Recipient of the 1999 Bancroft Prize from Columbia University
1999 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award Honorable Mention, Sponsored by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America
Winner of the 1999 Elliott Rudwick Prize of the Organization of American Historians
Winner of the 1999 Frederick Douglass Prize for the Best Book on Slavery Sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale University
Winner, Association of American Publishers 1998 Professional/Scholarly Publishing Annual Award in the Category of History
Finalist, 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction
Co-Winner of the Southern Historical Association's Frank L. and Harriet C. Owsley Award for 1999
1998 Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Today most Americans, black and white, identify slavery with cotton, the deep South, and the African-American church. But at the beginning of the nineteenth century, after almost two hundred years of African-American life in mainland North America, few slaves grew cotton, lived in the deep South, or embraced Christianity. Many Thousands Gone traces the evolution of black society from the first arrivals in the early seventeenth century through the Revolution. In telling their story, Ira Berlin, a leading historian of southern and African-American life, reintegrates slaves into the history of the American working class and into the tapestry of our nation.
Laboring as field hands on tobacco and rice plantations, as skilled artisans in port cities, or soldiers along the frontier, generation after generation of African Americans struggled to create a world of their own in circumstances not of their own making. In a panoramic view that stretches from the North to the Chesapeake Bay and Carolina lowcountry to the Mississippi Valley, Many Thousands Gone reveals the diverse forms that slavery and freedom assumed before cotton was king. We witness the transformation that occurred as the first generations of creole slaves--who worked alongside their owners, free blacks, and indentured whites--gave way to the plantation generations, whose back-breaking labor was the sole engine of their society and whose physical and linguistic isolation sustained African traditions on American soil.
As the nature of the slaves' labor changed with place and time, so did the relationship between slave and master, and between slave and society. In this fresh and vivid interpretation, Berlin demonstrates that the meaning of slavery and of race itself was continually renegotiated and redefined, as the nation lurched toward political and economic independence and grappled with the Enlightenment ideals that had inspired its birth.
Ira Berlin is Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Other HUP Books by Ira Berlin
Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves