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A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipationby David Blight
Synopses & Reviews
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 family and friends, these narratives tell gripping stories of escape: Through a combination of intelligence, daring, and sheer luck, the men reached the protection of the occupying Union troops. David W. Blight magnifies the drama and significance by prefacing the narratives with each man’s life history. Using a wealth of genealogical information, Blight has reconstructed their childhoods as sons of white slaveholders, their service as cooks and camp hands during the Civil War, and their climb to black working-class stability in the north, where they reunited their families. In the stories of Turnage and Washington, we find history at its most intimate, portals that offer a rich new answer to the question of how four million people moved from slavery to freedom. In A Slave No More, the untold stories of two ordinary men take their place at the heart of the American experience.
"Three fascinating works are packaged here: two unpublished manuscripts by former slaves Wallace Turnage (1846 — 1916) and John Washington (1838 — 1918), and an illuminating analysis of them by award-winning historian Blight. Turnage's journal ('a sketch of my life or adventures and persecutions which I went through from 1860 to 1865') is about his attempted escapes and their dire consequences: from his first, when he 'didn't know where to go,' to his successful 'fifth and last runaway.' His account is particularly noteworthy in its revelation of the slave and free-black networks he found and utilized. Washington's 'Memorys of the Past' moves from his 'most pleasant' early childhood through 'the many trials of slavery' and the disruptions of the Civil War, ending with his successful escape in 1862. As Blight observes, it's 'very much a coming of age story,' offering a unique window on life (learning to read, falling in love, finding religious faith) in a slave society. Blight provides an accessible historical and literary context for the manuscripts and explores, as fully as possible, the men's lives not covered in their manuscripts (both are self-emancipated). These powerful memoirs reveal poignant, heroic, painful and inspiring lives." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
WALLACE TURNAGE (1846–1916) was born in Snow Hill, North Carolina, and spent his adult life in New York City and Jersey City, New Jersey.
JOHN WASHINGTON (1838–1918), born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, worked as a house and sign painter in Washington, D.C., after his escape. He retired to Cohasset, Massachusetts.
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. Among his books is Race and Reunion, which won the Frederick Douglass Prize, the Lincoln Prize, and the Bancroft Prize. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
Table of Contents
The Rappahannock River 17
Mobile Bay 55
Unusual Evidence 90
The Logic and the Trump of Jubilee 128
Authors Note 163
John M. Washington, Memorys of the Past” 165
Wallace Turnage, Journal of Wallace Turnage” 213
Appendix: John Washington,
The Death of Our Little Johnnie” 259
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