Search through own heritage leads evangelist to story about enslaved mixed-race pastor

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2014-06-18 19:50Z by Steven

Search through own heritage leads evangelist to story about enslaved mixed-race pastor

The Advocate
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Mark H. Hunter, Special to The Advocate

If local school district officials knew then what Sammy Tippit knows now, he might not have been allowed to attend Istrouma High School.

Tippit, 66, is a world-renowned evangelist who grew up in Baton Rouge and now lives in San Antonio. He was a prominent Istrouma High student government leader and proudly represented the Indians at statewide high school meetings and debates.

“I truly am an Istrouma Indian,” Tippit said with a big smile and a twinkle in his blue eyes. And he means that in more ways than one.

As a youthful “Jesus freak” in the late 1960s, he boldly preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in dangerous nightclubs on the west side of the Mississippi River. He was arrested and deported from Communist Romania and risked arrest in the Soviet Union for preaching in underground churches in the 1970s and ’80s.

Just a few months ago, Tippit said, he preached in Pakistan where a large portion of the 10,000-member audience — many of them Muslim men, — prayed for salvation in Jesus Christ. A suicide bomber, perhaps on his way to the service, exploded a few blocks away.

But one of Tippit’s most unnerving experiences came 10 years ago when a man in Portugal, researching his own family roots, told him they were related by Native American blood going back to Revolutionary War times.

“All of a sudden I didn’t know who I was,” Tippit said during an interview at a local coffee shop. “I have fair skin and blue eyes, but my bloodline is a mixture of English, Native American and African.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Almost Free: A Story About Family and Race in Antebellum Virginia by Eva Sheppard Wolf (review) [Lee]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2014-06-09 02:15Z by Steven

Almost Free: A Story About Family and Race in Antebellum Virginia by Eva Sheppard Wolf (review) [Lee]

Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
Volume 111, Number 2, Spring 2013
pages 252-254
DOI: 10.1353/khs.2013.0034

Deborah A. Lee, PhD, Independent Historian
Stanardsville, Virginia

Wolf, Eva Sheppard, Almost Free: A Story about Family and Race in Antebellum Virginia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012)

In Almost Free, Eva Sheppard Wolf explores race and freedom in the antebellum South by illuminating the interesting—if obscure—life of Samuel Johnson, a free black man of Fauquier County, Virginia. He worked hard, observed rules, won friends, and acquired considerable property and respectability, but he fell achingly short of obtaining the freedom and security he sought for himself and his enslaved family. Johnson stands out in history because, between 1812 and 1837, he petitioned the legislature ten times in that cause, with the support of many white neighbors. Wolf concludes from this case study that slavery and freedom were not mere opposites; that Johnson, in his attainment of property and respectability, occupied a “broad space . . . between freedom and slavery”; and that race was “simultaneously momentous and tenuous” (p. 3).

A tavern-keeper before and after emancipation, Samuel Johnson was resourceful and determined. After enlisting a third party to lawfully conduct the transaction, he earned five hundred dollars to purchase his freedom. Next, with much support and assistance from local whites, including a U.S. senator, he successfully petitioned for the right to remain in Virginia. This step complied with an 1806 law that otherwise required emancipated people to leave the state within a year. Only then did he complete the manumission. In the decade it took him to raise the money, however, he had married an enslaved woman named Patty and with her had two children, Lucy and Samuel Jr. To obtain more freedom and security for his family, he purchased them from their owner. Reluctant to free them without permission to remain in the state, and even more reluctant to leave Virginia, he repeatedly petitioned the legislature in their cause, with tremendous support of white neighbors. The case reached urgency as his daughter neared adulthood, so that as a free woman she could legally marry.

