Cover image for Runaway slaves : rebels on the plantation
Runaway slaves : rebels on the plantation
Franklin, John Hope, 1915-2009.
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xviii, 455 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Dissidents in the conscript army -- On the run -- Whither thou goest -- A matter of some urgency -- Where to go? -- Thy seek a city -- The hunt -- Backward into bondage -- Profile of a runaway -- Managing human property -- Counting the cost.
Reading Level:
1410 Lexile.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E447 .F7 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E447 .F7 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E447 .F7 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ
E447 .F7 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E447 .F7 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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From John Hope Franklin, America's foremost African American historian, comes this groundbreaking analysis of slave resistance and escape. A sweeping panorama of plantation life before the Civil War, this book reveals that slaves frequently rebelled against their masters and ran away fromtheir plantations whenever they could. For generations, important aspects about slave life on the plantations of the American South have remained shrouded. Historians thought, for instance, that slaves were generally pliant and resigned to their roles as human chattel, and that racial violence on the plantation was an aberration. Inthis precedent setting book, John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger demonstrate that, contrary to popular belief, significant numbers of slaves did in fact frequently rebel against their masters and struggled to attain their freedom. By surveying a wealth of documents, such as planters' records,petitions to county courts and state legislatures, and local newspapers, this book shows how slaves resisted, when, where, and how they escaped, where they fled to, how long they remained in hiding, and how they survived away from the plantation. Of equal importance, it examines the reactions ofthe white slaveholding class, revealing how they marshaled considerable effort to prevent runaways, meted out severe punishments, and established patrols to hunt down escaped slaves. Reflecting a lifetime of thought by our leading authority in African American history, this book provides the key to truly understanding the relationship between slaveholders and the runaways who challenged the system--illuminating as never before the true nature of the South's "most peculiarinstitution."

Author Notes

The son of an attorney who practiced before the U.S. Supreme Court, John Hope Franklin was born in Rentiesville, Oklahoma on January 2, 1915. He received a B. A. from Fisk University in 1935 and a master's degree in 1936 and a Ph.D. in 1941 from Harvard University. During his career in education, he taught at a numerous institutions including Brooklyn College, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and Duke University. He also had teaching stints in Australia, China, and Zimbabwe.

He has written numerous scholarly works including The Militant South, 1800-1861 (1956); Reconstruction After the Civil War (1961); The Emancipation Proclamation (1963); and The Color Line: Legacy for the 21st Century (1993). His comprehensive history From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans (1947) is generally acknowledged to be the basic survey of African American history. He received numerous awards during his lifetime including the Medal of Freedom in 1995 and the John W. Kluge Prize for the Study of Humanities in 2006.

He worked with Thurgood Marshall's team of lawyers in their effort to end segregation in the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education and participated in the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was president of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the Southern Historical Association, and the American Studies Association. He was also a founding member of the Black Academy of Arts and served on the U.S. Commission for UNESCO and the Committee on International Exchange of Scholars. He died of congestive heart failure on March 25, 2009 at the age of 94.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Franklin and Schweninger examine the myriad ways that slaves rebelled, from acts of sullenness and sabotage to violent rebellion. Aside from the famous Nat Turner revolt, the authors detail several smaller insurrections led by bands of runaway slaves. Using documentation from broadsheets to diaries, the authors provide incredible details of who the runaways were, their motivations and destinations, and how their efforts failed or succeeded. Flight was triggered by such acts as brutality, threat of family breakups when an owner died or was pursued by creditors, and reactions to owners cheating hired-out slaves of their wages. The escapes ranged from flights to nearby woods for months or years to the development of runaway colonies or else journeys out of slave territory. The authors detail assistance provided by some sympathetic whites and Indians, and the Underground Railroad, but most assistance came from informal networks of other slaves that accommodated the resourcefulness and determination of runaways. Franklin and Schweninger provide very personal accounts, giving names and personalities to an aspect of U.S. slavery that is seldom portrayed and refuting the mythology of the contented slave. --Vanessa Bush

Library Journal Review

Franklin (history, emeritus, Duke Univ.) and Schweninger (history, Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro) have written an exhaustive account of slaves who escaped during the antebellum period. Organized topically, this scrupulously detailed work is based primarily on advertisements for runaways and records of court cases involving escaped slaves. While the book is longer on description than analysis, the authors do agree on one theme: that the substantial number of runaways makes it clear that slaves were hardly content with their condition. Because of its careful, sometimes overwhelming detail, this work can serve as both a reference book and a monograph.ÄA.O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

