A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation

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The newly discovered slave narratives of John Washington and Wallace Turnage—and their harrowing and empowering journey to emancipation.
 
Slave narratives, among the most powerful records of our past, are extremely rare, with only fifty-five surviving post-Civil War. This book is a major new addition to this imperative part of American history—the firsthand accounts of two slaves, John Washington and Wallace Turnage, who through a combination of intelligence, daring, and sheer luck, reached the protection of the occupying Union troops and found emancipation.
 
In A Slave No More, David W. Blight enriches the authentic narrative texts of these two young men using a wealth of genealogical information, handed down through family and friends. Blight has reconstructed their childhoods as sons of white slaveholders, their service as cooks and camp hands during the Civil War, and their struggle to stable lives among the black working class in the north, where they reunited their families.
 
In the previously unpublished manuscripts of Turnage and Washington, we find history at its most intimate, portals that offer a startling new answer to the question of how four million people moved from slavery to liberty. Here are the untold stories of two extraordinary men whose stories, once thought lost, now take their place at the heart of the American experience—as Blight rightfully calls them, “heroes of a war within the war.”
 
“These powerful memoirs reveal poignant, heroic, painful and inspiring lives.”—Publishers Weekly
 
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About the author

DAVID W. BLIGHT is the director of Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition and a professor of American history. His books include Race and Reunion, which won the Frederick Douglass Prize, the Lincoln Prize, and the Bancroft Prize. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
 
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Additional Information

Publisher
HMH
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Published on
Jan 15, 2009
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9780156035484
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Cultural, Ethnic & Regional / General
History / United States / 19th Century
History / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877)
History / United States / General
History / United States / State & Local / South (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV)
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***Finalist for the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize***

Henry Louis Gates, Jr: "A stunning tale of a little-known figure in history."

Candice Millard: “Be Free or Die makes you want to stand up and cheer.”

The astonishing true story of Robert Smalls’ amazing journey from slave to Union hero and ultimately United States Congressman.

It was a mild May morning in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1862, the second year of the Civil War, when a twenty-three-year-old slave named Robert Smalls did the unthinkable and boldly seized a Confederate steamer. With his wife and two young children hidden on board, Smalls and a small crew ran a gauntlet of heavily armed fortifications in Charleston Harbor and delivered the valuable vessel and the massive guns it carried to nearby Union forces. To be unsuccessful was a death sentence for all. Smalls’ courageous and ingenious act freed him and his family from slavery and immediately made him a Union hero while simultaneously challenging much of the country’s view of what African Americans were willing to do to gain their freedom.

After his escape, Smalls served in numerous naval campaigns off Charleston as a civilian boat pilot and eventually became the first black captain of an Army ship. In a particularly poignant moment Smalls even bought the home that he and his mother had once served in as house slaves.

Cate Lineberry's Be Free or Die is a compelling narrative that illuminates Robert Smalls’ amazing journey from slave to Union hero and ultimately United States Congressman. This captivating tale of a valuable figure in American history gives fascinating insight into the country's first efforts to help newly freed slaves while also illustrating the many struggles and achievements of African Americans during the Civil War.

In 1872, just seven years after his emancipation, a thirty-four-year-old former slave named John Washington penned the story of his life, calling it "Memorys of the Past." One hundred and twenty years later, in the early 1990s, historian Crandall Shifflett stumbled upon Washington's forgotten manuscript at the Library of Congress while researching Civil War Fredericksburg. Over the ensuing decade, Shifflett sought to learn more about this Virginia slave and the people and events he so vividly portrays. John Washington's Civil War presents this remarkable slave narrative in its entirety, together with Shifflett's detailed annotations on the life-changing events Washington records.
While joining the canon of better-known slave narratives by Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and Solomon Northup, Washington's account illuminates a far different world. The son of a slave woman and an unknown white man, Washington never lived outside the seventy-five-mile radius that included Richmond and Fredericksburg, until his emancipation. His narrative spans his experiences as a household slave, a laborer in the Fredericksburg tobacco factory, and a hotel servant on the eve of the Civil War. He also tells of his bold venture across Union lines and his experiences as a slave under Union officers.
Washington's recollections allow for a singular look at the more personal aspects of slave life. Forced attendance at the slaveowner's church, much-anticipated gatherings of neighboring slaves at harvesttime, even a brief episode of courtship among slaves are among the events described in this remarkable narrative. On a broader scale, Washington was a witness to key moments of the Civil War, and his chronicle includes his thoughts about the wider political turmoil surrounding him, including his dramatic account of watching the Union Army mass around Fredericksburg as it prepared to invade the town. An excellent introduction and expert annotations by Shifflett reconstruct Washington's life through his death in 1918 and provide informative historical background and context to Washington's recollections.
An unprecedented window into the life of a Virginia bondsman, John Washington's Civil Warcommunicates with real urgency what it meant to be a slave during a period of extreme crisis that sounded the notes of freedom for some and the end of a way of life for others.
Although North Carolina was a "home front" state rather than a battlefield state for most of the Civil War, it was heavily involved in the Confederate war effort and experienced many conflicts as a result. North Carolinians were divided over the issue of secession, and changes in race and gender relations brought new controversy. Blacks fought for freedom, women sought greater independence, and their aspirations for change stimulated fierce resistance from more privileged groups. Republicans and Democrats fought over power during Reconstruction and for decades thereafter disagreed over the meaning of the war and Reconstruction.

With contributions by well-known historians as well as talented younger scholars, this volume offers new insights into all the key issues of the Civil War era that played out in pronounced ways in the Tar Heel State. In nine essays composed specifically for this volume, contributors address themes such as ambivalent whites, freed blacks, the political establishment, racial hopes and fears, postwar ideology, and North Carolina women. These issues of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras were so powerful that they continue to agitate North Carolinians today.

Contributors:
David Brown, Manchester University
Judkin Browning, Appalachian State University
Laura F. Edwards, Duke University
Paul D. Escott, Wake Forest University
John C. Inscoe, University of Georgia
Chandra Manning, Georgetown University
Barton A. Myers, University of Georgia
Steven E. Nash, University of Georgia
Paul Yandle, West Virginia University
Karin Zipf, East Carolina University



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