Wolf’s methodology and conclusions align with those of Melvin Patrick Ely in Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War (2004). Their observations of considerable interracial cooperation and a wide—yet still constrained—range of possibilities for free blacks in Virginia largely refutes Ira Berlin’s earlier thesis, summed up in the title of his seminal work, Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South (1974). In her study, Wolf focuses on the way local people, white and black, variously ignored, challenged, circumvented, and maintained racial boundaries. While this shifting ground was remarkable, she concludes that “color often mattered more than behavior,” property rights were stronger than personal rights, and dark skin sometimes conferred a kind of invisibility (p. 40). Berlin and Wolf agree that white antipathy grew and racial attitudes hardened over time, narrowing possibilities for free blacks, but rather than occurring after the American Revolution, Wolf places this phenomenon in the 1820s.

Wolf does a beautiful job of narrating this complex story with limited sources, especially from Johnson’s perspective. She engages in necessary speculation about his thought processes and emotions in a particularly effective way, describing various alternatives. It was difficult, however, to get a sense of the black community from this study, though sources such as legislative petitions suggest that an African American counterculture thrived in the region. Nonetheless, the book clearly demonstrates the value of local history and helps readers understand the South in more complex and nuanced ways. Not least, Wolf points out that the story demonstrates how much family, freedom, and autonomy mattered to people such as the Johnsons and how they also make history…

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‘Belle’: Romance, Race And Slavery With Jane Austen Style

Posted in Articles, Arts, Audio, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2014-06-03 22:46Z by Steven

‘Belle’: Romance, Race And Slavery With Jane Austen Style

National Public Radio
Tell Me More

Michel Martin, Host

British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw was brought up on Jane Austen adaptations. “You know, the Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle was something I watched on a weekly basis with my mum at home in Oxfordshire,” she tells NPR’s Michel Martin.

But as the biracial actress completed her training at Britain’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, she watched her peers win roles in “the Downton Abbeys of this world” and realized those period dramas weren’t calling her. It made Mbatha-Raw ask: “Why can’t I be in something like this?”

Now she is. Mbatha-Raw plays the title character in Belle, a film based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of a captain in the Royal Navy and an enslaved African woman. When she is a child, Dido’s father entrusts her to his uncle, one of the most powerful men in the country.

“She goes on this massive journey to become a woman who has the courage to stand up for who she is and what she believes in,” Mbatha-Raw says…

Read the entire article here. Listen to the interview here (00:12:53). Read the transcript here. Download the audio here.

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Almost Free: A Story about Family and Race in Antebellum Virginia by Eva Sheppard Wolf (reweiw) [Watkins]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2014-06-01 17:38Z by Steven

Almost Free: A Story about Family and Race in Antebellum Virginia by Eva Sheppard Wolf (reweiw) [Watkins]

Journal of the Early Republic
Volume 33, Number 3, Fall 2013
pages 575-577
DOI: 10.1353/jer.2013.0062

Andrea S. Watkins

Wolf, Eva Sheppard, Almost Free: A Story about Family and Race in Antebellum Virginia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012)

The tenuous status of free blacks within antebellum Virginia is examined by Eva Sheppard Wolf through the life of Samuel Johnson, a slave who purchased his own freedom and struggled over the course of the rest of his life to free his family and keep them together. His attempts to work within the legal framework established by the state and his own connections to powerful Virginia citizens illustrates the nebulous place free blacks held within antebellum society, as well as the role of personal relationships between black and white residents in achieving freedom and prosperity.

Wolf, associate professor of history at San Francisco State University, has pieced together a story of Johnson’s adulthood and family life through local court records and Virginia legislative petitions. The specifics of Samuel Johnson’s birth are not known, but his identification as “mulatto” in records indicates he had a slave mother and white father. Wolf suggests that Johnson’s white father may have found his mulatto slave son work in Norris Tavern in Warrenton, Virginia, the county seat for Fauquier County. As a tavern servant Johnson had the opportunity to forge relationships with white members of the community who came to Warrenton for court business and to save tip money to purchase his freedom. Johnson entered an agreement with his owner Edward Digges in 1802 to purchase his freedom for five hundred dollars. Virginia law regarding manumission of slaves changed in 1806. The new law established that freed slaves must leave the state within one year of liberation. Johnson had a choice to either continue to save and purchase his freedom with the knowledge he must leave or remain enslaved. The decision was not an easy one as he was married with two children by 1811, when he had collected the five hundred dollars.

