The Power to Die: Slavery and Suicide in British North America
The history of slavery in early America is a history of suicide. On ships crossing the Atlantic, enslaved men and women refused to eat or leaped into the ocean. They strangled or hanged themselves. They tore open their own throats. In America, they jumped into rivers or out of windows, or even ran into burning buildings. Faced with the reality of enslavement, countless Africans chose death instead.
In The Power to Die, Terri L. Snyder excavates the history of slave suicide, returning it to its central place in early American history. How did people—traders, plantation owners, and, most importantly, enslaved men and women themselves—view and understand these deaths, and how did they affect understandings of the institution of slavery then and now? Snyder draws on ships’ logs, surgeons' journals, judicial and legislative records, newspaper accounts, abolitionist propaganda and slave narratives, and many other sources to build a grim picture of slavery’s toll and detail the ways in which suicide exposed the contradictions of slavery, serving as a powerful indictment that resonated throughout the Anglo-Atlantic world and continues to speak to historians today.
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Prologue Annas Leap
Introduction The Problem of Suicide in North American Slavery
One Suicide and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
Two Suicide and Seasoning in British American Plantations
Three Slave Suicide in the Context of Colonial North America
Four The Power to Die or the Power of the State? The Legalities of Suicide in Slavery
Five The Paradoxes of Suicide and Slavery in Print
Six The Meaning of Suicide in Antislavery Politics
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Abolitionism abolitionist accounts of slave acts of self-destruction acts of suicide African American Anglo-American Anna’s antebellum Atlantic Slave Trade Atlantic World Barbot Black British America British North America Byrd caesar’s Cambridge captive Africans century Chapel Hill cide Colonial cultural depictions drowned Dying Negro early America early modern eighteenth eighteenth-century England enslaved woman european ex-slaves felo de se felony flying Africans gender hanged HCSP Henry Laurens History of Suicide honor Igbo instance interview John killed labor london MacDonald and Murphy masters Middle Passage natural rights North Carolina North Carolina press numbers Olaudah Equiano Oroonoko outlawed oxford university press petition plantation planters political punishment reflected resistance self-inflicted death Sessarakoo slave narratives slave owners slave self-destruction slave ships slave societies slave suicide slave trade Sleepless Souls South story stubbornness suicide by enslaved suicide in slavery themes tion Tony university of North unnamed William William Byrd II women York