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In search of the promised land : a slave family in the Old South
2006
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Focuses on the experiences of the Thomas-Rapier family to analyze race relations in the antebellum South, as well as to provide an in-depth look at the turbulent nature of American society in the era that followed. - (Baker & Taylor)

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 the life of slaves before the Civil War.
Based on family letters as well as an autobiography by one of Thomas' sons, this remarkable piece of detective work follows a singular group 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 vivid picture of antebellum America, stretching from New Orleans to St. Louis, from the Overland Trail to the California Gold Rush, and from Civil War battles to steamboat adventures. John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger weave a compelling
narrative that illuminates the larger themes of slavery and freedom. To a remarkable degree, this small family experienced the full gamut of slavery, witnessing everything from the breakup of slave families, brutal punishment, and runaways, to miscegenation, insurrection panics, and slave patrols.
They also illuminate the hidden lives of " virtually free" slaves, who maintained close relationships with whites, maneuvered within the system, and gained a large measure of autonomy.
The Thomas-Rapiers were keen observers of the human condition. Through the eyes of this exceptional family and the indomitable black woman who held them together, we witness aspects of human bondage otherwise hidden from view. - (Oxford University Press)

Author Biography


John Hope Franklin is Professor of History Emeritus at Duke University and the author of numerous books, including From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans and Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation (co-authored with Loren Schweninger). One of the most revered historians at work
today, he is past president of the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the Southern Historical Association. Loren Schweninger is Elizabeth Rosenthal Excellence Professor and Director of the Race and Slavery Petitions Project at the University of North
Carolina at Greensboro. He is the author of Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915.
- (Oxford University Press)

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Table of Contents

Illustrations vii
Foreword xi
Acknowledgments xiii
The Descendants of Sally Thomas xvi
PROLOGUE 1(10)
One SALLY THOMAS: A LIFE IN BONDAGE 11(35)
Virtual Freedom
14(2)
Sally's Children
16(7)
Sally's Son James
23(11)
Sally's Grandchildren: The Rapier Boys
34(12)
Two FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM 46(29)
The Domestic Slave Trade
48(6)
James Thomas: The Boyhood Years
54(9)
Barbershop
63(12)
Three TRAVELS IN THE NORTH AND WEST 75(42)
Nashville's Black Community
86(6)
The Changing Attitudes of Whites
92(3)
A Fugitive Slave in the North
95(4)
The California Gold Rush
99(9)
The Epidemic's Shadow
108(9)
Four IN SEARCH OF CANAAN 117(46)
Bound for Nicaragua
119(7)
The Dilemma of John Rapier Sr.
126(9)
The Minnesota Territory
135(7)
Canada West and James Thomas Rapier
142(21)
Five THE MIDWEST, HAITI, AND JAMAICA 163(30)
Into "Bleeding Kansas"
167(2)
Steamboating on the Mississippi
169(11)
John Rapier Jr. in the Caribbean
180(13)
Six THIS MIGHTY SCOURGE OF WAR 193(36)
James Thomas in St. Louis
194(9)
John Rapier Jr.'s Continuing Odyssey
203(16)
The War's End
219(10)
EPILOGUE 229(20)
AFTERWORD: THROUGH THE PRISM OF A BLACK FAMILY 249(13)
ABOUT THE SOURCES 262(6)
APPENDIX 1 PETITIONS OF EPHRAIM FOSTER AND JAMES THOMAS TO THE DAVIDSON COUNTY COURT, 1851 268(5)
APPENDIX 2 JOHN RAPIER SR. TO RICHARD RAPIER, APRIL 8, 1845 273(3)
APPENDIX 3 JOHN RAPIER JR. TO JAMES THOMAS, JULY 28, 1861 276(5)
Selected Bibliography on Slavery 281(2)
Index 283

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