Johnson’s choice demonstrates the importance of personal relationships in understanding race relations in the antebellum period. Over time Johnson had established ties with important white men within Warrenton, Fauquier County, and beyond. He was known as a hard-working slave and was viewed by many as an asset to the community. To leave Fauquier County, or Virginia, was to face a life of uncertainty. Would he find such valuable work in another state or find a place in a new community equal to the one he had in Warrenton? Thus, Johnson chose to petition the state legislature to allow him to remain in Virginia and he enlisted the help of various white citizens as witnesses to his character. His petition was passed by the legislature, and eventually Samuel Johnson became a free man on August 25, 1812. The fact that Johnson called on white slave owners to attest to his hard work, character, and value to the community reveals how often the relationships between blacks and whites in the early nineteenth century do not match the rhetoric of speeches and legislation critical and fearful of the presence of free blacks.

Wolf recounts how in the following years Johnson purchased his wife and two children, but their position was precarious as they could be sold for payment of Johnson’s debts, and he could not free them without fear that officials would expel them from the state one year after manumission. Johnson submitted petition after petition to the state’s authorities requesting that his family be allowed to remain with him when freed, and again and again those petitions failed to pass. Wolf successfully portrays the frustrations of trying to navigate the legal system of the time, but also the high stakes for Johnson and his family if he acted without legal provision. Johnson’s resourcefulness in garnering support throughout the white community is evident in his 1826 petition for his daughter Lucy that had the signatures of 226 people including white women and two U.S. congressmen. Johnson successfully purchased a home and land on the edge of Warrenton, and the family established a comfortable lifestyle until his death in 1842. At that time only his daughter and her children were still living. Johnson had already freed Lucy, taking the chance that his own standing and her ties to the local community would forestall any attempts to have…

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Go Stand Upon the Rock

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Novels, Slavery, United States on 2014-05-24 22:32Z by Steven

Go Stand Upon the Rock

300 pages
9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
Paperback ISBN-10: 1494211564; ISBN-13: 978-1494211561

Samuel Michael Lemon, Program Director
Continuing Adult and Professional Studies
Neumann University, Aston, Pennsylvania

From stories handed down by my grandmother about how our ancestors fought to be free.

Go Stand Upon the Rock is a deeply moving story based on real people and events in the lives of a runaway slave and his family, who witness some of the most compelling moments in antebellum American history. It is a tale of unsettling plantation life, courageous women, dramatic Civil War battles, heroes and hoodoo, and the indomitable strength of the human spirit. This novel is based on the family history handed down to me by my maternal grandmother, Maud Ray Ridley Ortiga—the granddaughter of former runaway slaves. Fiercely proud of our ancestors, I spent countless hours at my grandmother’s table, committing this history to memory as we poured over a trove of antique family photographs. I grew to love these forebears who died long before I was born, and I eventually became the family historian. This made me determined to achieve two lifelong goals. The first was to see that my ancestors no longer rested in unmarked graves. The second was to solve the mysteries of who we were, where we came from and how we came to be. After my ancestors escaped from slavery in the mid-1860s, no one in my family had ever returned to our places of origin—in fact, no one even knew where they were.

What began as a noble quest to uncover my roots became a cultural detective story, with only the names of the plantations and slave quarters serving as paltry clues. As I grew into adulthood, I discovered the remarkable accuracy of the age-old family tradition of oral history, and everything my beloved grandmother told me proved to be true. I added to this body of knowledge through historical and genealogical research at the National Archives, the U.S. Census, and countless books and websites, all of which enabled me to turn my love of family history into a doctoral dissertation at one of the most distinguished academic institutions in America—the University of Pennsylvania—where I earned a doctorate in Education, Culture, and Society in 2007.

