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

ISBN: 0151012326

ISBN13: 9780151012329

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

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Format: Hardcover

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

Slave narratives, some of the most powerful records of our past, are extremely rare, with only fifty-five 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, and the biographies of the men who wrote them, join that exclusive group with the publication of A Slave No More, a major new addition to the canon of American history. Handed down through...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Masterful firsthand tellings of survival and escape

In a confluence of events that is hardly short of providential, not one, two unpublished slave narratives fell into David Blight's hands. The narratives, kept lovingly for over a century by the families of former slaves Wallace Turnage and John Washington, chronicle the early lives and desperate circumstances that propelled these two oppressed human beings onto the historical stage. Wallace and Turnage, while sharing the common bondage of slavery, led very different lives. Washington had relatively easier life and shorter route to freedom. Turnage's life was shot through with physical assaults, peril and cinematic close calls. Both men wrote with an urgency that revealed their thirst for freedom and deep desire to preserve their tales for their posterity. The first half of the book allows David Blight to provide the historical and cultural contexts that his two protagonists could only guess at. Ensnared in the day-to-day turmoil of slavery and survival, they could only guess at the political and military forces that were moving them toward eventual liberation. Blight muses too on the oft-asked question of who freed the slaves - Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation or the salves themselves. his complex and nuanced answer is seconded by the experiences captured by Washington and Turnage. The book's second half contains the unedited narratives, told in soaring but often rough prose, by the men themselves. "A Slave No More" is gripping, significantly because it is true. The poetry of freedom sings from its pages, crafted by the literary hands of men who were not expected to learn the alphabet, much less to pen epic odes to the liberation of the human body and spirit. Wonderful and worthwhile.

Two who sought and found their own freedom

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.

Intriguing, beautifully written history

This book makes the Civil War period and slavery come alive, partly through the real voices of 2 emancipated slaves, and partly through the consumate writing skill of the author. The level is just right: carefully documented sources (endnotes) that authenticate the story, plus a wonderfully accessible writing style that is clear, never boring, and quietly compassionate. This is an engaging book I recommend even to those having only a casual interest in history.

Great Reading for American History Buffs

History buffs in general will find "A Slave No More" a highly valuable read. For students of American history, and particularly for those who are interested in the Civil War and Reconstruction period, this book is must reading. There are not many first-person accounts by former slaves available to us. This volume contains two such narratives, hitherto unpublished: one is by Wallace Turnage and the other is by John Washington, both former slaves who found their way to freedom during the Civil War. David Blight presents them here in their original form "with virtually no changes to the grammar and spelling," although he has done some minor editing in their structure (primarily providing paragraph breaks) to assist in reading. The reader is not, however, immediately thrust into the narratives themselves. Blight spends the first 162 pages introducing us to the two writers, using genealogical data, and to the context in which the narratives were written. Turnage's and Washington's escape to freedom occurred during the chaos of this nation's most bloody war (over 600,000 casualties) and amidst a political and cultural conflict (state's rights and slavery) which had been ripping the country apart for many decades. It is, I think, essential to understand the plight of the Black slave on a personal level, to understand what it means to be someone else's "property," completely and totally subject to someone else's will, to recognize and accept that slaves were not thought to be fully "human." Blight does an outstanding job of providing the necessary background for the narratives. I recommend this book to all readers who love the study of history. It is a valuable contribution to the genre.

Tour de Force

There have been many books about slavery and the brutality of the life that so many people had to endure. Much of this has been documented by authors and historians, and told about in history books and fiction alike. Part of this record includes the slave narratives, first person accounts, written by slaves themselves, that detail their hardships and trials, and most of them, recounting their path to freedom. David Blight has two such narratives in his new, and frankly, phenomenal new book: A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation. This is a book for your shelf. Blight starts the book with a brief review of the history of slave narratives, the distinct differences between pre and post-emancipation narratives, and how these two remarkable narratives fell into his possession, both within six months of each other. He then retells their own lives, giving background and general information (including some from other slave narratives) to make the two men's accounts more whole. The rest of the book is the actual narratives of both John Washington and Wallace Turnage. And what a powerhouse of writing both of these narratives are. Both men, finding their path to freedom during the Civil War, both with help from the Union army. But each man found his path to freedom in his own unique way, and both accounts are riveting memoirs of using wits, guts, and determination to ensure their survival. It's so personal to read these. You get a sense of the men behind the words, it's almost like you are eavesdropping on a grandfather recounting his younger days to a granddaughter. The narratives are edited by Blight, but he largely seems to keep a hands-off attitude with both of them, leaving the reader the chance to experience the author first hand. You leave the narratives painfully wanting more ... even though Blight has provided more. These narratives paint a picture of true American heroes. Men who lasted, despite incredible odds against them, to live and thrive beyond the situations they found themselves in. When Washington gets to live, as a freed man, in the same house in which he served as a slave, the sense of triumph is palpable, even though Washington is not gloating one bit. Much has been said about the brave soliders that lived and died for the American cause. These two men exemplify that to the fullest. I finished this book with a sense of awe and wonder with these two men, and a desire to want more. This book is a true piece of scholarship, adding to the growing richness of slave narratives. Hopefully, as time progresses, we will unearth more views of this time long past, to remember and appreciate once again. A true five star book!
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