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The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah: A Free Black Man's Encounter with Libertyby J William Harris
Synopses & Reviews
The tragic untold story of how a nation struggling for its freedom denied it to one of its own.
In 1775, Thomas Jeremiah was oneand#160;of fewer than five hundred and#8220;Free Negrosand#8221; in South Carolina and, with an estimated worth of and#163;1,000 (about $200,000 in todayand#8217;s dollars), possibly the richest person of African descent in British North America. A slaveowner himself, Jeremiah was falsely accused by whitesand#8212;who resented his success as a Charleston harbor pilotand#8212;of sowing insurrection among slaves at the behest of the British.
Chief among the accusers was Henry Laurens, Charlestonand#8217;s leading patriot, a slaveowner and former slave trader, who would later become the president of the Continental Congress. On the other side was Lord William Campbell, royal governor of the colony, who passionately believed that the accusation was unjust and tried to save Jeremiahand#8217;s life but failed. Though a free man, Jeremiah was tried in a slave court and sentenced to death. In August 1775, he was hanged and his body burned.
J. William Harris tells Jeremiahand#8217;s story in full for the first time, illuminating the contradiction between a nation that would be born in a struggle for freedom and yet deny itand#8212;often violentlyand#8212;to others.
"Intrepid historian Harris (Pulitzer finalist for Deep Souths: Delta, Piedmont and Sea Island Society in the Age of Segregation) presents a carefully research account of nebulous historical figure Thomas Jeremiah, who, at the time of his death in 1775, 'had risen as high as it was possible for a free black man' in South Carolina, where at least 'ninety-nine in a hundred blacks were enslaved.' Owner of a fishing company and worth $200,000 in 2009 dollars, Harris was probably the richest black man in North America; he was also a slave-owner. That didn't stop him from becoming a scapegoat, accused by patriot leader Henry Laurens-a wealthy plantation owner with hundreds of slaves-of secretly leading a British-sponsored slave insurrection. Though Governor William Campbell, aggrieved by the unlawfulness of Jeremiah's trial, interceded, it didn't stop those determined to hang Jeremiah. Alongside a rigorous narrative, Harris offers sober but forceful reflections: though he was 'free, Christian, and a slave owner,' Jeremiah proved an unworthy ally in the eyes of patriots like Laurens, who believed 'the America being born...would be a white man's country.' Readers will learn much about the darker side of American institutions; students of American history and civil rights will appreciate Harris's impassive approach and thorough standards. 18 b&w photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The American West of the nineteenth century was a world of freedom and adventure for men of every stripeand#8212;not least also those who admired and desired other men. Among these sojourners was William Drummond Stewart, a flamboyant Scottish nobleman who found in American culture of the 1830s and 1840s a cultural milieu of openness in which men could pursue same-sex relationships.
This book traces Stewartand#8217;s travels from his arrival in America in 1832 to his return to Murthly Castle in Perthshire, Scotland, with his French Canadianand#8211;Cree Indian companion, Antoine Clement, one of the most skilled hunters in the Rockies. Benemann chronicles Stewartand#8217;s friendships with such notables as Kit Carson, William Sublette, Marcus Whitman, and Jim Bridger. He describes the wild Renaissance-costume party held by Stewart and Clement upon their return to Americaand#8212;a journey that ended in scandal. Through Stewartand#8217;s letters and novels, Benemann shows that Stewart was one of many men drawn to the sexual freedom offered by the West. His book provides a tantalizing new perspective on the Rocky Mountain fur trade and the role of homosexuality in shaping the American West.
About the Author
J. William Harris is professor of history at the University of New Hampshire. He is the author of The Making of the American South, Deep Souths (finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in history), and Plain Folk and Gentry in a Slave Society. He lives in Arlington, MA.
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