In Search of the Promised Land: A Slave Family in the Old South

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Oxford University Press, Sep 1, 2005 - History - 304 pages
The matriarch of a remarkable African American family, Sally Thomas went from being a slave on a tobacco plantation to a "virtually free" slave who ran her own business and purchased one of her sons out of bondage. In Search of the Promised Land offers a vivid portrait of the extended Thomas-Rapier family and of slave life before the Civil War. Based on personal letters and an autobiography by one of Thomas' sons, this remarkable piece of detective work follows the family as they walk the boundary between slave and free, traveling across the country in search of a "promised land" where African Americans would be treated with respect. Their record of these journeys provides a vibrant picture of antebellum America, ranging from New Orleans to St. Louis to the Overland Trail. The authors weave a compelling narrative that illuminates the larger themes of slavery and freedom while examining the family's experiences with the California Gold Rush, Civil War battles, and steamboat adventures. The documents show how the Thomas-Rapier kin bore witness to the full gamut of slavery--from brutal punishment, runaways, and the breakup of slave families to miscegenation, insurrection panics, and slave patrols. The book also exposes the hidden lives of "virtually free" slaves, who maintained close relationships with whites, maneuvered within the system, and gained a large measure of autonomy.
 

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In search of the promised land: a slave family in the Old South

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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 ... Read full review

Contents

PROLOGUE
1
SALLY THOMAS A LIFE IN BONDAGE
11
FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM
46
TRAVELS IN THE NORTH AND WEST
75
IN SEARCH OF CANAAN
117
THE MIDWEST HAITI AND JAMAICA
163
THIS MIGHTY SCOURGE OF WAR
193
EPILOGUE
229
THROUGH THE PRISM OF A BLACK FAMILY
249
ABOUT THE SOURCES
262
APPENDIX 1 PETITIONS OF EPHRAIM FOSTER AND JAMES THOMAS TO THE DAVIDSON COUNTY COURT
268
APPENDIX 2 JOHN RAPIER SR TO RICHARD RAPIER APRIL 8 1845
273
APPENDIX 3 JOHN RAPIER JR TO JAMES THOMAS JULY 28 1861
276
Selected Bibliography on Slavery
281
Index
283
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