Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Slave No More

Much of the popular histories of the Civil War treat the slaves as objects, either to be liberated or as background for the eventual battles. In A Slave No More, historian David Blight tells the stories of two men who freed themselves during the war years. He chose these two men because their journals have recently become available for study.

The two narratives are included, as originally written. While they are certainly worth reading on their own, Blight provides valuable context and background that makes up the bulk of the book. He tells the individual stories of each former slave, which include repeated attempts to escape and the subsequent punishments. He also tells the stories of their lives afterwards, which contrast so greatly from the live of slavery.

Beyond the stories of the two former slaves, Blight discusses the general life of slaves, the effects of the internal trade of slaves and the myths of the happy slave. These elements will not enlighten those well read in slavery, but will be helpful for the rest. Blight also blends this context into the stories of the men which means that those who are more aware won't get bogged down.

While the book is primarily focused on the particular lives of two successful self-emancipators, it also serves as a solid introduction to the subject of slavery in America. You can hear Blight discuss his book and the men in this NPR story.

No comments: