were found, both featuring the personal memoirs of a slave who escaped to freedom during the Civil War and later settled in the North. One was by a man called John Washington, who joined up with the Union army when it reached Fredericksburg (his white masters having all run off and hid). The other is by one Wallace Turnage who, as a teenager, ran away no fewer than five times to escape beatings, finally achieving success on the fifth attempt.

Both are included in this book... although not until the end. First, historian David Blight starts off by telling us the story of how the manuscripts came to light, then goes through the main events of each narrative, providing historical context for everything. He also, as much as is possible, traces the later histories of the two men and their families, and describes the times and places they lived in after the war. Then he concludes with some more general historical details about the emancipation of the slaves and its immediate consequences. After all that, I was starting to get a little tired of listening to Blight and eager to finally hear these two men speak for themselves. But all of that background was interesting, and ultimately very useful for properly understanding and appreciating these personal narratives.

The narratives themselves are included unedited, complete with the idiosyncratic spelling and grammar of people who had no access to formal education. (Both of these men, it seems, essentially taught themselves to read and write, with the haphazard help of whoever they could enlist to teach them. So, far from disparaging their spelling, I'm deeply impressed that they managed to attain literacy at all.) They're predictably fascinating pieces of writing, in that they provide a very human, very personal glimpse into a particularly awful, and particularly important, bit of American history. But they're also surprisingly engaging stories. Turnage describes his as an account of his "adventures and persecutions," and it is indeed full of both of those things. Washington's story is a bit more sedate, but features a wonderfully sly sense of humor that makes me think he must have been the kind of guy who the grandkids would actually ask to ramble on about his life for them.

It's definitely a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the Civil War or the history of slavery in America. Or for Americans in general, really, as we should all be aware of the presence of stories like this in our past. ( )
4 rösta bragan | Oct 17, 2013 |
In 2006 two families approached Civil War historian David Blight with old manuscripts. They had been passed down from grandfather to granddaughter, from granddaughter to best friend for decades. Now they were donating them to a local historical society, who encouraged them to get the stories published. When Blight saw them, he realized he had two never-published chronicles of the long, hard journey to freedom of two African-American slaves. This book consists of those chronicles along with Blight's introduction explaining and contextualizing these narratives.

Slave narratives, writes Blight, are the foundational genre of African-American literature. Not a bad place to start. John Washington and Wallace Turnage are not artful or skilled storytellers, but through their to-the-pointness their amazing feats of escape show through. Both defected to Union soldiers during the war. Washington describes how popular he became in the Union camp after they discovered he had brought Confederate newspapers with him containing vital information. Turnage, a man of great luck and skill, ran away from his masters four times before finally succeeding. On his last try, he had to escape Mobile, Alabama to the camp of the Union soldiers surrounding the town. To get there he had to walk through snake-infested swamps and a Confederate camp, where they noticed him but didn't stop him, assuming he was a camp slave.

These mens' depictions of the brutality they witnessed as slaves was horrifying. Turnage spent his youth working at a slave dealer, where he would have witnessed daily the dividing of mother from daughter and husband from wife. Washington was separated from his mom at six, and spent most of his childhood as a house slave, taken from his family and separated from the company of other slaves. Both describe beatings, stripping of women, and vicious biting dogs. But these men were filled with great hope. To the chagrin of their overseers, their spirits had not been broken. When Washington came to the Union camp and was told that the Emancipation Proclamation had passed two days before, he knew it was the best day of his life. This strong spirit enabled him to survive during the hard days of establishing a post-slave life.

Blight's introduction was helpful at putting things in perspective. Washington and Turnage were only one of many slaves who escaped to enemy lines, often known as "contraband" in the Union. Since Confederates used slaves to build trenches and fortifications, Union generals realized that accepting these men not only gave them moral high ground but deprived the enemy of labor. The Emancipation Proclamation, while inspired by lofty constitutional ideals, was a practical document as well.

While I enjoyed this book, it left me with a sadness when comparing it to W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk. Washington and Turnage end their narratives at their emancipation, but Blight's research was able to describe their post-war lives and descendants. Both men found that the dream of equality set before them became fainter and fainter in the midst of Jim Crow laws and Northern racism. And these men, in terms of education and opportunity, were the cream of the crop of African-American slaves. They were literate. I can only imagine how many hundreds of thousands of American slaves died with stories untold.

