SLAVERY AND FREEDOM IN SAVANNAH is a richly illustrated, accessibly written book modeled on the very successful Slavery in New York, a volume Leslie Harris coedited with Ira Berlin. Here Harris and Daina Ramey Berry have collected a variety of perspectives on slavery, emancipation, and black life in Savannah from the city’s founding to the early twentieth century. Written by leading historians of Savannah, Georgia and the South, the volume includes a mix of longer thematic essays and shorter sidebars focusing on individual people, events, and places.
Tourists from all over the world come to visit Savannah, the state’s oldest city, which has been hailed as a model for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century city planning. In fact, during 2011 approximately 12 million people visited the city. Yet, cities such as Savannah hold in their physical structures clues to their early history that have sometimes been overlooked. Bringing together the latest scholarship on one of the most important port cities of the South, this book positions slavery, emancipation, and their aftermath as a central set of events that left no one in Savannah untouched. African Americans in Savannah were central to the creation of the city, and to its political, cultural and economic life. The stories of enslaved workers, slave rebels, religious leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, politicians, and many more, reveal the incredible diversity of experiences among African American Savannahians.
The story of slavery in Savannah may seem to be an outlier, given how strongly most people associate slavery with rural plantations. But as Harris, Berry, and the other contributors point out, urban slavery was instrumental to the slave-based economy of North America. Ports like Savannah served as both an entry point for slaves and as a point of departure for goods produced by slave labor in the hinterlands. Moreover, Savannah’s connection to slavery was not simply abstract. The system of slavery as experienced by African Americans and enforced by whites influenced the very shape of the city, from the building of its infrastructure; the legal system created to support it; and the economic life of the city and its rural surroundings. SLAVERY AND FREEDOM IN SAVANNAH restores the urban African American population and the urban context of slavery, Civil War, and emancipation to its rightful place, and it deepens our understanding of the economic, social and political fabric of the U.S. South.
SLAVERY AND FREEDOM IN SAVANNAH is published in cooperation with the Owens-Thomas House, an historic site that is part of Telfair Museums. Telfair Museums, as one of the leading cultural institutions in Savannah, has committed to reinterpreting the social history of all who lived at the Owens-Thomas, free and enslaved, and to fostering knowledge about the city of Savannah, to understand the history of all of the city’s residents. The history of the Owens-Thomas House reveals the multifaceted interracial relationships that were part of life in Savannah.
The authors have released a few other publications and spend most of their time teaching at their respective institutions. Leslie M. Harris is associate professor of history at Emory University in Atlanta. She is the author of In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863 and coeditor of Slavery in New York. Daina Ramey Berry is associate professor of history and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is coeditor of Enslaved Women in America: An Encyclopedia.
Keep an eye out for the latest updates for the book from the UGA Press website and put it on your calendar the release date is February 15, 2014.