My Favorite Books on American Slavery Part I
One of the most rewarding experiences of researching my American ancestry is learning about United States history. The United States, like all nations in this hemisphere, are NEW cultures. The nations of the Western Hemisphere have extensive documentation of the origin of our cultures beginning in 1492. This is a unique situation in human history! A situation unfortunately the millions of people in this hemisphere whether they be of an indigenous culture or of one of the new cultures (Latino or American for example) fail to appreciate. Never before in human history are is there such extensive evidence of how cultures form. We are blessed in this hemisphere, despite the legacy of racism and genocide, to be able to know our ancestries in such detail.
The following books I feel are essential to understanding the experiences of American slaves and descendants:
New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan by Jill Lepore: This book is based on true events and reads like a CSI television show. The way Lepore lays out the case of who was responsible for conspiring to burn down New York will keep you on the edge of your seat! Was the conspiracy true. Who was involved in the plot to burn the city: slaves, Catholics, freeman, or was it white hysteria?
The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 by Alan Taylor: After reading this book I understand why history books glaze over the War of 1812. It was a hot mess on the Atlantic front! Slaves were escaping and going with the British and American newspapers were telling the British about proposed American military action. This book also gave a glimpse into how slavery destroyed families, resulting in Black women and men having multiple fathers and mothers for children. I finally understood why this state of being is acceptable because it dates back to families being torn apart and people having to go on and start new lives. I also now understand why many cultures that evolved from slavery in this hemisphere love to be out at night. Nighttime was the slaves day time. They were able to hunt, meet with family and friends, and enjoy life before daybreak. By the way the term “Internal Enemy” was used to refer to American slaves. Again you can get a glimpse into white fear over slaves rebelling. This is one of my favorite books on American history.
Check out my TED Talk “Discovering My American Ethnicity and Identity”