Black Dome Press

In Defiance: Runaways from Slavery SECOND EDITION


In Defiance: Runaways from Slavery in New York’s Hudson River Valley 1735–1831
Second Edition, with more than 250 newly discovered runaway notices

by Susan Stessin-Cohn and Ashley Hurlburt-Biagini, foreword by A.J. Williams-Myers
Trade paperback, 8″ x 10″, 480 pages, 830 transcriptions of archival newspaper notices, 602 with accompanying reproduction of the original notice, plus 9 tables analyzing the data, glossary, indexes of names, locations, and subjects, illustrations and maps. ISBN: 9798985692150, $35.00.

In recent years, historians and researchers have taken a closer look at New York’s complicity in the “peculiar institution” of slavery. One of the books that helped shed more light on this tragic subject was the 2016 publication of In Defiance: Runaways from Slavery in New York’s Hudson River Valley, 1735–1831. The core of that book by two Hudson Valley historical researchers, Susan Stessin-Cohn and Ashley Hurlburt-Biagini, was the reproduction and transcriptions of hundreds of 18th and 19th-century newspapers notices offering rewards for the return of enslaved persons who had escaped their enslavers and become “runaways.”
Continuing their research since then, Stessin-Cohn and Hurlburt-Biagini discovered more than 250 additional runaway notices that prompted them to rewrite and greatly expand In Defiance in this newly released Second Edition.
A little background is called for: In 1799 New York State passed its first emancipation act, “An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery,” giving hope to thousands of enslaved persons held on farms and in villages along the Hudson River Valley from Westchester and Orange Counties north to Albany, Schenectady and Troy.
But many held in slavery were not willing to wait for what turned out to be a very gradual emancipation, as evidenced by the hundreds of newspaper notices posted by Hudson Valley enslavers promising rewards for runaway enslaved persons throughout the early 19th century all the way up to 1831. The stories these newspaper notices tell, together with the stories of hundreds of other enslaved persons who ran for their freedom earlier, in the 18th century, shed revealing light on the life of enslaved persons held in the Hudson Valley.
Most enslaved persons held in the Hudson River Valley lived and worked and died and left behind no historical record—no birth certificates, no marriage records, no death certificates, unmarked graves. But In Defiance rescues over 900 of those individuals from obscurity because they decided to free themselves; when their enslavers placed notices in local and New York City newspapers offering rewards for their return, they not only gave identity to some of the enslaved people, but also unwittingly indicted themselves before the bar of historical judgment. Surnames synonymous with Hudson Valley history—names like Schuyler, Van Rensselaer, Beekman, Rockefeller, Van Cortlandt, Van Buren, Livingston—appear throughout the book as the authors of the notices advertising rewards for the return of their enslaved “property.”
Had these freedom seekers not run away, they, like the tens of thousands of enslaved persons who did not run, would have been lost to history, but by running they prompted reward notices for their return—notices that often provide at least their first names, sometimes a surname as well, and detailed descriptions of their age, color, gender, origin, language proficiency, and skills.
In Defiance is the result of over 17 years of research on behalf of Stessin-Cohn and Hurlburt-Biagini.
In addition to the reproduction and transcription of 774 archival newspaper notices for runaways from Hudson Valley enslavers, the book also includes notices advertising runaways captured, notices advertising enslaved persons for sale, notices offering to purchase enslaved persons, and selected runaway notices from outside the Hudson River Valley region. Nine tables analyze the data in the 774 notices for runaways from Hudson Valley enslavers, and the book includes a glossary, indexes of names, locations, and subjects, 36 illustrations, and 5 maps from the 18th and 19th centuries.

