THE RATTLING CHAINS by Nicholas Halasz


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This factual study by a Hungarian-born historian (Nobel, Dreyfus, etc.) deals with an unromantic aspect of the Old South ignored by moonlight-and-jessamine novelists: the constant fear of slave revolts which terrorized slave owners and their families, and the consequences of these revolts. The book also tells of tremendous insurrections in the West Indies, and gives a carefully documented account of the repressive laws governing slaves and freed Negroes in the U.S., the only Christian slave- owning country to deprive its slaves of all human rights. Although abortive slave uprisings began in the 1600's, with the introduction of slavery to this country, the first planned slave revolt in the U.S. occurred in Virginia in 1800, under a slave named Gabriel. The leaders were horribly punished but proved to unbelieving whites that they were willing to die for the rights denied them. Other revolts followed, among them those of Denmark Vesey in 1822 in South Carolina and of Nat Turner in 1831 in Virginia, which resulted in a terrible slaughter of innocent Negroes. Many of the revolts, however, were either exaggerated by fearful or guilt-stricken slave owners, or never took place at all; they all, however, brought death and torture to slaves accused of fomenting them. The rise of the Abolition movement in the North led to increasingly repressive measures against slaves, free Negroes and white Abolitionists, and an increasingly vehement defense of slavery by Southern slave owners. No book for bedside reading, this excellent study of an appalling institution is recommended reading for leaders on both sides of the Civil Rights movement.

Publisher: McKay