The story begins on the Bonnie Doon plantation in Southampton County, Virginia, where my ancestor Cornelius Ridley—the mulatto son of his wealthy, slavemaster/father—was born in 1839—eight years after Nat Turner’s Rebellion. But no rosy or revisionist retrospective on genteel plantation society, this book examines the historical events and complex social and sometimes biological relationships between masters and slaves. Go Stand Upon the Rock is a tapestry of interwoven stories of a remarkable family’s journey through history that began with my great-great grandfather Cornelius Ridley’s epic 300 mile walk to freedom in the North to escape from bondage on his putative father’s plantation.

It also follows his wife Martha Jane Parham, as she strives to escape her horrible fate as a breeding woman on the neighboring Fortsville Plantation. Learning what she endured made an indelible impact on me. Unlike her husband who was able to pass for white, they were forced to escape separately. And the story follows her perilous flight with two young children, to the safety of a company of U.S. Colored Troops, where she meets a young black soldier from Pennsylvania who is wounded during one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War—the Battle of New Market Heights—who has an unexpected role in her life half a century later.

This first part of the Ridley family saga draws to a close with Cornelius and Martha Jane’s brilliant son William—a pioneering African American law student—who miraculously survives a hail of bullets in the midst of a dangerous political dispute in Chester, Pennsylvania, that nearly ends his life and legal career captured in detail in local contemporary newspaper accounts just one month before his marriage to an elegant, mysterious clairvoyant woman from the Danish West Indies in October 1889. Telling the story of my ancestors is a debt I have longed owed them, because they are giants upon whose shoulders I stand today. And there is much more of their saga to tell.

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Almost Free: A Story about Family and Race in Antebellum Virginia by Eva Sheppard Wolf (review) [Padraig Riley]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2014-05-21 14:41Z by Steven

Almost Free: A Story about Family and Race in Antebellum Virginia by Eva Sheppard Wolf (review) [Padraig Riley]

Civil War History
Volume 60, Number 2, June 2014
pages 199-201
DOI: 10.1353/cwh.2014.0041

Padraig Riley, Assistant Professor of History
Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Wolf, Eva Sheppard, Almost Free: A Story about Family and Race in Antebellum Virginia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012)

Almost Free is the story of Samuel Johnson of Warrenton, Virginia, a mixed-race slave who worked successfully to free himself and then purchased his wife and children in the early nineteenth century. Less successfully, he then struggled for many years to free his extended family, and to establish a legacy of black freedom in the heart of the slaveholding republic. Relying on a remarkable series of petitions Johnson sent to the Virginia state legislature from 1811 to 1837, Wolf reconstructs the man’s life and identity. This entails considerable speculation, but Wolf’s imaginings are balanced by a rich archival source base covering much of Johnson’s life. This accessible book is ideal for undergraduate instruction, and it is an important addition to scholarship on race and slavery. For Wolf, Samuel Johnson demonstrates that free blacks were not simply “slaves without masters” and that race in the antebellum South was a fluid concept, rather than a simple black-and-white proposition.

Wolf contends that race was not dictated by statute but rather was “something people themselves created and re-created in their multiple interactions with one another” (3). Samuel Johnson became free in 1812, well after an 1806 statute that compelled all freed slaves to leave the state within a year, under threat of being sold back into slavery. Because he wanted to remain in Virginia, he had to petition the state legislature. While most such petitions failed, Johnson’s succeeded because he was backed by both local whites and a few influential political figures. Thus, at the local level, whites did not simply act out the 1806 statute or Thomas Jefferson’s fears about the dangers of slave emancipation. They instead accepted Samuel Johnson as their neighbor, quite literally in the case of John and Maria Smith, who lived next door to him.

