Slavery and Freedom in Savannah
Slavery and Freedom in Savannah. eds. Daina Ramey and Leslie M. Harris Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2014.
Slavery and Freedom in Savannah is the name of a multi-part project that is comprised of a museum exhibit, this book project, and a symposium where some of the materials in this volume were presented. Slavery and Freedom in Savannah examines how urban slavery shaped the infrastructure of the port city, its economy, political and legal structure, as well as relationships among the enslaved, free blacks, and the ruling white class. During the Revolutionary War, enslaved blacks used the confusion the war caused to run away and create maroon communities in the Savannah River. These communities were quickly found and eliminated as whites reasserted their control in the effort to mitigate future resistance. The free black population largely composed of West Indian émigrés enjoyed autonomy, however, whites asserted their control over this anomalous population through guardianships. The enslaved black population also enjoyed small measures of autonomy as they took advantage of economic opportunities the Civil War presented through skilled and unskilled labor, providing food, and housing to meet the demands produced by the war. Reconstruction presented black men with opportunities to enter the political arena, which evoked fears among whites who feared blacks would control politics. The white ruling class responded by controlling, manipulating, and shaping politics through voter suppression methods, intimidation, and violence. The turn of the century saw black radical thought emerge as the black freedom struggle publicly challenged Jim Crow calling for racial uplift, self-help and respectability, and self-respect through education, social and political activism.