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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Just Downloaded...More Simon Schama!

The book is Rough Crossings which I was interested to read because it's on a theme I've come across in Laurie Halse Anderson's Chains and Forge, about the slaves who ran off to fight for the British during the American Revolution  because the British promised them freedom and the rebels didn't. Mind you, the characters in the Anderson books are fighting for the rebels, but she pulls no punches about the fact that they had no reason to support their masters who were wittering on about freedom and such without actually including their slaves in their ramblings.

And Simon Schama does the same. The British didn't do it for altruistic reasons, of course, but to destabilise their enemies, but at least some of the former slaves got something out of it, according to him. Those who managed to get to Nova Scotia after the war got a bit of land, though not especially good land, and some went off to Sierra Leone to form colonies, well before Liberia became an African American colony. And George Washington was not at all happy when the British didn't return the thousands of slaves who had run off.

Meanwhile, I'm reading a chapter about a man in Britain called Granville Sharp, flute-playing member of a large, delightful family of amateur musicians who did weekly concerts(there's a painting of them with one of the girls waving her lute). Sharp was the twelfth child and got the least education, so was working in a clerical job when he found a slave who'd been beaten up and left for dead in the street. He arranged medical care for the man and suddenly, this became a huge part of his life, first in looking up legal information to help the ex slave when his master found out he was alive and tried to take him back, then in other cases. I was particularly interested to learn that one of the people who helped in at least one of these cases was the mother of Joseph Banks the botanist, while her son was off discovering plants Down Under with Captain Cook.

Thing is, some of the legal precedents set here made a difference across the Atlantic - the American slaves were paying close attention.

A very enjoyable read so far! Plenty more to go.


Pamela said...

I keep meaning to read Citizens ...

Sue Bursztynski said...

As good a time as any to start... :-)

Lexa Cain said...

I had no idea there were slaves fighting on the English side. I didn't really realize there were that many slaves at that time, so many years before the Civil War, which was about slavery. I also didn't know there was an American African colony anywhere in Africa. The book sounds fascinating. Thanks for sharing interesting tidbits! :)

Sue Bursztynski said...

I must admit I hadn't heard about Sierra Leone, but I did know about Liberia. Think of the name - Liberia as in "Liberty" and the capital Monrovia is named after President Monroe. I'm going to assume that's the reason for all those Anglo names in the country(including one dictator!). However, the African American colonists took over like other colonials and thought they were better than the locals because they were American! :-)

I've read some more f the book and it's still delightful.