When black settlers Keziah and Charles Grier started clearing their frontier land in 1818, they couldn't know that they were part of the nation's earliest struggle for equality; they were just looking to build a better life. But within a few years, the Griers would become early Underground Railroad conductors, joining with fellow pioneers and other allies to confront the growing tyranny of bondage and injustice. The Bone and Sinew of the Land tells the Griers' story and the stories of many others like them: the lost history of the nation's first Great Migration. In building hundreds of settlements on the frontier, these black pioneers were making a stand for equality and freedom.
...historian Cox restores attention to the role of African-Americans in shaping both the frontier and early- to mid-19th-century American political life ... The frontier was a contested zone: although the territory was ostensibly slavery-free and granted voting rights to black male property holders, loopholes allowed pro-slavery Americans to ignore the law in pursuit of wealth and political power. Yet despite facing enormous prejudice, black pioneers fought for their rights and grew businesses, founded schools, built churches, and reorganized politics ... Cox’s book tells a story worth recovering, and it will interest anyone wanting to learn more about the lives of free black Americans before the Civil War.
Antebellum black communities in the upper Midwest emerge from the mists of history ... By 1860, more than 63,000 African-Americans were living in the five states carved out of the old Northwest Territory, mostly in small farming communities. Many had moved there from the South and East during the territorial period seeking good land and the considerable freedoms guaranteed by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. As the states from Ohio to Wisconsin were established, the black pioneers' legal status deteriorated as these 'free' states stripped them of one legal right after another ... While many of them prospered financially, their success proved both a rebuke to the notion that blacks were inherently incapable of thriving on their own and a temptation to their rapacious white neighbors. Greed, racial hatred, and the effects of the fugitive slave laws too often combined to produce incidents of harrowing violence ... A scholarly study with a young adult novel trapped inside and struggling to escape.
The story of America's forgotten black pioneers, who escaped slavery, settled the frontier, and proved that racial equality was possible even as the country headed toward civil war ... Blending meticulous detail with lively storytelling, Cox brings historical recognition to the brave people who managed not just to secure their freedom but begin a battle that is still going on today--a battle for equality.