Over more than two centuries men, women, and children escaped from slavery to make the Southern wilderness their home. They hid in the mountains of Virginia and the low swamps of South Carolina; they stayed in the neighborhood or paddled their way to secluded places; they buried themselves underground or built comfortable settlements. Known as maroons, they lived on their own or set up communities in swamps or other areas where they were not likely to be discovered.
Although well-known, feared, celebrated or demonized at the time, the maroons whose stories are the subject of this book have been forgotten, overlooked by academic research that has focused on the Caribbean and Latin America. Who the American maroons were, what led them to choose this way of life over alternatives, what forms of marronage they created, what their individual and collective lives were like, how they organized themselves to survive, and how their particular story fits into the larger narrative of slave resistance are questions that this book seeks to answer. To survive, the American maroons reinvented themselves, defied slave society, enforced their own definition of freedom and dared create their own alternative to what the country had delineated as being black men and women’s proper place. Audacious, self-confident, autonomous, sometimes self-sufficient, always self-governing; their very existence was a repudiation of the basic tenets of slavery.
"Diouf has scoured archives across the United States, examining accounts of fugitives throughout the Slave South to uncover the hidden history of American maroons, and produced a highly readable, original study that deserves a broad scholarly and popular audience." ~Journal of the Civil War Era
"In contrast to the study of slavery elsewhere, six decades of research in the United States has systematically bypassed the issue of marronage. Sylviane Dioufs exhaustive research has not only brought the subject to center stage, it offers a framework for recasting the study of runaway slaves throughout the Americas. This is one of those rare books that is at once of scholarly significance and will engage a wide readership." ~David Eltis,Robert W. Woodruff Professor of History, Emory University
"[T]he stories are riveting. Readers will become familiar with colorful characters like Captain Cudjoe of Jamaica or the man nicknamed 'Forest' for his skill at hiding, and they will learn surprising facts about maroons participation in trade and defense, along with horrific details of punishments . . . . [I]ts a notable document for its treatment of the subject." ~Publishers Weekly
"Like other books that Sylviane A. Diouf has written, this one examines a fascinating, though neglected topic in African Diaspora history . . . Diouf advances the discourse by using a landscape perspective to offer an alternative to the grand/petit marronage dichotomy . . . Her attention to borderland (adjacent to plantations) and hinterland (remote from plantations or cities) conditions and logistics reflects an appreciation of the wider context framing relations between enslaved and free people, which stands in contrast to the dated view of plantations as islands with impermeable boundaries . . . Diouf has produces a well-written and balanced account... She backs her arguments with evidence, illuminates trends, and accounts for contradictions." ~American Historical Review
"With impressive research and vivid prose, Diouf directs our attention to maroons within the United States. From the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia to the frontier regions of Louisiana, she shows, fugitive slaves managed to survive without fleeing to the North. An important addition to our understanding of slave society and black resistance." ~Eric Foner,author of The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery
"Sylviane A. Diouf has made an enormous contribution to our understanding of enslaved people's lives with her study of the maroons in the American South. Slavery's Exilesdispels the myth that maroon communities only existed in places such as the Caribbean and Brazil, firmly placing the maroons of mainland North America within larger discussions of slave resistance." ~The North Carolina Historical Review
"She tells the story of a few large communities, most notably that of the Great Dismal Swamp, and briefly examines the marronage subgroups of bandits and insurrectionists, but the triumph here is the author's portrait of the day-to-day precariousness of maroon lives, the courage and resourcefulness required for survival, and the terrible price they paid for trying to recover their freedom. A neglected chapter of the American slave experience brought sensitively and vividly to life." ~Kirkus
"This is a very important book that opens a window into an understudied aspect of American slavery. It deserves a wide readership." ~American Nineteenth Century History
"In a book that is easily accessible yet rigorously researched, analyzed, and argued, Diouf has made a compelling case that scholars of slavery and of early American history must consider the presence of maroons in the U.S. with a sense of renewed urgency. As she so eloquently and brilliantly shows, maroons exhibited a form of self-determined, autonomy-seeking resistance to slavery that complicates our understanding of fugitivity and freedom as they are generally bound up in a North/South, free/unfree binaristic imaginary." ~Journal of the Early Republic
"This extensively and thoroughly researched study brings to light a little-known aspect of slavery in the United States . . . a fascinating read. Diouf has done a brilliant job of illuminating a complicated, multifaceted, important, yet little-known piece of black American history." ~Annette Madden, The Baobab Tree
"In writing that is deeply informative, with vivid anecdotes when available, including horrors of punishment enacted when maroons were captured, this book is recommended to those wishing to pursue the study of American slavery beyond more general texts." ~Library Journal
"Diouf persuasively captures the quiet heroism of North American maroons. Less dramatic and long-lived than many of the maroon communities in Suriname, Jamaica, or Brazil, those in the southern United States were nonetheless ever present. Diouf demonstrates how much freedom mattered to the enslaved and how, within the limited possibilities open to them, those that set off into the inhospitable swamps and forests managed to forge a new life beyond the authority of whitefolks." ~Richard Price,author of Maroon Societies
"The book is clear and easy to read . . . Diouf's book is important because for the first time it really foregrounds marronage in North America . . . Diouf extends the range by demonstrating the ubiquity of marronage in virtually every southern state. It should be required reading for any scholar of North American slavery." ~Journal of American Studies