As a free man, Johnson saved money to purchase his wife and children, becoming, like many free black slaveholders, the master of his own family. He also owned land and sued white men in court. But, ultimately, the law left him and his family vulnerable. Despite numerous petitions to the state legislature, his family members were never allowed to remain in Virginia as free inhabitants. Had Johnson freed his family, they would have been legally bound to leave the state within a year; had he unexpectedly died, his family would have remained enslaved, subject to sale. In addition, Johnson suffered numerous other legal restraints as a free man of color, from restrictions on owning firearms to being unable to testify against a white man in court. He could be a white man’s neighbor, but he was very far from being his equal.

Why, then, did Johnson stay? Wolf poses this question quite poignantly by contrasting Johnson with Spencer Malvin, a free African American man who married Johnson’s daughter Lucy in 1826. Malvin, born free, knew the evils of slavery firsthand: as a teenager, he had been apprenticed to one Fielding Sinclair, who killed his adolescent slave. Sinclair was charged with murder, but the case was dismissed for lack of evidence, perhaps because Malvin could not testify against a white man. After Nat Turner’s rebellion in 1831, Malvin openly attacked slavery, circulating antislavery papers in Warrenton. He left Virginia and his family in 1832, along with a fugitive named Sandy, eventually settling in Pennsylvania.

But Johnson and his daughter Lucy remained, even after white hostility to free blacks increased in the wake of Turner’s rebellion. Many of the local whites who had supported Johnson’s petitions in the past now requested that the state legislature support the colonization of all free blacks outside of Virginia. For Wolf, Johnson’s decision to remain under such circumstances suggests an act of resistance: “In staying, they rejected racial exclusion. . . . They challenged the notion that Virginia belonged to white people” (107).

On the one hand, this contention is clearly true. But in other respects, Samuel Johnson’s life was marked by deference, rather than challenge, and white support for his limited freedom was a sign of condescension rather than recognition. Thus Philip Pendleton Barbour, as Wolf shows us, one of the foremost defenders of slavery during…

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Almost Free: A Story about Family and Race in Antebellum Virginia

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2014-05-15 04:32Z by Steven

Almost Free: A Story about Family and Race in Antebellum Virginia

University of Georgia Press
June 2012
192 pages
6 b&w photos, 1 map
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8203-3229-1
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8203-3230-7
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8203-4364-8

Eva Sheppard Wolf, Associate Professor of History
San Francisco State University

In Almost Free, Eva Sheppard Wolf uses the story of Samuel Johnson, a free black man from Virginia attempting to free his family, to add detail and depth to our understanding of the lives of free blacks in the South.

There were several paths to freedom for slaves, each of them difficult. After ten years of elaborate dealings and negotiations, Johnson earned manumission in August 1812. An illiterate “mulatto” who had worked at the tavern in Warrenton as a slave, Johnson as a freeman was an anomaly, since free blacks made up only 3 percent of Virginia’s population. Johnson stayed in Fauquier County and managed to buy his enslaved family, but the law of the time required that they leave Virginia if Johnson freed them. Johnson opted to stay. Because slaves’ marriages had no legal standing, Johnson was not legally married to his enslaved wife, and in the event of his death his family would be sold to new owners. Johnson’s story dramatically illustrates the many harsh realities and cruel ironies faced by blacks in a society hostile to their freedom.

Wolf argues that despite the many obstacles Johnson and others faced, race relations were more flexible during the early American republic than is commonly believed. It could actually be easier for a free black man to earn the favor of elite whites than it would be for blacks in general in the post-Reconstruction South. Wolf demonstrates the ways in which race was constructed by individuals in their day-to-day interactions, arguing that racial status was not simply a legal fact but a fluid and changeable condition. Almost Free looks beyond the majority experience, focusing on those at society’s edges to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of freedom in the slaveholding South.

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Exploring the Political Exploitation of Blood Quantum in the U.S.

Posted in Articles, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2014-05-14 22:19Z by Steven


Exploring the Political Exploitation of Blood Quantum in the U.S.

Indian Country Today Media Network

Vincent Schilling, Executive Vice President
Schilling Media, Inc.

