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To free a family : the journey of Mary Walker
    Nathans, Sydney.
Publisher: Harvard University Press,
Pub date: 2011.
Pages: 330 p. :
ISBN: 9780674062122
Item info: 1 copy available at Elmira - Central (Steele) Library.
Holdings
Elmira - Central (Steele) Library Copies Material Location
BW182 1 Adult NonFiction Book Standard shelving location
Summary

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. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.

Publishers Weekly Review
"My feelings have been greatly moved by Peter's having a Fugitive Slave woman sent to his care, & one of the most interesting people I ever saw," Susan Lesley confided to a friend in 1850. In this rigorously scholarly but totally absorbing narrative, Nathans unfolds a history as spellbinding as a novel, chockfull of fascinating people engaged in a venture both risky and affecting. When the fugitive slave Mary Walker finds refuge with the Lesleys in Pennsylvania, their lives, their families, and their circle of friends become deeply involved in the general cause and the specific mission-to secure the freedom of Walker's mother and her children. Nathans's account is full of twists and turns, as efforts to free the family are thwarted and Mary's son makes his own escape. The intimacy achieved through the use of letters between friends and family is remarkable; here is history lived in an ordinary household. The center, however, is held by Mary Walker's crusade, accompanied as it is by the Lesleys' own evolution; Susan finds "her work in the world," and Peter moves from antislavery to abolition. Nathans has transformed the paraphernalia of academia (ploughing through archives, thorough documentation, guarded speculation) into a book that will entrance the general reader, inform the scholar, and engage both. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. From: Reed Elsevier Inc. Copyright Reed Business Information
Library Journal Review
Prior to the Civil War, thousands of African Americans escaped from slavery, but because few recorded their experiences little is known about their efforts to forge new lives in freedom. Mary Walker, the focus of this study, was a light-skinned fugitive who escaped from a North Carolina planter couple when she accompanied them to Philadelphia in 1848. Her history, though unique in many ways, is illustrative of the hardships and challenges such migrants faced and the support they sometimes received from abolitionist networks. Her efforts to preserve her freedom, gain economic independence, and locate and purchase the freedom of her children still held as slaves is pieced together here by Nathans (history, emeritus, Duke Univ.; Quest for Progress: The Way We Lived in North Carolina, 1870-1920) from the papers of Northern abolitionists and Southern slaveholders. VERDICT The result is an engrossing and readable study, thoroughly researched and well documented, that fills a significant gap in the history of the period. It is recommended for all readers seriously interested in the experience of fugitive slaves in ante-bellum America.-Theresa Mc-Devitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. From: Reed Elsevier Inc. Copyright Reed Business Information
CHOICE Review
Nathans (emer., Duke) provides a compelling account of one mixed-race slave woman and her quest for freedom, as well as her long struggle to reunite her family in the North. Mary Walker was a domestic servant of a North Carolinian slave owner who used one of her owner's visits to Philadelphia in the 1840s to gain her freedom. Nathans follows her travails, using letters of the Lesley family, who took Mary Walker in, and the Cameron family in North Carolina, who owned her and tried to recapture her during the 1850s and the Civil War period and who refused any and all entreaties by Mary Walker and the Lesleys for her family's freedom. In addition to his extensive readings of the personal correspondences of these two families and the one letter by Mary Walker that has survived, Nathans has worked extensively in archives in North Carolina, Philadelphia, and Boston and surroundings, where Walker lived with the assistance of the Lesley family. Nathan's effort to reconstruct long-overlooked historical events through the close readings of correspondence and public records is commendable and comprises an educational, informative contribution to the US narrative. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. C. Warren Empire State College From: Syndetics Solutions, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.
Table of Contents
   Prologue: A Secret Striving p. 1
   1 Reluctant Runaway p. 9
   2 Sanctuary p. 31
   3 "In the Midst of Friends" p. 52
   4 "Never Reject the Claims of the Fugitive" p. 78
   5 The Rescue Plot p. 90
   6 "A Spirit Like a Dove" p. 117
   7 A Season of Silence p. 134
   8 "A Case of Heart Breaking Distress" p. 151
   9 If They Die for Their Freedom, Amen p. 166
   10 "The Welfare of Her Race" p. 191
   11 "To Part No More" p. 217
   Epilogue: "Their Works Do Follow Them" p. 253
   Notes p. 263
   Acknowledgments p. 309
   Index p. 317
Distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.

Full View From Catalog
Leader am8a
key ocn709670250
Data source OCoLC
Fixed field data 110610s2012 mauab b 001 0beng
LCCN 2011023122
ISBN 9780674062122
ISBN 0674062124
Cataloging Source DLC DLC BTCTA YDXCP IAD
Authentication code pcc
Geographic Area Code n-us-nc n-us-ma n-use--
LC Call Number E450.W322 N37 2011
Dewey Decimal Classification Number 306.3/62092 B 23
Personal Author Nathans, Sydney.
Title To free a family : the journey of Mary Walker / Sydney Nathans.
Publication info Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2011.
Projected pub date 1202
Physical description 330 p. : ill., map ; 22 cm.
Bibliography note Includes bibliographical references and index.
Contents Prologue: A Secret Striving -- Reluctant Runaway -- Sanctuary -- "In the Midst of Friends" -- "Never Reject the Claims of Fugitive" -- The Rescue Plot -- "A Spirit Like a Dove" -- A Season of Silence -- "A Case of Heart-Rending Distress" -- If They Die for Their Freedom, Amen -- "The Welfare of Her Race" -- "To Part No More" -- Epilogue: "Their Works Do Follow Them."
Personal subject Walker, Mary, d. 1872.
Personal subject Walker, Mary, d. 1872--Family.
Subject term Fugitive slaves--Northeastern States--Biography.
Subject term Women slaves--North Carolina--Orange County--Biography.
Subject term African American women--Massachusetts--Cambridge--Biography.
Subject term Family reunions--Massachusetts--Cambridge--History--19th century.
Geographic term Cambridge (Mass.)--Biography.
Geographic term Orange County (N.C.)--Biography.
Held by ELMIRA