During the Revolutionary War, thousands of black slaves served with, and sought refuge from, the British forces in hope of attaining freedom-among them escapees from the plantations of George Washington and Patrick Henry. Australian historian Pybus follows the path some of these former slaves took to London and then "into two bizarre colonial experiments that began in 1787: the Province of Freedom in Sierra Leone on the west coast of Africa, and the penal settlement of Botany Bay on the east coast of Australia." Readers familiar with the American perspective (the escape North, the Liberian settlement) will experience a kaleidoscopic shift through the lens of British history. Pybus's prose is weighted by her "diligent excavation in vast Revolutionary-era archival materials, both American and British." But the ships' logs, muster lists and parish records as well as the newspapers, memoirs and journals she's ploughed through in her successful attempt "to recover the lives of individuals" constitute a significant contribution to contemporary studies of the Black Atlantic. Dauntingly full of minutiae, Pybus's text is made more accessible to the ordinary reader through a biographical appendix that provides brief sketches of the "significant black refugees." (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
This gripping and enlightening book traces the steps of 32 fugitive slaves who fled their American colonial masters at the onset of the American Revolution and sought refuge from the British. Pybus (history, Univ. of Tasmania; The Woman Who Walked to Russia) explains in vivid and eloquent prose how these fugitives struggled for civil and human rights before, during, and after their escapes. Upon arriving in England, some ex-slaves remained in London and strove for a better life for themselves and their families there. Some were unfairly tried for petty crimes and sentenced to banishment to the experimental penal colony established in Australia at Botany Bay, where they faced conditions reminiscent of their slavery in America. Others were exiled to Freetown in West Africa, where they once again struggled for independence. Unfortunately, there are occasional gaps in these stories, but the periodic lack of detail is justifiable owing to the paucity of reliable primary sources available. This is still an impressive and extremely important work. Readers will obtain a much greater understanding of an aspect of the American Revolution that finally gets some much-deserved scholarship. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina, Thomas Cooper Lib., Columbia Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Slaves flee the Founding Fathers in search of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When members of the Continental Congress drafted the Declaration of Independence, they failed to mention that it applied only to white, land-owning men. They also failed to realize the effect their patriotic rhetoric would have on a far more egregiously oppressed people: their own slaves. Australian historian Pybus (The Woman Who Walked to Russia, 2003, etc.) discusses how the ideals of the Revolution filled the hearts and minds of slaves throughout the country and prompted them to embark on their own quest for liberty. Ironically, it was the British who gave them their first, best opportunity by promising to emancipate slaves who helped subdue the rebellious Americans. The British defeat, however, muddied the road to freedom. Americans sought to reclaim their "chattel," but the Brits salvaged their wounded pride by claiming the moral high ground and liberating as many slaves as possible. Pybus explores the arduous, twisting route these freed people took by focusing on a small group of runaways that included Harry, one of George Washington's slaves. After the group found Nova Scotia and London inhospitable, they sought liberty within the confines of two experimental (and not particularly successful) colonies set up by the British in Sierra Leone and New South Wales. Throughout their exodus, religion sustained the runaways as they developed a fusion of Christian gospel and spirited, spontaneous exclamations of faith that recalled ancient African rituals. The narrative flow suffers occasionally from too intense a focus on the intimate details of the slaves' daily lives to the detriment of theiroverarching quest for liberty and the role the American Revolution played in it. Nevertheless, Pybus injects much-needed humanity into an impersonal cache of historical documents by meticulously recounting the struggles and ultimate fate of individuals like Harry. Impeccable research and occasionally brilliant insight make this journey well worth the trip.
From the Publisher
"Through her meticulous research and an engaging narrative, Pybus provides a superb collective biography of those slaves during the American Revolution who dared to pursue their dreams of freedom. This book would be an appropriate addition to either African-American History or Revolutionary War collections."—Clark E. Heath (AASL) Southfield Lathrup High School, Lathrup Village, MI
"This book shines because of Ms. Cassandra Pybus’s stellar research. Her description of the upheaval surrounding the American Revolution is sound . . . Cassandra Pybus’s book adds much needed historical documentation to a group of people who have largely been forgotten by history. Every school and public library should own a copy of this book."—Christina Maria Beaird (PLA), Plainfield Public Library District, Plainfield, IL
"An impressive and extremely important work."
-Library Journal, starred review
"A significant contribution to contemporary studies of the Black Atlantic."
"What a gripping narrative . . . [and] an awesome achievement."Alfred F. Young, author of The Shoemaker and the Tea Party