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Black Freedom in the Age of Slavery: Race, Status, and Identity in the Urban Americas

Mrs. Juliann Jane Tillman, preacher of the A.M.E. Church
A. Hoffy ; printed by P.S. Duval, 1844
/
Library of Congress
Mrs. Juliann Jane Tillman, preacher of the A.M.E. Church

Prior to the abolition of slavery, thousands of African-descended people in the Americas lived in freedom. Their efforts to navigate daily life and negotiate the boundaries of racial difference challenged the foundations of white authority—and linked the Americas together. In Black Freedom in the Age of Slavery: Race, Status, and Identity in the Urban Americas (2020, USC Press), John Garrison Marks reveals how skills, knowledge, reputation, and personal relationships helped free people of color improve their fortunes and achieve social distinction in ways that undermined whites' claims to racial superiority.

Dr. Marks examines how these individuals built lives in freedom for themselves and their families in two of the Atlantic World's most important urban centers: Cartagena, along the Caribbean coast of modern-day Colombia, and Charleston, in the Lowcountry of North America's Atlantic coast. His conversation on this edition of Walter Edgar’s Journal focuses on the world of free people of color in and around Charleston.

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar receivedhisA.B.degreefromDavidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.