At the Threshold of Liberty: Women, Slavery, and Shifting Identities in Washington, D.C

Univ. of North Carolina. Feb. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9781469662220. pap. $27.95. SOC SCI
With this debut, Nunley (history, comparative American studies, Oberlin Coll.) writes a focused study on the way that Black women have transcended slavery, including how they fought court battles in an attempt to earn their right to freedom and have sought to define themselves on their own terms. Focusing primarily on Washington, DC, this book by Nunley looks at previously undiscovered primary sources—from abolitionist records to legislation to letters—on women who were enslaved, as well as those who were free and the barriers they faced because of their gender and race. She notes myriad examples of such women not only seeking to navigate life around these obstacles but also uplifting other women in similar situations. Specifically, the author includes stories of Black women buying their freedom and later becoming involved in abolitionist movements, even hiding those who escaped bondage at great risk to themselves and their families. Overall, Nunley thoroughly explores the way these courageous women lived their lives and shaped history around them in the process.
VERDICT Though well-researched, this compressive history reads more like a dissertation and the dense chapters and occasional jargon means it will likely appeal primarily to those in academia.
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