David W. Blight - A Slave No More

Based on the title and subtitle of this book I was expecting slave narratives, maybe with a brief introduction. The slave narratives are in there, and they are even more fascinating to read than I was expecting, but they don't make up the bulk of the book. The first-hand accounts make up less than 100 of the 300+ pages of the book.

Blight's introduction and notes are well written and informative, but if they could have been condensed from 200+ pages to under 50 pages and left the majority of the book to the stories from the former slaves' pens I would have been happier.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. However, you may want to skim Blight's writing and quickly get to the good stuff. If you get bored with the 160+ page introduction, don't give up. Skip to page 165. You'll have a hard time putting the book down from there on out.

from the publisher:
Slave narratives, some of the most powerful records of our past, are extremely rare, with only fifty-five post–Civil War narratives surviving. A mere handful are first-person accounts by slaves who ran away and freed themselves. Now two newly uncovered narratives, and the biographies of the men who wrote them, join that exclusive group with the publication of A Slave No More, a major new addition to the canon of American history. Handed down through family and friends, these narratives tell gripping stories of escape: Through a combination of intelligence, daring, and sheer luck, the men reached the protection of the occupying Union troops. David W. Blight magnifies the drama and significance by prefacing the narratives with each man’s life history. Using a wealth of genealogical information, Blight has reconstructed their childhoods as sons of white slaveholders, their service as cooks and camp hands during the Civil War, and their climb to black working-class stability in the north, where they reunited their families.

In the stories of Turnage and Washington, we find history at its most intimate, portals that offer a rich new answer to the question of how four million people moved from slavery to freedom. In A Slave No More, the untold stories of two ordinary men take their place at the heart of the American experience.