Sayers examines the Great Dismal Swamp's archaeological record from ca. 1600 until the time of the Civil War, exposing and unraveling the complex social and economic systems developed by the thousands of Indigenous Americans, Africa American maroons, free African Americans, enslaved company workers, and outcast Europeans who made the Swamp their home.
Over more than two centuries men, women, and children escaped from slavery to make the Southern wilderness their home. They hid in the mountains of Virginia and the low swamps of South Carolina; they stayed in the neighborhood or paddled their way to secluded places; they buried themselves underground or built comfortable settlements. Known as maroons, they lived on their own or set up communities in swamps or other areas where they were not likely to be discovered. Although well-known, feared, celebrated or demonized at the time, the maroons whose stories are the subject of this book have been forgotten, overlooked by academic research that has focused on the Caribbean and Latin America. Who the American maroons were, what led them to choose this way of life over alternatives, what forms of marronage they created, what their individual and collective lives were like, how they organized themselves to survive, and how their particular story fits into the larger narrative of slave resistance are questions that this book seeks to answer. To survive, the American maroons reinvented themselves, defied slave society, enforced their own definition of freedom and dared create their own alternative to what the country had delineated as being black men and women’s proper place. Audacious, self-confident, autonomous, sometimes self-sufficient, always self-governing; their very existence was a repudiation of the basic tenets of slavery.
This book explores how white supremacy produces a racialized orientation in our lives, arguing that racism is habituated, enacting within us racialized and racist dispositions and bodily comportments that inform how we interact with others. Thus, eradicating racism requires unlearning racialized habits and cultivating new anti-racist habits.
City of Refuge is a story of petit marronage, an informal slave's economy, and the construction of internal improvements in the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and North Carolina. The vast wetland was tough terrain that most white Virginians and North Carolinians considered uninhabitable. Perceived desolation notwithstanding, black slaves fled into the swamp's remote sectors and engaged in petit marronage, a type of escape and fugitivity prevalent throughout the Atlantic world. An alternative to the dangers of flight by way of the Underground Railroad, maroon communities often neighbored slave-labor camps, the latter located on the swamp's periphery and operated by the Dismal Swamp Land Company and other companies that employed slave labor to facilitate the extraction of the Dismal's natural resources. Often with the tacit acceptance of white company agents, company slaves engaged in various exchanges of goods and provisions with maroons--networks that padded company accounts even as they helped to sustain maroon colonies and communities. In his examination of life, commerce, and social activity in the Great Dismal Swamp, Marcus P. Nevius engages the historiographies of slave resistance and abolitionism in the early American republic. City of Refuge uses a wide variety of primary sources--including runaway advertisements; planters' and merchants' records, inventories, letterbooks, and correspondence; abolitionist pamphlets and broadsides; county free black registries; and the records and inventories of private companies--to examine how American maroons, enslaved canal laborers, white company agents, and commission merchants shaped, and were shaped by, race and slavery in an important region in the history of the late Atlantic world.
This book is about the struggles of enslaved Africans in the Americas who achieved freedom through flight and the establishment of Maroon communities in the face of overwhelming military odds on the part of the slaveholders.