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

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

by John Hope Franklin, Loren Schweninger

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780190207601
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 09/01/2005
Series: New Narratives in American History
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 749,298
File size: 7 MB

Table of Contents

The Descendants of Sally Thomas
1. Sally Thomas: A Life in Bondage
Virtual Freedom
Sally's Children
Sally's Son James
Sally's Grandchildren: The Rapier Boys
2. From Slavery to Freedom
The Domestic Slave Trade
James Thomas: The Boyhood Years
3. Travels in the North and West
Nashville's Black Community
The Changing Attitudes of Whites
A Fugitive Slave in the North
The California Gold Rush
The Epidemic's Shadow
4. In Search of Canaan
Bound for Nicaragua
The Dilemma of John Rapier Sr.
The Minnesota Territory
Canada West and James Thomas Rapier
5. The Midwest, Haiti, and Jamaica
Into "Bleeding Kansas"
Steamboating on the Mississippi
John Rapier Jr. in the Caribbean
6. The Mighty Scourge of War
James Thomas in St. Louis
John Rapier Jr.'s Continuing Odyssey
The War's End
Afterword: Through the Prism of a Black Family
About the Sources
Appendix 1: Petitions of Ephraim Foster and James Thomas to the Davidson County Court, 1851
Appendix 2: John Rapier Sr. to Richard Rapier, April 8, 1945
Appendix 3: John Rapier Jr. to James Thomas, July 28, 1861
Selected Bibliography on Slavery

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