Slavery’s Exiles: A Book Review

The Story of American Maroons

Sylviane Diof in Slavery’s Exiles recreates a narrative of slavery that has been lost in history. The usual helpless slave who is a passive victim of white supremacy takes a back seat in this book. The idea that African/African American slaves were waiting on Abraham Lincoln to “free” them is non existent. Diof spends the book explaining what a maroon is and how they impacted early America. It is evident that Diof spent many hours researching for this book, this is a historical book, written by a historian, seemingly for historians. To be fair, this book can be appreciated by anyone with a love for American history, especially African American history.

One very interesting aspect of Slavery’s Exiles was how Diof described what a maroon is and breaks marronage into two categories. First, a maroon was a slave in America who ran not only from slavery but, from white society. Being free in a white society was not the goal but, to create an autarkic African/African American community was.  The first type of maroons were the Borderland Maroons who left the plantations but settled close by the plantation. The interesting aspect is that both the slaves and slave owners knew of their existence in most cases.

Most Borderland Maroons stayed close to the plantation for family connections. Family members would smuggle the maroons food, clothes, and valuable information. Children who were born in the Borderlands were spared the brutality of slavery but, nonetheless lived a stressful and dangerous life. Children could also prevent families running away together; a pregnant wife and a father who wanted to stay close had little options but to stay in bondage. And even once the child was born, running away as a family was not the ideal situation. A crying baby was a clear way the maroons could be found.

Hinterland Maroons lived in secluded communities outside of the sphere of white influence and white society. Unlike the Borderland Maroons. the Hinterland Maroons were not relient of the plantation to provide food, unless they were planning a raid, which happened often. Borderland Maroons would steal from the plantation too but this was usually their main means of food.Hinterland Maroons would steal tools and livestock to create their own farms outside of white society.  Hinterlands were also able to trade for items they could not produce themselves such as guns and clothes.

Diof does a great job at organizing her book into chapters and sub chapters. Her tone and language can be abrasive for some not familiar with the African diaspora and the history. Overall this is a must read for anyone who wants a good read on the African American history. This is a book that will be a read in future African American history college classes also. The research is impeccable and the writing is just as amazing.


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