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“The editors step aside and let these remarkable men and women tell their own stories.”—Kirkus Reviews
"Readers will learn more about slavery in the American South from these autobiographical accounts than they could from any textbook."–Wall Street Journal
Posted October 8, 2012
“I had as well be killed running as die standing.” –Frederick Douglass
The slave narratives contained in this collection cause me to marvel that, at the end of slavery, no one was held accountable for crimes against humanity, that the champions of slavery are not now reviled with the same collective embarrassment directed at the Nazis of WWII. When a member of the Royal family dressed as a Nazi for Halloween it caused an international stir (and rightly so, that was disgraceful), yet people routinely dress in Confederate uniforms as part of Civil War and antebellum re-enactments, proclaiming the glory of the South, and we are asked to collectively pretend that they are not also glorifying the days of the atrocities of slavery. Where is the collective sense of deep shame?
The Long Walk to Freedom confronts the ways in which history is revised to downplay the horrors of slavery. It’s one thing to claim that one generation cannot be held accountable for the sins of a previous generation (fair enough), but it is quite another to routinely hear the glorification of that generation, to speak of the founding fathers as practically infallible, to long for the days of the “Old South” without acknowledging that the society and culture of slavery-era North America was deeply broken. It allowed for the torture and enslavement of an entire group of people whose stories simply cannot be “wished away” or excised from our history.
The first hand accounts of runaway slaves in this volume are particularly gripping and vivid, as they refuse to allow us the comfort of imagining that slavery was “not that bad,” or that most slaves were happy to serve their amiable masters like loyal members of the family. These stories are not the fiction of Mamie from Gone With the Wind. They are the reality of Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner, and many others who endured the inhumanity of slavery and never stopped longing for freedom.
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Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from Edelweiss (Above the Tree Line). I was asked to write an honest review, though not necessarily a favourable one. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.