Arica L. Coleman is an assistant professor of Black American Studies at the University of Delaware. She is African American and Native American (Rappahannock), which may help explain why she has conducted research for the past 12 years on what she calls the “intersections between Native American, African American and European peoples in the southeastern United States with a focus on the etymology of race, the ideology of racial purity and its historical and contemporary effects on racial and identity formation.” In non-academic terms, that means she has done a lot of thinking about the relations and interactions of blacks, Indians and whites on the East Coast, primarily in Virginia.

Coleman has turned her Ph.D. dissertation into an upcoming book, That the Blood Stay Pure: African Americans, Native Americans and the Predicament of Race and Identity in Virginia, and agreed to talk with ICTMN about her experiences as an African American woman who gets a lot of grief for also being an American Indian.

Wouldn’t you say that back in the day, American Indians and African Americans all went to the same parties?

Yes, we went to the same parties and we also worked the slave plantations together. This is what a lot of people do not understand when you talk about slavery. My African American brothers and sisters will have a problem with this because they like to look at slavery only in terms of black and white. The truth is—and specifically in Virginia—there was Indian slavery. The first slaves in the Americas were Native American and this business that the Native Americans died off as a result of disease and war [is inaccurate]—those were not the only reasons for their demise, there was the Indian slave trade, which is something we do not discuss a lot.

When you had people of African descent being brought across the Atlantic to the Americas, you also had Native American people throughout the Americas being dispersed throughout the world, including portions of South Africa and Angola. When you look at the records of the South—and specifically in Virginia—they talk about Indian, Negro and mulatto slaves…. From the 16th century through the 19th century, you had Native American peoples identified as Negro and as mulatto.

When you look in those records and see these terms you cannot automatically assume that these folks were African, because they could have been a mix of Native American or European as well. Racial labels have never been constant or used with consistency…

Read the entire interview here.

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Fathers of Conscience with Bernie D. Jones [Part 2]

Posted in Audio, Forthcoming Media, History, Interviews, Law, Live Events, Slavery, United States on 2014-05-08 00:10Z by Steven

Fathers of Conscience with Bernie D. Jones [Part 2]

Research at the National Archives & Beyond
Blogtalk Radio
2014-05-08, 21:00 EDT (2014-05-09, 02:00Z)

Bernice Bennett, Host

Bernie D. Jones, Associate Professor of Law
Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts

Join Author Bernie D. Jones for an engaging discussion about her book – Fathers of Conscience – Mixed-Race Inheritance in the Antebellum South.

Fathers of Conscience examines high-court decisions in the antebellum South that involved wills in which white male planters bequeathed property, freedom, or both to women of color and their mixed-race children. These men, whose wills were contested by their white relatives, had used trusts and estates law to give their slave partners and children official recognition and thus circumvent the law of slavery. The will contests that followed determined whether that elevated status would be approved or denied by courts of law.

For more information, click here.

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My Bondage and My Freedom

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2014-04-20 16:52Z by Steven

My Bondage and My Freedom

Yale University Press
2014 (originally published in 1855 by Miller, Orton & Mulligan)
432 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4
Paperback ISBN: 9780300190595

Frederick Douglass (1818–1895)

Introduction and Notes by David W. Blight

Born into slavery in 1818, Frederick Douglass escaped to freedom and became a passionate advocate for abolition and social change and the foremost spokesperson for the nation’s enslaved African American population in the years preceding the Civil War. My Bondage and My Freedom is Douglass’s masterful recounting of his remarkable life and a fiery condemnation of a political and social system that would reduce people to property and keep an entire race in chains.

This classic is revisited with a new introduction and annotations by celebrated Douglass scholar David W. Blight. Blight situates the book within the politics of the 1850s and illuminates how My Bondage represents Douglass as a mature, confident, powerful writer who crafted some of the most unforgettable metaphors of slavery and freedom—indeed of basic human universal aspirations for freedom—anywhere in the English language.

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