A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation

David W. Blight

Harcourt,  November 2007

Slave narratives are extremely rare. Of the one hundred or so of these testimonies that survive, a mere handful are first-person accounts by slaves who ran away and freed themselves. Now two newly uncovered narratives, and the biographies of the men who wrote them, join that exclusive group with the publication of A Slave No More, a major new addition to the canon of American history.

Wallace Turnage was a teenage field hand on an Alabama plantation, John Washington an urban slave in Virginia. They never met. But both men saw opportunity in the chaos of the Civil War, both escaped North, and both left us remarkable accounts of their flights to freedom. Handed down through family and friends -- Turnage's daughter carefully preserved her father's handwritten manuscript during a lifetime of passing for white -- these narratives tell gripping stories of escape.

But this book marks more than just the discovery of two new emancipation stories. It is also the discovery of two lives. Working from an unusual abundance of genealogical material, historian David W. Blight has reconstructed Turnage's and Washington's childhoods as sons of white slaveholders, their service as cooks and camp hands during the Civil War, and their climb to black working-class stability in the North, where they reunited their families.

In the lives and narratives of Turnage and Washington, we find a revelatory new answer to the question of how four million people moved from slavery to freedom. In A Slave No More, the untold stories of two ordinary men take their place at the heart of the American experience.

hardcover | ISBN: 9780151012329 | Publication Date: November 2007

''A Slave No More is a remarkable and rare volume. We are fortunate that David W. Blight, a foremost authority on the slave narrative, has applied his considerable skills as historian and detective to these extraordinary stories of 'ordinary' men. The narratives of Turnage and Washington will surely take their place among the most moving and instructive examples of the genre."
--Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

''A Slave No More presents two of the most significant finds in the entire genre of slave narratives and of the primary material from the Civil War."
--David Levering Lewis

"Together, Blight's meticulous research and the previously unknown autobiographical writings of these two men bring to life with unprecedented power the human dimensions of slavery and emancipation."
--Eric Foner

"David W. Blight combines the authority of a great historian with the humanistic zeal of a novelist . . . A Slave No More is a compelling account of two men of remarkable courage who, by writing down their stories, sought to make themselves visible. Neither man could have wished for a more sympathetic or knowledgeable interpreter than David Blight."
--Caryl Phillips