Two Short Reviews of Books About Slavery

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Today I planned to share a review of the book Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball. When I looked at the review, I realized it was very short, so I looked for another review that could go with it. I found I’d also read and reviewed My Folks Don’t Want Me to Talk about Slavery: Twenty-one Oral Histories of Former North Carolina Slaves. Not only are both books histories of enslaved people in the United States, both are also about slavery in the Carolinas. The first book is about a family in South Carolina. The second book contains the oral histories of people who were enslaved in North Carolina.

At its most basic level, Slaves in the Family is the true story of a man (the author, Edward Ball) who is the descendant of a slave-owning family from the Southern United States. Ball grew curious about the people his family once owned and went on a quest to learn about those enslaved people and their descendants. His quest took him across the U.S., as well as to Sierra Leon, the point in Africa where the forced labor of many enslaved people began.

On a broader level, this book is a history of slave trading and slavery in the United States, particularly in South Carolina, where a vast number of enslaved people first entered the United States. This book shed light (at least for me) on the role slavery played in instigating the Revolutionary War. It also explained events leading up to the Civil War, as well as why South Carolina took a lead in secession.

Edward Ball obviously spent a great deal of time researching his family and the people they owned, as well as the history of slavery in his home state of South Carolina and beyond.

I especially appreciated the passages where Ball allowed the descendants of enslaved people to tell their families’ passed-down stories to refute the Ball family oral tradition of being kind and benevolent masters. I appreciated it even more when Ball used his family’s historical records to support what the descendants of the enslaved said and refute his own family stories.

The 400+ pages of text is followed by several family trees, tracing the descendants of several women enslaved by the Ball family; many pages of notes; and an index.

While this book was not dumbed down in any way, it’s accessible and easy to read. Edward Ball definitely wrote this book to appeal to a wide audience. This book should be mandatory reading for any South Carolina history class, as well as any class focused on slavery in the United States. It’s also a must-read for any student of antebellum history, as well as an interesting and compelling work of nonfiction.

My Folks Don’t Want Me to Talk About Slavery, edited by Belinda Hurmence,  contains the stories of real people who were enslaved in North Carolina. These folks (in their 80s and 90s and 100s at the time) told their stories to people working for the Federal Writers’ Project during the Great Depression. Over 2,000 former slaves participated in this project. This book collects the oral histories of twenty-one former slaves from North Carolina.

Most of these stories are three or four pages long and are written the way the people who told them spoke. Some talk about beatings and abuse, scarcity of food, and lack of adequate clothing and housing. More disturbing to me where the people who said they had been better off under slavery.

This book is sobering, and needs to be read widely. It should be read in every high school and collage American history class, as well as by every adult who calls him or herself an American.

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now my (male) partner and I (a woman) have a travel trailer we can pull with our truck. We have a little piece of property, and when we're not traveling, we park our little camper there. I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

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