One hesitates to use the word definitive for a new book, but Runaway Slaves merits that adjective. Franklin and Schweninger have produced a major contribution that not only enhances understanding of slavery, especially the question of slave resistance, but also deepens understanding of the antebellum South generally. Some of their findings confirm work of other historians, e.g., that relatively few runaways went north on the Underground Railroad, that they tended to be young, that most remained near their homes and eventually returned. But much here is new: how runaways often negotiated with masters; how many headed south in search of families, the anonymity of New Orleans, or the safe haven of Mexico; how some "runaways" were simply old or infirm and abandoned by masters. The picture that emerges confirms the inhumanity of slavery but also raises questions, given the extent of such resistance, of its profitability. Written engagingly and based on massive research, especially in newspaper advertisements and legislative petitions, this book belongs in every college library as well as the personal collection of anyone who admires the historical art at its best. All levels. T. D. Hamm; Earlham College

Table of Contents

1 Dissidents in the Conscript Army
Day to Day Resistance
Hired Slave Dissatisfaction
Open Defiance
Slaves and Overseers
The Pride of Dissidence
2 On the Run
Death of the Master
The Plantation Household
Assisted by Whites
Dissatisfaction of Hired Slaves
Merely To Be Free
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
3 Whither Thou Goest
Breakup of Families
Loved Ones
Husbands and Wives
Mothers and Children
Families and Relatives
Lost Forever
4 A Matter of Some Urgency
Assault and Murder
Violence in Defense of Freedom
Collective Resistance
Clandestine Slave Economy
5 Where To Go?
Lying Out
To Strike a Bargain
Distant Points
Farther South and Elsewhere
The Promised Land
In Which Direction?
6 They Seek a City
Temporary Sojourners
Remaining at Large
Runaways as Hired Slaves
Hired Slaves as Runaways
Self-hired Slaves as Runaways
The Urban Interlude
The Fate of Jane
7 The Hunt
Laws and Patrols
Slave Catchers
Negro Dogs
Masters in Pursuit
Advertisements and Rewards
8 Backward into Bondage
Taken up as Runaways
Free Black Runaways
Sold as Slaves
Joseph Antoine's Sorrow
Free Black Owners of Runaways
Runaway Children in Maryland
9 Profile of a Runaway
Age and Gender
Color and Physical Characteristics
Personality Traits and Countenance
How and When Slaves Absconded
African-born Runaways
10 Managing Human Property
Managers and Overseers
What Should Masters Do?
Self-perceptions and Managing Slaves
Plantation Mistresses and Slave Governance
Discarding the Aged and Infirm
Anxiety, Trouble, Expense
11 Counting the Cost
Dishonor Among Masters
The Conspiracy Theory
Estimating Frequencies and Owners' Costs
The Impact of Runaways on the Peculiar Institution
A Note on Primary Sources
Appendix 1 Newspaper Advertisements
Tennessee Notice for a Negro man named Sam
Tennessee Notice for a Negro man named Jim
Alabama Notice for Anthony, Billy, and Bartlett
South Carolina Notice for Ceely and Frances or Fanny
Louisiana Notice for Molly
Appendix 2 Petitions to State Legislatures and County Courts
Petition to the Virginia General Assembly
Petition to the South Carolina Senate
Petition to the South Carolina Senate
Petition to the North Carolina General Assembly
Petition to the Orleans Parish District Court
Petition to the Baltimore County Orphans Court
Petition to the Frederick County, Maryland, Court
Petition to the Tennessee General Assembly
Appendix 3 Location and Possible Destinations of Runaways Cited in the Nashville Whig, 1812-1816
Appendix 4 Location and Possible Destinations of Runaways Cited in the Tennessee Republican Banner (Nashville), 1840-1842
Appendix 5 Damages Sought by Henry Crane for Runaway Lewis, 1851
Appendix 6 Correspondence
Letter of Runaway Joseph Taper to white acquaintance Joseph Long, 11 November 1840
Letter of Cotton Factory Owner Abram Riddick to Slaveowner William Glover, 22 July 1848
Appendix 7 Runaway Slave Database: Early Period 1790-1816
Late Period 1838-1860