To Free A Family

To Free A Family

The Journey of Mary Walker

Book - 2012
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Harvard University Press
To Free a Family tells the remarkable story of Mary Walker, who in August 1848 fled her owner for refuge in the North and spent the next seventeen years trying to recover her son and daughter. Her freedom, like that of thousands who escaped from bondage, came at a great price—remorse at parting without a word, fear for her family’s fate.

What was it like for a mother to flee slavery, leaving her children behind? To Free a Family tells the remarkable story of Mary Walker, who in August 1848 fled her owner for refuge in the North and spent the next seventeen years trying to recover her family. Her freedom, like that of thousands who escaped from bondage, came at a great price-remorse at parting without a word, fear for her family's fate.

This story is anchored in two extraordinary collections of letters and diaries, that of her former North Carolina slaveholders and that of the northern family-Susan and Peter Lesley-who protected and employed her. Sydney Nathans' sensitive and penetrating narrative reveals Mary Walker's remarkable persistence as well as the sustained collaboration of black and white abolitionists who assisted her. Mary Walker and the Lesleys ventured half a dozen attempts at liberation, from ransom to ruse to rescue, until the end of the Civil War reunited Mary Walker with her son and daughter.

Unlike her more famous counterparts-Harriet Tubman, Harriet Jacobs, and Sojourner Truth-who wrote their own narratives and whose public defiance made them heroines, Mary Walker's efforts were protracted, wrenching, and private. Her odyssey was more representative of women refugees from bondage who labored secretly and behind the scenes to reclaim their families from the South. In recreating Mary Walker's journey,To Free a Family gives voice to their hidden epic of emancipation and to an untold story of the Civil War era.



Baker & Taylor
Recounts the story of Mary Walker, who fled slavery in 1848 then spent the next 17 years trying to recover her family from the North.

Book News
This volume on the personal history of escaped slave Mary Walker describes the heart wrenching story of a mother who escaped slavery in the South leaving her family behind, and her years-long efforts to save her children. Drawn from letters and diaries from both the slave holding family and the abolitionists who helped Walker, the work combines a discussion of the lives of ordinary escaped slaves in the North with the deep emotional narrative of this particular story of separation and loss. While scholarly in nature, the clear narrative style and compelling primary source material make the book appealing to general readers as well as historians. Nathans is professor emeritus of history at Duke University. Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2012
ISBN: 9780674062122
Branch Call Number: 973.715 WALKE NATHA
Characteristics: 330 pages, 20 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 22 cm

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