Synopses & Reviews
For black women in antebellum Charleston, freedom was not a static legal category but a fragile and contingent experience. In this deeply researched social history, Amrita Chakrabarti Myers analyzes the ways in which black women in Charleston acquired, defined, and defended their own vision of freedom.
Drawing on legislative and judicial materials, probate data, tax lists, church records, family papers, and more, Myers creates detailed portraits of individual women while exploring how black female Charlestonians sought to create a fuller freedom by improving their financial, social, and legal standing. Examining both those who were officially manumitted and those who lived as free persons but lacked official documentation, Myers reveals that free black women filed lawsuits and petitions, acquired property (including slaves), entered into contracts, paid taxes, earned wages, attended schools, and formed familial alliances with wealthy and powerful men, black and white--all in an effort to solidify and expand their freedom. Never fully free, black women had to depend on their skills of negotiation in a society dedicated to upholding both slavery and patriarchy. Forging Freedom examines the many ways in which Charleston's black women crafted a freedom of their own design instead of accepting the limited existence imagined for them by white Southerners.
"An important contribution to the growing scholarly canon on the long-silenced voices of black women, both enslaved and free. Highly recommended. All levels/libraries."
"Myers' richly-documented Forging Freedom
provides a vivid portrait of [freedwomen's] lives."
-Civil War Book Review
"Carefully researched and lucidly written."
-Journal of American History
"Myers's compelling study makes a significant contribution to this literature, drawing much-needed attention to the significance of the urban environment in shaping ideas of freedom in the pre-Civil War South and to the particularity of women's experiences."
-Journal of Southern History
"A carefully argued work that makes an invaluable contribution to the larger historiography of African American women. . . . Any academic, student, local or regional scholar interested in Urban America, Women's History, Antebellum South, and African American history will find value in this study."
"What is so remarkable about this volume is Myer's attention to detail in uncovering these forgotten women's often astonishing stories and putting them in the context of the shifting laws and politics of the antebellum period. . . . This is definitely ground-breaking scholarship."
-The South Carolina Historical Magazine
"Amrita Chakrabarti Myers impressively captures and illuminates the tenuous security of black women's lives and freedom as they struggled for personal and familial stability and upward mobility in nineteenth-century Charleston. This book is an outstanding contribution to our understanding of black women's negotiated freedoms and will have a lasting influence in African American, emancipation, and slavery studies."--Leslie A. Schwalm, University of Iowa, author of Emancipation's Diaspora: Race and Reconstruction in the Upper Midwest
and A Hard Fight for We: Women's Transition from Slavery to Freedom in South Carolina
"Forging Freedom gives voice to a heretofore voiceless and largely forgotten group of free black women. Through the fascinating stories of their struggles for rights and dignity, Myers constructs a well-researched and vivid portrait of the methods black women used to negotiate their freedom and to determine their destiny as well as a more inclusive and accurate history of the city of Charleston during the antebellum era."--Janice L. Sumler-Edmond, Huston-Tillotson University, author of The Secret Trust of Aspasia Cruvellier Mirault: The Life and Trials of a Free Woman of Color in Antebellum Georgia
In this deeply researched social history, Myers analyzes the ways in which black women in Charleston acquired, defined, and defended their own vision of freedom. Drawing on legislative and judicial materials, probate data, tax lists, church records, family papers, and more, Myers creates detailed portraits of individual women while exploring how black female Charlestonians sought to create a fuller freedom by improving their financial, social, and legal standing.
About the Author
Amrita Chakrabarti Myers is assistant professor of history at Indiana University-Bloomington.