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Slavery and the Making of America

Slavery and the Making of America

by James Oliver Horton, Lois E. Horton

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The history of slavery is central to understanding the history of the United States. Slavery and the Making of America offers a richly illustrated, vividly written history that illuminates the human side of this inhumane institution, presenting it largely through stories of the slaves themselves. Readers will discover a wide ranging and sharply nuanced look


The history of slavery is central to understanding the history of the United States. Slavery and the Making of America offers a richly illustrated, vividly written history that illuminates the human side of this inhumane institution, presenting it largely through stories of the slaves themselves. Readers will discover a wide ranging and sharply nuanced look at American slavery, from the first Africans brought to British colonies in the early seventeenth century to the end of Reconstruction. The authors document the horrors of slavery, particularly in the deep South, and describe the slaves' valiant struggles to free themselves from bondage. There are dramatic tales of escape by slaves such as William and Ellen Craft and Dred Scott's doomed attempt to win his freedom through the Supreme Court. We see how slavery engendered violence in our nation, from bloody confrontations that broke out in American cities over fugitive slaves, to the cataclysm of the Civil War. The book is also filled with stories of remarkable African Americans like Sergeant William H. Carney, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery at the crucial assault on Fort Wagner during the Civil War, and Benjamin "Pap" Singleton, a former slave who led freed African Americans to a new life on the American frontier. Filled with absorbing and inspirational accounts highlighted by more than one hundred pictures and illustrations, Slavery and the Making of America is a gripping account of the struggles of African Americans against the iniquity of slavery.

Editorial Reviews

James T. Campbell
The Hortons have long been among the most distinguished scholars working on the history of slavery, and their newest book exhibits their signature qualities: wide research, interpretive balance and crisp, accessible prose and a wealth of visual material. If the book contains few revelations for specialists, it is apt to be eye-opening for the popular audiences.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In this compact and lucid account of how "[t]he history of slavery is central to the history of the United States," the Hortons (Hard Road to Freedom, etc.) demonstrate the vital role that blacks played in landmarks of the American record (colonial settlement, the Revolution, westward expansion, the Civil War, Reconstruction). Africans and African-Americans appear not just as "passive laborers" but as shapers of American culture, from colonial politics to Southern cuisine. The authors reveal the myriad experiences of free and enslaved blacks and devote particular attention to the lives of women, both white and black. The oft-told tale is made fresh through up-to-date slavery scholarship, the extensive use of slave narratives and archival photos and, especially, a focus on individual experience. The well-known players (Attucks, Vesey, Tubman, Douglass) appear, but so do the more anonymous ones-the planter's wife and the slave driver share space with the abolitionist and the Confederate soldier, and all are skillfully etched. As the Hortons chronicle lives from freedom in Africa to slavery in America and beyond, they tell an integral American story, a tale not of juxtaposition but of edgy oneness. (Oct.) Forecast: A dense but highly readable volume, this may see solid sales in 2005, when the PBS special of the same name airs in February. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Bailey (history, Spelman) spent several years studying local communities in an area of Ghana known as the Old Slave Coast, hoping to bring to light the African perspective on the Atlantic slave trade. Finding the oral record essentially mute, she speculates that the shame associated with slavery has led to this silence. She notes that domestic slavery in Africa, which predated the Atlantic slave trade, played a role similar to prisons in Western countries so that it was already taboo-a fact compounded by the active role African nations took in trading with Europeans. The book describes and analyzes the few stories that have been remembered and looks at the social, political, and spiritual ramifications of the slave trade for the African coast. She further attempts to validate this oral history by comparing it with known historical records. Though well written and intriguing, this is a speculative and highly personal account (Bailey's Jamaican ancestors were most likely slaves). Recommended for academic and larger public libraries. How could a country founded on the principles of freedom, independence, and equality for all condone slavery? Horton's very readable account examines this contradiction largely from the perspective of the enslaved. Relying heavily on slave narratives and primary documents from the era, Horton (history, George Washington Univ.) brings to life the horror of American slavery. He skillfully weaves the tales of individual slaves into the narrative, which looks at the institution from its beginnings in 1619 through its end in the 19th century. The book shows the heroic efforts made by generations of slaves to free themselves using whatever tools they had, from persuasion to violence, and also examines the often misguided efforts made by whites to help slaves (e.g., 19th-century colonization efforts). He challenges many widely held beliefs about slavery (e.g., that it was only a Southern institution) and shows how it evolved from a few slaves in Virginia to a labor system integral to the development of the United States. Accompanying a four-part PBS documentary series narrated by Morgan Freeman, this book is highly recommended for all libraries.-Robert Flatley, Kutztown Univ., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This outstanding resource humanizes the tragedy of slavery and shows its legacy as it continues to shape American culture today. Through both paraphrased and quoted primary sources, the Hortons discuss the issues, relate events, and tell the stories of named slaves from the early 1700s to the end of Reconstruction. By bringing individuals to life, the inhumanity is made more real and vivid. Readers meet 13-year-old Anta Njaay, who was plucked from Africa in 1806, and the Ball family, who were slaves in South Carolina, as well as people such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth. Much research has gone into this work, but the writing is accessible. Black-and-white photographs and period reproductions are liberally sprinkled throughout. Although they are a bit dark due to age, they make the text more interesting and lifelike.-Claudia Moore, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"This is an excellent addition to any Civil War or American history library."--Richard Sauers, The Civil War News

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Oxford University Press
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Meet the Author

James Oliver Horton is the Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies & History at George Washington University, and Historian Emeritus at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Lois E. Horton is a Professor of History at George Mason University. They are the authors of such classic studies as Black Bostonians: Family Life and Community Struggle in the Antebellum North, In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860, and Hard Road to Freedom: The Story of African America.

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