NOTE: As for the narrator. Different narrators were used for Blight's introduction and for the two slave narratives. I felt both were too slow, especially the narrator for the slave narratives, who used the slowest pace I've ever heard in an audiobook. I corrected that by listening at double speed. Other than that, the narration was quite good. ( )
6 rösta JDHomrighausen | Sep 13, 2013 |
As the Civil War was being waged, two slaves, John M. Washington and Wallace Turnage, seized the moment and escaped across Confederate lines and into the union army. Both men left narratives or autobiographies that were passed down through friends and family and only recently came to attention of historians. Blight, a foremost authority on emancipation and professor at Yale University, published them with no changes to grammar or spelling, adding a lengthy analysis that reveals how the narratives came to light, puts them in historical context, and fills in biographical gaps with genealogical information. An incredible amount of work went into filling in the gaps of their lives. ( )
  cliddie | Aug 11, 2008 |
A pretty good, but not great look at the short diaries of escaped slaves Wallace Turnage and John Washington. Their stories are interesting though not particularly well told (especially in the case of Wallace.) The earlier chapters by Blight are actually more interesting than the freed men's own narratives. ( )
  GBev2008 | May 2, 2008 |
Recently two new important African-American slave narratives have come to light, published here along with scholarly commentary for the first time. They are considered significant by historians because they support a theory that slaves played a role in bringing about their own freedom. Traditionally slavery is thought to have ended with Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation - Lincoln freed the slaves, we are taught in school. However, is it possible that the slaves themselves played a role in their own freedom, that their own actions, conscious or not, helped bring about Emancipation? This is what today many historians contend, and these two narratives support that view. "For most slaves", Blight says, "freedom did not come on a particular day; it evolved by process." It was the process of waves of slaves escaping into Union lines as the war moved south, often forming shanty towns of "contrabands" (as the Union called escaped slaves, they were initially classified by the north as property). Eventually something had to be done about the"contraband" and Lincoln signed some limited laws that gave them freedom, which eventually morphed into the Emancipation Proclamation. But it was the slaves desire for freedom, willing to risk life by escaping, that forced the issue of Emancipation. Further, many of these freed slaves then took up arms and joined the Union army. It is estimated over 700,000 of the nearly 4 million slaves found freedom through this "process", the remaining 3.3 million achieving freedom with the 13th Amendment.

Whatever the historical debates, these narratives are interesting and even thrilling. Although not as well written as Frederick Douglass, in many ways the adventures of these young men are more real and tangible - as private documents they were not written to be published, not filtered through an editor. They were meant for friends and family and thus have a rough, raw real edge to them.

David Blight has done a great service to historians and the public by both publishing the original sources and summarizing and expanding on them. Each of the two narratives has a corresponding chapter that re-creates the narrative in more detail and clarity for the modern reader. In addition there are two chapters that examine what happened to the men after the war including some fascinating pictures. No two slave narratives are alike and these will surely not disappoint as important historical case examples and thrilling stories. America has two new unsung heroes representative of 100s of thousands who sought and found their own freedom.

--Review by Stephen Balbach, via CoolReading (c) 2008 cc-by-nd
  Stbalbach | Mar 28, 2008 |
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To the memory of Martha A. Blight
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John M. Washington was born a slave on May 20, 1838, in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
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By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, / yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. / We hanged our harps upon the willows / in the midst thereof. / For there they that had carried us away captive / required of us a song; and they that wasted / us required of us mirth, saying, sing us one / of the songs of Zion . . . / O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; / happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou / hast served us. - Psalm 137
Before morning I had begun to feel like I had truly escaped from the hand of the slave master...I never would be a slave no more. - John Washington, remembering his first night of freedom along the Rappahannock River
I now dreaded the gun and handcuffs and pistols no more. Nor the blowing of horns and the running of hounds, nor the threats of death from the rebel authority. - Wallace Turnage, remembering his first hours of freedom on a sand island in Mobile Bay.
No man can tell the intense agony which is felt by the slave, when wavering on the point of making his escape. All that he has is at stake; and even that which he has not is at stake also. The life which he has may be lost, and the liberty which he seeks, may not be gained. - Frederick Douglass, 1855
Day after day the slaves came into camps and everywhere the "Stars and Stripes" waved they seemed to know freedom had dawned to the slave. - John Washington, 1873, remembering August 1862
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Slave narratives are extremely rare, with only 55 post-Civil War narratives surviving. A mere handful are first-person accounts by slaves who ran away and freed themselves. Now two newly uncovered narratives join that exclusive group. Handed down through family and friends, they tell gripping stories of escape: Through a combination of intelligence, daring, and sheer luck, the men reached the protection of occupying Union troops. Historian Blight prefaces the narratives with each man's life history. Using genealogical information, Blight has reconstructed their childhoods as sons of white slaveholders, their service as cooks and camp hands during the Civil War, and their climb to black working-class stability in the North, where they reunited their families. In the stories of Wallace Turnage and John Washington, we find portals that offer a rich new answer to the question of how four million people moved from slavery to freedom.--From publisher description.

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