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

Paperback | February 16, 2006

byJohn 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 extendedThomas-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 theCalifornia 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 alsoexposes the hidden lives of "virtually free" slaves, who maintained close relationships with whites, maneuvered within the system, and gained a large measure of autonomy.

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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 extendedThomas-Rapier family and of slave life before the Ci...

John Hope Franklin is at Duke University. Loren Schweninger is at University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 4.69 × 6.69 × 0.59 inPublished:February 16, 2006Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195160886

ISBN - 13:9780195160888

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Table of Contents

IllustrationsForewordAcknowledgmentsThe Descendants of Sally ThomasPrologue1. Sally Thomas: A Life in BondageVirtual FreedomSally's ChildrenSally's Son JamesSally's Grandchildren: The Rapier Boys2. From Slavery to FreedomThe Domestic Slave TradeJames Thomas: The Boyhood YearsBarbershop3. Travels in the North and WestNashville's Black CommunityThe Changing Attitudes of WhitesA Fugitive Slave in the NorthThe California Gold RushThe Epidemic's Shadow4. In Search of CanaanBound for NicaraguaThe Dilemma of John Rapier Sr.The Minnesota TerritoryCanada West and James Thomas Rapier5. The Midwest, Haiti, and JamaicaInto "Bleeding Kansas"Steamboating on the MississippiJohn Rapier Jr. in the Caribbean6. The Mighty Scourge of WarJames Thomas in St. LouisJohn Rapier Jr.'s Continuing OdysseyThe War's EndEpilogueAfterword: Through the Prism of a Black FamilyAbout the SourcesAppendix 1: Petitions of Ephraim Foster and James Thomas to the Davidson County Court, 1851Appendix 2: John Rapier Sr. to Richard Rapier, April 8, 1945Appendix 3: John Rapier Jr. to James Thomas, July 28, 1861Selected Bibliography on SlaveryIndex

Editorial Reviews

"The book's focus on the Thomas-Rapier family provides for one of the more vivid presentations of antebellum race relations I have seen. So much of scholarship on slave life tends to lose sight of individuals who had to confront life in a slave society. This book brings individuals back intothe picture."--Dickson D. Bruce, University of Irvine California