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Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation Southby Stephanie M. H. Camp
Synopses & Reviews
Recent scholarship on slavery has explored the lives of enslaved people beyond the watchful eye of their masters. Building on this work and the study of space, social relations, gender, and power in the Old South, Stephanie Camp examines the everyday containment and movement of enslaved men and, especially, enslaved women. In her investigation of the movement of bodies, objects, and information, Camp extends our recognition of slave resistance into new arenas and reveals an important and hidden culture of opposition.
Camp discusses the multiple dimensions to acts of resistance that might otherwise appear to be little more than fits of temper. She brings new depth to our understanding of the lives of enslaved women, whose bodies and homes were inevitably political arenas. Through Camp's insight, truancy becomes an act of pursuing personal privacy. Illegal parties ("frolics") become an expression of bodily freedom. And bondwomen who acquired printed abolitionist materials and posted them on the walls of their slave cabins (even if they could not read them) become the subtle agitators who inspire more overt acts.
The culture of opposition created by enslaved women's acts of everyday resistance helped foment and sustain the more visible resistance of men in their individual acts of running away and in the collective action of slave revolts. Ultimately, Camp argues, the Civil War years saw revolutionary change that had been in the making for decades.
"Deepens our understanding of resistance as both an individual and collective endeavor. [Camp] argues forcefully. . . . Intriguing and interesting."
— The Journal of Interdisciplinary History "This slim volume makes a substantial and often ingenious contribution to slavery studies and to women's and southern history..."
l American Historical Review "Wonderfully evocative. . . . A provocative book full of astonishing, sometimes unforgettable moments."
— Virginia Magazine "Camp's creative and elegant work reinforces the interconnectedness of North and South, slave and free, in the lives of enslaved people."
— Signs "Very readable yet analytically sophisticated. . . . Camp seamlessly integrates a wide array of sources . . . into an engaging book that does more than recount women's experiences as slaves in the plantation South. . . . An excellent study of bondwomen and a penetrating look at the rival geographies created by enslaved people."
— Journal of Southern History "Sensitive, bold, and imaginative, the first book to place black women at the center of everyday resistance to bondage.
(Douglas R. Egerton, Le Moyne College, author of Gabriel's Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 and 1802)"
Focusing on female slaves' everyday forms of resistance--such as truancy, theft, and illegal parties--Camp argues that the Civil War years saw revolutionary change that had been in the making for decades, as slaves broke rules, spoke their minds, and ran away.
About the Author
Stephanie M. H. Camp is assistant professor of history at the University of Washington, Seattle.
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History and Social Science » African American Studies » General