In Search of the Promised Land A Slave Family in the Old South

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2/23/2006
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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The matriarch of a remarkable African American family, Sally Thomas went from being a slave on a tobacco plantation to a "virtually free" slave who ran her own business and purchased one of her sons out of bondage. In Search of the Promised Land offers a vivid portrait of the extendedThomas-Rapier family and of slave life before the Civil War. Based on personal letters and an autobiography by one of Thomas' sons, this remarkable piece of detective work follows the family as they walk the boundary between slave and free, traveling across the country in search of a "promised land" where African Americans would be treated with respect.Their record of these journeys provides a vibrant picture of antebellum America, ranging from New Orleans to St. Louis to the Overland Trail. The authors weave a compelling narrative that illuminates the larger themes of slavery and freedom while examining the family's experiences with theCalifornia Gold Rush, Civil War battles, and steamboat adventures. The documents show how the Thomas-Rapier kin bore witness to the full gamut of slavery--from brutal punishment, runaways, and the breakup of slave families to miscegenation, insurrection panics, and slave patrols. The book alsoexposes the hidden lives of "virtually free" slaves, who maintained close relationships with whites, maneuvered within the system, and gained a large measure of autonomy.

Author Biography

John Hope Franklin is James B. Duke Professor of History Emeritus at Duke University Loren Schweninger is Elizabeth Rosenthal Excellence Professor and Director of the Race and Slavery Petitions Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Table of Contents

Illustrationsp. vii
Forewordp. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
The Descendants of Sally Thomasp. xvi
Prologuep. 1
Sally Thomas: A Life in Bondagep. 11
Virtual Freedomp. 14
Sally's Childrenp. 16
Sally's Son Jamesp. 23
Sally's Grandchildren: The Rapier Boysp. 34
From Slavery to Freedomp. 46
The Domestic Slave Tradep. 48
James Thomas: The Boyhood Yearsp. 54
Barbershopp. 63
Travels in the North and Westp. 75
Nashville's Black Communityp. 86
The Changing Attitudes of Whitesp. 92
A Fugitive Slave in the Northp. 95
The California Gold Rushp. 99
The Epidemic's Shadowp. 108
In Search of Canaanp. 117
Bound for Nicaraguap. 119
The Dilemma of John Rapier Sr.p. 126
The Minnesota Territoryp. 135
Canada West and James Thomas Rapierp. 142
The Midwest, Haiti, and Jamaicap. 163
Into "Bleeding Kansas"p. 167
Steamboating on the Mississippip. 169
John Rapier Jr. in the Caribbeanp. 180
This Mighty Scourge of Warp. 193
James Thomas in St. Louisp. 194
John Rapier Jr.'s Continuing Odysseyp. 203
The War's Endp. 219
Epiloguep. 229
Afterword: Through the Prism of a Black Familyp. 249
About the Sourcesp. 262
Petitions of Ephraim Foster and James Thomas to the Davidson County Court, 1851p. 268
John Rapier Sr. to Richard Rapier, April 8, 1845p. 273
John Rapier Jr. to James Thomas, July 28, 1861p. 276
Selected Bibliography on Slaveryp. 281
Indexp. 283
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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