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American Slavery, American Freedom

American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia is a 1975 history text[1] by American historian Edmund Morgan.[2] The work was first published in September 1975 through W W Norton & Co Inc and is considered to be one of Morgan's seminal works.[3][4]

American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia
American Slavery, American Freedom.jpg
AuthorEdmund Morgan
CountryUnited States
SubjectAmerican history, Virginia, slavery
PublisherW W Norton & Co Inc
Publication date
September 1975
Media typePrint, ebook, audiobook
Pages464 pages


The book uses archival research of Virginia's House of Burgesses circa 1620 and beyond. Morgan focuses on the conflicting political and economic history of the planter class oligarchy versus the diminutive freeman, the indentured servant, and the newly created slave class. Morgan finds the key to this central paradox in the people and politics of the state that was both the birthplace of the revolution and the largest slave-holding state in the country.[5]


Warren M. Billings criticized American Slavery, American Freedom as being too simplistic while also stating that it was "a stimulating book".[6] The Baltimore Sun commented that the title was "misleading" and that it was more about "the ordeal of living in Seventeenth-Century Virginia" than about slavery.[7] New research has appeared with the passage of several decades, much of which complicates or challenges Morgan's description of the encounter between Native Americans and colonists, the rise of slavery, the availability of white indentured servants in the second half of the seventeenth century, and the implications of Bacon's Rebellion. Nevertheless, the book continues to be assigned in history courses because of Morgan's "eloquent prose, his ability to link key concepts in American history, and his effort to bring the sensibilities of the post-Vietnam era to one of the central tragedies and ironies of American history.[8]


  1. ^ read online
  2. ^ Wood, Peter (December 21, 1975). "What went wrong in Virginia, the postwar world, the Middle East; American Slavery American Freedom". New York Times. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  3. ^ Parent, Anthony (2006). Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740. University of North Carolina Press. pp. 1, 13, 18, 20. ISBN 0807854867.
  4. ^ Boyd, Kelly (1999). Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing. Routledge. pp. 837–838. ISBN 1884964338.
  5. ^ Wayne, Michael (2001). Death of an Overseer:Reopening a Murder Investigation from the Plantation South. Oxford University Press. p. 231. ISBN 0195140036.
  6. ^ Billings, Warren M. (January 1977). "Review: American Slavery, American Freedom". Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 85 (1). Archived from the original on 10 September 2012. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  7. ^ "Slavery without racism?". Baltimore Sun. Nov 2, 1975. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  8. ^ Brown. "Americans on the James: Re-reading American Slavery American Freedom". Archived from the original on 2013-11-04. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)