Deliver Us from Evil: The Slavery Question in the Old South

Oxford University Press
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A major contribution to our understanding of slavery in the early republic, Deliver Us from Evil illuminates the white South's twisted and tortured efforts to justify slavery, focusing on the period from the drafting of the federal constitution in 1787 through the age of Jackson. Drawing heavily on primary sources, including newspapers, government documents, legislative records, pamphlets, and speeches, Lacy K. Ford recaptures the varied and sometimes contradictory ideas and attitudes held by groups of white southerners as they tried to square slavery with their democratic ideals. He excels at conveying the political, intellectual, economic, and social thought of leading white southerners, vividly recreating the mental world of the varied actors and capturing the vigorous debates over slavery. He also shows that there was not one antebellum South but many, and not one southern white mindset but several, with the debates over slavery in the upper South quite different in substance from those in the deep South. In the upper South, where tobacco had fallen into comparative decline by 1800, debate often centered on how the area might reduce its dependence on slave labor and "whiten" itself, whether through gradual emancipation and colonization or the sale of slaves to the cotton South. During the same years, the lower South swirled into the vortex of the "cotton revolution," and that area's whites lost all interest in emancipation, no matter how gradual or fully compensated. An ambitious, thought-provoking, and highly insightful book, Deliver Us from Evil makes an important contribution to the history of slavery in the United States, shedding needed light on the white South's early struggle to reconcile slavery with its Revolutionary heritage.
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About the author

Lacy K. Ford is Professor of History, University of South Carolina.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Sep 3, 2009
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Pages
688
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ISBN
9780199751082
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Social History
History / United States / State & Local / South (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV)
Social Science / Slavery
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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A major literary event: a newly published work from the author of the American classic Their Eyes Were Watching God, with a foreword from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, brilliantly illuminates the horror and injustices of slavery as it tells the true story of one of the last-known survivors of the Atlantic slave trade—abducted from Africa on the last "Black Cargo" ship to arrive in the United States.

In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, just outside Mobile, to interview eighty-six-year-old Cudjo Lewis. Of the millions of men, women, and children transported from Africa to America as slaves, Cudjo was then the only person alive to tell the story of this integral part of the nation’s history. Hurston was there to record Cudjo’s firsthand account of the raid that led to his capture and bondage fifty years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the United States.

In 1931, Hurston returned to Plateau, the African-centric community three miles from Mobile founded by Cudjo and other former slaves from his ship. Spending more than three months there, she talked in depth with Cudjo about the details of his life. During those weeks, the young writer and the elderly formerly enslaved man ate peaches and watermelon that grew in the backyard and talked about Cudjo’s past—memories from his childhood in Africa, the horrors of being captured and held in a barracoon for selection by American slavers, the harrowing experience of the Middle Passage packed with more than 100 other souls aboard the Clotilda, and the years he spent in slavery until the end of the Civil War.

Based on those interviews, featuring Cudjo’s unique vernacular, and written from Hurston’s perspective with the compassion and singular style that have made her one of the preeminent American authors of the twentieth-century, Barracoon masterfully illustrates the tragedy of slavery and of one life forever defined by it. Offering insight into the pernicious legacy that continues to haunt us all, black and white, this poignant and powerful work is an invaluable contribution to our shared history and culture.

The dramatic story of fugitive slaves and the antislavery activists who defied the law to help them reach freedom.

More than any other scholar, Eric Foner has influenced our understanding of America's history. Now, making brilliant use of extraordinary evidence, the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian once again reconfigures the national saga of American slavery and freedom.

A deeply entrenched institution, slavery lived on legally and commercially even in the northern states that had abolished it after the American Revolution. Slaves could be found in the streets of New York well after abolition, traveling with owners doing business with the city's major banks, merchants, and manufacturers. New York was also home to the North’s largest free black community, making it a magnet for fugitive slaves seeking refuge. Slave catchers and gangs of kidnappers roamed the city, seizing free blacks, often children, and sending them south to slavery.

To protect fugitives and fight kidnappings, the city's free blacks worked with white abolitionists to organize the New York Vigilance Committee in 1835. In the 1840s vigilance committees proliferated throughout the North and began collaborating to dispatch fugitive slaves from the upper South, Washington, and Baltimore, through Philadelphia and New York, to Albany, Syracuse, and Canada. These networks of antislavery resistance, centered on New York City, became known as the underground railroad. Forced to operate in secrecy by hostile laws, courts, and politicians, the city’s underground-railroad agents helped more than 3,000 fugitive slaves reach freedom between 1830 and 1860. Until now, their stories have remained largely unknown, their significance little understood.

Building on fresh evidence—including a detailed record of slave escapes secretly kept by Sydney Howard Gay, one of the key organizers in New York—Foner elevates the underground railroad from folklore to sweeping history. The story is inspiring—full of memorable characters making their first appearance on the historical stage—and significant—the controversy over fugitive slaves inflamed the sectional crisis of the 1850s. It eventually took a civil war to destroy American slavery, but here at last is the story of the courageous effort to fight slavery by "practical abolition," person by person, family by family.

A major contribution to our understanding of slavery in the early republic, Deliver Us from Evil illuminates the white South's twisted and tortured efforts to justify slavery, focusing on the period from the drafting of the federal constitution in 1787 through the age of Jackson. Drawing heavily on primary sources, including newspapers, government documents, legislative records, pamphlets, and speeches, Lacy K. Ford recaptures the varied and sometimes contradictory ideas and attitudes held by groups of white southerners as they tried to square slavery with their democratic ideals. He excels at conveying the political, intellectual, economic, and social thought of leading white southerners, vividly recreating the mental world of the varied actors and capturing the vigorous debates over slavery. He also shows that there was not one antebellum South but many, and not one southern white mindset but several, with the debates over slavery in the upper South quite different in substance from those in the deep South. In the upper South, where tobacco had fallen into comparative decline by 1800, debate often centered on how the area might reduce its dependence on slave labor and "whiten" itself, whether through gradual emancipation and colonization or the sale of slaves to the cotton South. During the same years, the lower South swirled into the vortex of the "cotton revolution," and that area's whites lost all interest in emancipation, no matter how gradual or fully compensated. An ambitious, thought-provoking, and highly insightful book, Deliver Us from Evil makes an important contribution to the history of slavery in the United States, shedding needed light on the white South's early struggle to reconcile slavery with its Revolutionary heritage.
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