A Slave No More: Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation
John Washington, a 24-year-old Virginia slave, escaped to Union army lines in 1862. Seventeen-year-old Wallace Turnage ran away five times from an Alabama plantation, eventually finding safe harbor with the Union navy in 1864. Both men left us handwritten narratives of their flights to freedom, which were fortuitously preserved and eventually came to the attention of Yale historian David W. Blight. One-third of this book consists of Washington and Turnage’s writings, setting bare both their sufferings and their enormous courage. In the remaining two-thirds, Blight recounts their stories and places them in historical context, drawing insights into the way slaves became emancipated during the Civil War. He also investigates the men’s post-slavery lives, and provides photographs and maps which illuminate the text.
Washington and Turnage’s narratives would have been more fitting if they had opened rather than ended the book. Their actual words deserve to be read as more than addenda to Blight’s retelling of their lives. This quibble aside, this highly readable book tells two fascinating and profoundly moving stories.