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Generations of Captivity

Generations of Captivity

A History of African-American Slaves

Ira Berlin

ISBN 9780674016248

Publication date: 09/30/2004

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Ira Berlin traces the history of African-American slavery in the United States from its beginnings in the seventeenth century to its fiery demise nearly three hundred years later.

Most Americans, black and white, have a singular vision of slavery, one fixed in the mid-nineteenth century when most American slaves grew cotton, resided in the deep South, and subscribed to Christianity. Here, however, Berlin offers a dynamic vision, a major reinterpretation in which slaves and their owners continually renegotiated the terms of captivity. Slavery was thus made and remade by successive generations of Africans and African Americans who lived through settlement and adaptation, plantation life, economic transformations, revolution, forced migration, war, and ultimately, emancipation.

Berlin's understanding of the processes that continually transformed the lives of slaves makes Generations of Captivity essential reading for anyone interested in the evolution of antebellum America. Connecting the "Charter Generation" to the development of Atlantic society in the seventeenth century, the "Plantation Generation" to the reconstruction of colonial society in the eighteenth century, the "Revolutionary Generation" to the Age of Revolutions, and the "Migration Generation" to American expansionism in the nineteenth century, Berlin integrates the history of slavery into the larger story of American life. He demonstrates how enslaved black people, by adapting to changing circumstances, prepared for the moment when they could seize liberty and declare themselves the "Freedom Generation."

This epic story, told by a master historian, provides a rich understanding of the experience of African-American slaves, an experience that continues to mobilize American thought and passions today.

Praise

  • Over the past 20 years, Berlin's work has redefined how scholars approach the study of slavery and freedom in America. His scholarship on slavery and race...and his complete command of the enormous literature on slavery now come together to inform this compelling history. Here Berlin carefully delineates the ways slavery varied according to time and place and compare slavery in the Americas, mapping the migrations of peoples from Africa to America and then across the South in its various incarnations, discovering within slave life the roots of African American religions, family, folkways, foodways, crafts, and more. His book reminds us that the generations after emancipation still resonated with the culture of those once held in captivity. Essential.

    —Randall M. Miller, Library Journal

Awards

  • 2003, Winner of the Albert J. Beveridge Award
  • 2004, Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

Author

  • Ira Berlin was Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Book Details

  • 384 pages
  • 0-15/16 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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