Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America

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Harvard University Press, Jul 1, 2009 - History - 512 pages
20 Reviews
Today most Americans, black and white, identify slavery with cotton, the deep South, and the African-American church. But at the beginning of the nineteenth century, after almost two hundred years of African-American life in mainland North America, few slaves grew cotton, lived in the deep South, or embraced Christianity. Many Thousands Gone traces the evolution of black society from the first arrivals in the early seventeenth century through the Revolution. In telling their story, Ira Berlin, a leading historian of southern and African-American life, reintegrates slaves into the history of the American working class and into the tapestry of our nation. Laboring as field hands on tobacco and rice plantations, as skilled artisans in port cities, or soldiers along the frontier, generation after generation of African Americans struggled to create a world of their own in circumstances not of their own making. In a panoramic view that stretches from the North to the Chesapeake Bay and Carolina lowcountry to the Mississippi Valley, Many Thousands Gone reveals the diverse forms that slavery and freedom assumed before cotton was king. We witness the transformation that occurred as the first generations of creole slaves--who worked alongside their owners, free blacks, and indentured whites--gave way to the plantation generations, whose back-breaking labor was the sole engine of their society and whose physical and linguistic isolation sustained African traditions on American soil. As the nature of the slaves' labor changed with place and time, so did the relationship between slave and master, and between slave and society. In this fresh and vivid interpretation, Berlin demonstrates that the meaning of slavery and of race itself was continually renegotiated and redefined, as the nation lurched toward political and economic independence and grappled with the Enlightenment ideals that had inspired its birth.
 

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Review: Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America

User Review  - Beth - Goodreads

I came across this book while visiting the slavery museum in Charleston. It was fascinating and excruciatingly well-researched. I think I had always mistakenly thought of slavery as one universal ... Read full review

Review: Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America

User Review  - Charlotte - Goodreads

A very educational read chosen by Professor Jennison Watson, at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro! Read full review

Contents

Making Slavery Making Race
1
SOCIETIES WITH SLAVES The Charter Generations
15
Emergence of Atlantic Creoles in the Chesapeake
29
Expansion of Creole Society in the North
47
Divergent Paths in the Lowcountry
64
Devolution in the Lower Mississippi Valley
77
SLAVE SOCIETIES The Plantation Generations
93
The Tobacco Revolution in the Chesapeake
109
The Slow Death of Slavery in the North
228
The Union of AfricanAmerican Society in the Upper South
256
Fragmentation in the Lower South
290
Slavery and Freedom in the Lower Mississippi Valley
325
Making Race Making Slavery
358
Tables
369
Abbreviations
376
Notes
379

The Rice Revolution in the Lowcountry
142
Growth and the Transformation of Black Life in the North
177
Stagnation and Transformation in the Lower Mississippi Valley
195
SLAVE AND FREE The Revolutionary Generations
217
Acknowledgments
486
Index
490
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Ira Berlin is Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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