Cover: Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia’s Black Community, 1720–1840, from Harvard University PressCover: Forging Freedom in PAPERBACK

Forging Freedom

The Formation of Philadelphia’s Black Community, 1720–1840

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Product Details


$37.00 • £29.95 • €33.50

ISBN 9780674309333

Publication Date: 03/01/1991


372 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

20 halftones, 5 line illustrations, maps


Now comes this superbly written book by Gary Nash, one of the prolific scholars on the subject, on the early history of the races at a particularly crucial juncture that occurred in the city of Philadelphia that sheds insight into the entire process… A particular strength of his work lies in his detailing of the resiliency and creativity of black culture in the city.—Joseph Boskin, The Los Angeles Times Book Review

Nash’s book is a major contribution to our understanding of black life in the early American republic; it is a vivid and compelling account of the evolution of Philadelphia’s black community in a period of increasing racism.—Eric Foner, American Historical Review

A compelling view of the development of black urban culture and society in Philadelphia. Masterfully researched and skillfully combining social scientific data and traditional documents, this work succeeds admirably as narrative and analysis. It easily ranks among the best work in the fields of black urban history and early American race relations.—Waldo E. Martin, Jr., William & Mary Quarterly

Gary Nash’s Forging Freedom is the most important book on the black experience in an American city yet written… No book better reveals how the early black experience in America became so persistently urban and naggingly ambivalent. No book better reveals how politics, social conditions, and religiosity in a colonial Quaker metropolis shaped modern Afro-American culture. And no book better demonstrates how hard-won, carefully sculpted, historical research, sophisticated interpretation, and clear, unambiguous prose remain the historian’s finest achievement. Forging Freedom is a triumph, most obviously for Nash, but most beneficially for any student of America who wants to know how and why our deepest, most enduring paradoxes found their origins so early and so tragically in urban racial tension.—Jon Butler, Yale University

A distinguished historian has given us a gift of major proportion. Nash presents a fascinating and unknown picture in remarkable detail. This moving and well-documented case study stretches all the way from Philadelphia’s early Quaker years to the agitation and conflict of the antebellum era. Students of later civil rights movements will be amazed by how far back the story goes, how familiar it sounds in certain parts, and how much of it can be recovered by a patient and determined scholar.—Peter H. Wood, Duke University

Nash is our preeminent historian of the early seaboard cities and a leading scholar of the black experience and race relations in early America. His research is energetic, absolutely current, very nearly exhaustive, and it yields an account that is vibrantly rendered. Much of the best material is on the blacks, much of the most horrifying on the whites, but always he maintains a difficult balance, capturing episodes and events as well as deeper trends on both sides of the racial divide in a narrative at once teeming and telling.—Michael Zuckerman, University of Pennsylvania

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