Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South

By: Michael P. Johnson and James L. Roark

Price: $17.95

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In 1860, when four million African Americans were enslaved, a quarter-million others, including William Ellison, were "free people of color." But Ellison was remarkable. Born a slave, his experience spans the history of the South from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. In a day when most Americans, black and white, worked the soil, barely scraping together a living, Ellison was a cotton-gin maker a master craftsman. When nearly all free blacks were destitute, Ellison was wealthy and well-established. He owned a large plantation and more slaves than all but the richest white planters. While Ellison was exceptional in many respects, the story of his life sheds light on the collective experience of African Americans in the antebellum South to whom he remained bound by race. His family history emphasizes the fine line separating freedom from slavery.

Title: Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South

Author: Michael P. Johnson and James L. Roark

Illustrator: Reg. Price: $17.95

Categories: African American,

Publisher: W. W. Norton: 1986

ISBN Number: 0-393-30314-4

ISBN Number 13: 9780393303148

Binding: paperback

Book Details: 424 pages, 5 x 8, paperback, W. W. Norton

Seller ID: 303144

Description: In 1860, when four million African Americans were enslaved, a quarter-million others, including William Ellison, were "free people of color." But Ellison was remarkable. Born a slave, his experience spans the history of the South from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. In a day when most Americans, black and white, worked the soil, barely scraping together a living, Ellison was a cotton-gin maker-a master craftsman. When nearly all free blacks were destitute, Ellison was wealthy and well-established. He owned a large plantation and more slaves than all but the richest white planters.
While Ellison was exceptional in many respects, the story of his life sheds light on the collective experience of African Americans in the antebellum South to whom he remained bound by race. His family history emphasizes the fine line separating freedom from slavery.
"Never before have I found the experience of the free slaveholding caste of antebellum Negroes brought to live in such vibrant detail. To be able to detect what Henry James called the 'density of felt experience' behind the enigmatic details of the letters is indeed a scholarly achievement of a high order and, I think, a contribution to all who would grasp the complexity of our American past." -Ralph Ellison

About Author
Michael P. Johnson is professor of history at the University of California in Irvine. James L. Roark is professor of history at Emory University.

Reviews
"A remarkably fine work of creative scholarship." —C. Vann Woodward, New York Review of Books