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A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation

by David W. Blight

Published by Harcourt

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Slave narratives are extremely rare. Of the one hundred or so of these testimonies that survive, a mere handful are first-person accounts by slaves who ran away and freed themselves. Now two newly uncovered narratives, and the biographies of the men who wrote them, join that exclusive group with the publication of A Slave No More, a major new addition to the canon of American history.

Wallace Turnage was a teenage field hand on an Alabama plantation, John Washington an urban slave in Virginia. They never met. But both men saw opportunity in the chaos of the Civil War, both escaped North, and both left us remarkable accounts of their flights to freedom. Handed down through family and friends -- Turnage's daughter carefully preserved her father's handwritten manuscript during a lifetime of passing for white -- these narratives tell gripping stories of escape.

But this book marks more than just the discovery of two new emancipation stories. It is also the discovery of two lives. Working from an unusual abundance of genealogical material, historian David W. Blight has reconstructed Turnage's and Washington's childhoods as sons of white slaveholders, their service as cooks and camp hands during the Civil War, and their climb to black working-class stability in the North, where they reunited their families.

In the lives and narratives of Turnage and Washington, we find a revelatory new answer to the question of how four million people moved from slavery to freedom. In A Slave No More, the untold stories of two ordinary men take their place at the heart of the American experience.


pub date: 2007-11-05 | hardcover | 9780151012329