The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978

Book Reviews

The concept of self-realization through community he finds well estab-
lished in the plantation quarters prior to the Civil War. The freedmen
during the war and post-war period demonstrated their self-esteem and
capabilities by their own cooperative efforts in politics and society.
Throughout the South black conventions and black political leaders
sought to enlarge the sphere of freedom and to secure political and eco-
nomic guarantees for stability of the black community. Their dreams of
settling on confiscated land proving illusory, they sought to rent or pur-
chase land either individually or on a collective or cooperative basis. In-
herent in these efforts was the attachment of the freedmen to the human
relationships of community building. Ultimately abandoned by the lib-
eral forces that cooperated in bringing their freedom, freedmen made
a belated attempt at communalism by the Kansas exodus 1879-1881.
The migratory numbers were small, however, and the movement made
no dent in hardening race relationships in the South.
Magdol's book is a unique contribution to Reconstruction historiog-
raphy. He makes excellent use of archival records, especially those of
the Freedmen's Bureau, in emphasizing the viewpoint and aspirations
of the black working class in their self-determined struggle for com-
munity in a chaotic period. Minor problems of organization detract but
little from the essential value of the work.
North Texas State University JACK B. SCROGGS
Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, Interviews, and
Autobiographies. Edited by John W. Blassingame. (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1977. Pp. xi+ 777. Preface, intro-
duction, illustrations, index. $37.50.)
Do historians need another scissors-and-paste job on 'American slavery?
Probably not. But this volume goes far beyond the customary anthol-
ogy: it provides both historiographical instruction of the highest caliber
and a treasure of obscure or not easily obtainable primary sources re-
flecting the last century of slavery.
Blassingame's lengthy introduction is an excellent primer on how
best to mine the varieties of slave testimony for details of daily life in
bondage while avoiding such hazards as time lag, editorial interference,
and the chilling presence of white interviewers. He makes a convincing
case for placing more faith in the ex-slave narratives (autobiographies)
published before or soon after the Civil War than in the interviews with
ex-slaves conducted by the WPA in the 193os; one might only add that

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101205/. Accessed January 30, 2015.