“Humanizing an otherwise largely silent population, advertisements for fugitive slaves provide an exceptionally valuable window into black life in Early America—from the nature of the slave system and the master-slave relationship to fascinating glimpses into material culture and folk life. Through individual transcriptions of each reprinted original image, readers get to know runaways as real people whose courage, ingenuity, and resourcefulness hastened the demise of slavery in New York.
“Hurlburt-Biagini’s and Stessin-Cohn’s meticulous analysis of the age, color, gender, origin, language proficiency, and skills of fugitives, supplemented by other valuable ancillary material on the history of slavery and Hudson Valley life, render this rich volume attractive to researchers and general readers alike. An extraordinary achievement.” Michael E. Groth, Ph.D., Professor of History, Wells College

“This is a valuable collection of fugitive slave advertisements that tells much about the lives of self-emancipated blacks in the rural North. Each notice receives pristine, scrupulous editing. Focusing on the Hudson River Valley, the editors uncover a persistent, local slavery, with national implications. Readers will be astonished at the plentiful notices that appeared after the New York State Gradual Emancipation Act of 1799, indicating continued conflict between avaricious masters and those who fled to gain their freedom.” Graham Russell Gao Hodges, George Dorland Langdon, Jr. Professor of History and Africana Studies, Colgate University, and author of David Ruggles: A Radical Black Abolitionist and the Underground Railroad in New York City

“A trove of descriptive information of who the runaways were, to whom they belonged as human property, with whom they ran, their age range, the talents/skills they possessed, their personality characteristics, and their body abrasions/scars—often the end results of violent encounters with their owners. It is an interesting, engaging and revealing, though at times gripping, view of humanity as chattel in flight from a diabolical instrument of oppression fashioned at the hands of fellow humans for the expressed purpose of economic gain. It is a trove of descriptive information.” A.J. Williams-Myers, Black Studies Department, SUNY at New Paltz, and author of Long Hammering: Essays on the Forging of an African American Presence in the Hudson River Valley to the Early Twentieth Century and On the Morning Tide: African Americans, History and Methodology in the Historical Ebb and Flow of Hudson River Society

“Runaway ads were the first published slavery narratives—told by the masters. In recent decades scholars have learned to read them closely for individuals’ stories as well as to aggregate them for the purposes of social history. This edition does both—and with a rich and moving introduction by the leading historian of African Americans in the Hudson River Valley. Even more, In Defiance is the most thorough and the most attractive presentation of ads for fugitives I have seen for any region. Splendid!” David Waldstreicher, Professor of History, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, and author of The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley and Runaway America: Benjamin Franklin, Slavery and the American Revolution

“An invaluable resource for seeing those enslaved in colonial New York’s Hudson River Valley area. These ads, and the details they share, bring to light a variety of information and more than we normally have access to on any single enslaved person. Not only do they enlighten us, they are excellent examples of the personal agency of enslaved men and women.” Lavada Nahon, Interpreter of African American History, NYS OPRHP/BHS

Susan Stessin-Cohn, former professor of social studies education at SUNY New Paltz and Director of Education at Historic Huguenot Street, is currently the Historian for the Town of New Paltz, New York. She is a recipient of the Bruce Dearstyne Award for excellence in the educational use of local government records; the New York State Archives Award for the best use of primary local documents in a curriculum in NYS; and the Pride of Ulster County Award for research on the Ulster County Poorhouse. Susan has appeared on C-Span as well as WYNT Channel 13 and is one of the founding members of the Ulster County Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She is an award-winning quilter and currently resides with her husband Robert in New Paltz, New York, where they raised their four children, Mikael, Evan, Adam and Aliyah.

Ashley Hurlburt Biagini is a research historian in the Hudson Valley, currently working for the Ulster County Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Sacred Place of My Ancestors committee. She is the former Manager of Collections and Archives at Historic Huguenot Street, where she co-curated various exhibits including: Slavery in New York; Native American History in the Hudson Valley; Nineteenth-Century Women and Their Needle Arts; and Nineteenth-Century Mourning Customs. Ashley has appeared on WYNT Channel 13 and is currently a web designer and blogger. She grew up on a dairy farm in Cuba, New York, and is an avid gardener, grows and sells garlic, teaches home food-preservation classes and currently lives in Salisbury Mills, New York, with her husband Tony and daughters Amelia and Lenore.

Add to Cart:

  • Shipping Weight: 4lbs
  • 493 Units in Stock
  • Manufactured by: Black Dome Press

This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 31 August, 2023.

Your IP Address is:
Copyright © 2024 Black Dome Press. Powered by Zen Cart