Tracing the Thomas-Rapier family through three antebellum generations-from about 1808 to 1865-distinguished historians Franklin and Schweninger present an absorbing, impeccably researched account of "blacks who [have] only received passing notice-the free and quasi-free persons of mixed racial ancestry." Through this uncommon but not unique family, Franklin and Schweninger compress vast strata of slavery studies into an awesomely compact monograph, treating the reader to enough material (and drama) for a door-stopper; if the book were not so gemlike in size (it's 4 1/2" x 6 1/2"), style and substance, one could call it a page-turner. From Tennessee, Thomas-Rapiers travel widely (sometimes as slaves), and there is a panoramic quality to their immersion in American historical events: one attends a Jenny Lind concert; one seeks gold in California; one escapes to Buffalo and later settles in Canada; one is involved with the filibusters in Nicaragua. They become entrepreneurs and adventurers, gamblers and teachers, churchmen and a congressman. They talk politics; they worry about their children. The brutalization endemic in slave culture is ever present. The authors bring it all to life with startling clarity, using documents, letters and diaries with such judiciousness that the scholarly apparatus enlivens rather than deadens. A genealogy that keeps the family connections clear, maps that trace their peregrinations and the fully informative captions that accompany the illustrations supplement this remarkable text. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Coauthors of Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation, 1790-1860, Franklin (history, emeritus, Duke Univ.) and Schweninger (history, Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro) here present a compelling narrative of African American lives by tracing the history of the Thomas-Rapier family during the antebellum and Civil War eras. Starting with matriarch Sally Thomas, born a slave in 1787, the book enables readers to distinguish the various complex modes within which slavery operated. The resulting family history also traces the evolution of race relations in diverse locations from New Orleans to New York City, Canada, Minnesota, and the Caribbean. Using primary sources, including letters, diaries, legal records, reminiscences, and newspaper clippings, as well as the autobiography of Sally Thomas's son James, the authors have presented an account unique in its archival richness, further illuminated by images and maps. This is a distinguished contribution to American history and social sciences. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Edward G. McCormack, USM Gulf Coast Lib., Univ. of South Mississippi Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.