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To Free A Family with Sydney Nathans, Ph.D.

  • Broadcast in History



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Natonne Elaine Kemp welcomes author Sydney Nathans, Ph.D. for a discussion of his book TO FREE A FAMILY!

TO FREE A FAMILY is the story of Mary Walker, an enslaved woman from North Carolina who escaped bondage in 1848, left her children and mother behind, and spent seventeen years seeking to recover them through ransom, ruse, or rescue. 

Using the records of her one-time owners, the vast and vivid letters of the white antislavery couple who befriended and helped her, and an arsenal of social history sources, the book reconstructs her experience in bondage and brings to life the anguished but unrelenting quest to liberate her family. 

Her story illustrates a hidden epic of emancipation--the secret striving of refugees from slavery to redeem one family at a time--which paralleled the great social movement to end slavery altogether.

TO FREE A FAMILY is the 2013 recipient of the Darlene Clark Hine Award of the Organization of American Historians as the best book in African-American Women's and Gender History. 

The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery,Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University jury for the Center’s Frederick Douglass Book Prize has selected  To Free a Family: The Journey of Mary Walker, as one of three finalists for this year’s award.

Sydney Nathans, Ph.D. is the Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University and a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations.