Tag: history of slavery

BOOKS: New Biography “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom” Focuses on the Man and his Voice

by Jennifer Szalai via nytimes.com

Time has a way of sanding off the rough edges of historical memory, turning even the most convulsive, contentious lives into opportunities for national triumphalism and self-congratulation. With “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom,” the historian David W. Blight wants to enrich our understanding of an American in full who, for more than half his life, wasn’t even legally recognized as such. Now that Douglass is enshrined on his pedestal, shorn of what made him “thoroughly and beautifully human,” Blight notes how the “old fugitive slave” has been “adopted by all elements in the political spectrum,” eager to claim him as their own.

Plenty has been written about Douglass in the 200 years since he was born, not least by Douglass himself, who recounted his life story in three autobiographies — a paper trail of memoirs that Blight deems “both a pleasure and peril” for the biographer. In tracing an arc from bondage to freedom, Douglass cast himself as a “self-made hero,” Blight writes, while leaving “a great deal unsaid.” A number of other books have filled in the gaps — exploring Douglass’s relationships with the women in his life, for instance, as well as his fraught and transformative friendship with Abraham Lincoln — but Blight’s is the first major biography of Douglass in nearly three decades, making ample use of materials in the private collection of a retired doctor named Walter O. Evans to illuminate Douglass’s later years, after the Civil War.

Blight, who has edited and annotated volumes of Douglass’s autobiographies, undertakes this project with the requisite authority and gravity. The result is comprehensive, scholarly, sober; Blight is careful to tell us what cannot be known, including the persistent mystery of Douglass’s father (who was most likely white, and may have been Frederick’s mother’s owner). On the stuff that’s known, Blight is an attentive if sometimes fastidious guide, poring over speeches and texts with the critical equivalent of a magnifying glass. Douglass, Blight says, was a “man of words,” making this book “the biography of a voice.”

That voice took shape and sharpened over time, but it would return again and again to the banks of the Tuckahoe River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born in 1818. Twenty years a slave, then almost nine years a fugitive; as Douglass himself described it in his autobiographies (having adopted his new surname from a Sir Walter Scott poem), the first decades of his life were both thrilling and terrifying. Until his abolitionist allies helped to purchase his freedom in 1846, everything he did felt provisional; he lived with the incessant fear of someone who could be plunged back into captivity at any moment.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/17/books/review-frederick-douglass-prophet-of-freedom-david-blight.html

CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice Debuts Online Archive on Slavery in New York

(image from “Slavery In New York” ed. by Ira Berlin and Leslie M. Harris via amazon.com)

via jbhe.com

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice, part of the City University of New York, has announced the establishment of the New York Slavery Records Index, an online archive of slavery records from 1525 until the end of the Civil War.

The new online archive includes more than 35,000 records. The index includes census records, slave trade transactions, cemetery records, birth certifications, manumissions, ship inventories, newspaper accounts, private narratives, legal documents and many other sources. Include are 1,400 birth certificates of slaves and more than 30,000 records that list the names of slave owners in New York. Also included are more than 500 advertisements seeking the capture and return of enslaved New Yorkers.

Karol V. Mason, President of John Jay College, said that “this vast, public database will serve as an important research tool that will support information-based scholarship on slavery in New York and across the nation. The launch of this index marks a significant contribution to understanding and remembering the country’s history of slavery and advances the college’s mission of educating for justice.”

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2018/02/john-jay-college-of-criminal-justice-debuts-an-online-archive-on-slavery-in-new-york/

Other resources on Slavery in New York:

New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan

A History of Negro Slavery in New York

New York and Slavery: Time To Teach The Truth

John Hope Franklin Honored by Duke University for Pioneering Field of African-American History

John-Hope-Franklin1
Historian John Hope Franklin (Photo via Harvard Public Affairs and Communications) 

DURHAM, N.C. — John Hope Franklin, a scholar who helped create the field of African-American history, was instrumental both in documenting America’s long and long-ignored legacy of slavery and racism and in reaffirming the continuing importance of that history, Harvard President Drew Faust said during an event Thursday evening commemorating his life and scholarship.

“John Hope Franklin wrote history — discovering neglected and forgotten dimensions of the past, mining archives with creativity and care, building in the course of his career a changed narrative of the American experience and the meaning of race within it,” she said. “But John Hope also meditated about history and its place in the world, on its role as action as well as description, on history itself as causal agent, and on the writing of history as mission as well as profession.”

Franklin was born in 1915 and raised in segregated Oklahoma. Graduating from Fisk University in 1935, he earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1941. Over the course of his career, he held faculty posts at a number of institutions, including Howard University and the University of Chicago, before being appointed in 1983 the James B. Duke Professor of History at Duke University. “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans,” published in 1947, is still considered a definitive account of the black experience in America. A lecture series later published as a book, “Racial Equality in America,” became another of his most iconic works. Franklin died in 2009.

An American historian herself, Faust gave the keynote address in the last of a yearlong series of events as part of the John Hope Franklin Centenary, sponsored by Duke University to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth.

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