Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation

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Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation
by John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger
In the book Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation , by John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger, the plight of the African American slave is analyzed in strenuous detail. The authors use real stories of slaves, discovered in newspaper articles, court records, diaries, letters and runaway posters to give the reader a more personal approach as to the real situation African slaves faced. The book discusses discontent slaves felt, the resulting actions which slaves took and how their masters responded.

The book begins by describing the acts of defiance which slaves took against their captors. These included both subtle defiance and open rebellion. Franklin says that “‘day to day’ resistance involved ‘crimes’ against property” (2). These included destroying equipment and stealing from the slave holders. Some slaves even went so far as to refuse the obey their masters, which often resulted in conflicts or violence. Slaves who took defiance to the extreme, were involved in conspiracies to rebel or gain revenge. While these very rarely were successful, the panic it caused in the white population was significant.

Franklin and Schweninger go on to explain the reasons behind a slave escaping. They describe the motivations for escape “as varied and numerous as the human experience” (47). In other words, the authors in no way believe that the reasons they give are all inclusive or represent all the motives of slaves to escape. Some of these motives included a possible sale, separation from family, or being severely punished. Most often though the reason for escape was simply the opportunity for freedom. Any chance to escape bondage was seized upon by those desperate for freedom. Often the reason was to see loved ones again and this situation was in no way limited to a certain type of slave. Husbands, wives, fathers with children, mothers with children, grandparents, or even...
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