“This superb collection of essays highlights the continent-wide diversity of ‘spaces of freedom’ sought out by fugitive slaves in North America. It brilliantly evokes the motives and strategies, risks and experiences of thousands who ventured routes of refuge beyond the ‘drinking gourd’ that led to the North.”—Sydney Nathans, author of A Mind to Stay: White Plantation, Black Homeland
“Timely and important. A wide-ranging and stimulating set of essays on runaway slaves and geographies of self-emancipation in antebellum North America.”—Douglas B. Chambers, author of Murder at Montpelier: Igbo Africans in Virginia
“This anthology is the first to make a conceptual distinction between formal, semiformal, and informal freedom of runaway slaves and the first to examine the plight of fugitives in a broad continental perspective.”—Loren Schweninger, author of Families in Crisis in the Old South: Divorce, Slavery, and the Law
This volume introduces a new way to study the experiences of runaway slaves by defining different “spaces of freedom” that fugitive slaves inhabited. It also provides a groundbreaking continental view of fugitive slave migration, moving beyond the usual regional or national approaches to explore locations in Canada, the U.S. South, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Contributors use three main categories of freedom to compare and contrast various aspects of slave escape in the period between the revolutionary era and the U.S. Civil War. They investigate sites of formal freedom, regions in which slavery was abolished and refugees were legally free; sites of semiformal freedom, areas in which abolition laws conflicted with federal fugitive slave laws; and sites of informal freedom, places within the slaveholding South where runaways formed maroon communities or attempted to blend in with free black populations.
The essays discuss slaves’ motivations for choosing these destinations, the social networks that supported their plans, what it was like to settle in their new societies, and how slave flight impacted broader debates about slavery. This volume redraws the map of escape and emancipation during this period, emphasizing the importance of place in defining the meaning and extent of freedom.
Damian Alan Pargas is the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Professor of History and Culture of the United States and the Americas at Leiden University. He is the author of The Quarters and the Fields: Slave Families in the Non-Cotton South and Slavery and Forced Migration in the Antebellum South.
Contributors: Graham Russell Hodges | Gordon S. Barker | Roy E. Finkenbine | Matthew Pinsker | Damian Alan Pargas | Viola Franziska Müller | Sylviane A. Diouf | Kyle Ainsworth | Mekala Audain | James David Nichols | Jeffrey R. Kerr-Ritchie
A volume in the series Southern Dissent, edited by Stanley Harrold and Randall M. Miller
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