Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America

Oxford Univ. Sept. 2019. 288p. maps. notes. index. ISBN 9780190846992. $27.95. SOC SCI
The life of Henrietta Wood (1818–1912) was an odyssey. Born into slavery, Wood tasted freedom once, but was kidnapped, reenslaved, and then freed again. From her home state of Kentucky, she journeyed to New Orleans; Cincinnati; Natchez, MS; Texas; then back to Cincinnati, finally settling in Chicago. After being reenslaved in 1853, Wood sued unsuccessfully for her freedom. She sued again for reparation of lost wages after the Civil War. With the help of others, and in spite of many hurdles and stumbling blocks, she managed to win a judgment for a tenth of the wages for which she sued. McDaniel (history, Rice Univ.; The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery) renders an enthralling biography of a determined, resilient woman. Using creative fiction techniques, he builds on Wood’s story, which she recounted in interviews with two Ohio newspapers in 1876 and 1879. Wood’s primary antagonist, Zebulon Ward, against whom she sued for reparation, was a wealthy man, principally through leasing prison labor in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas for manufacturing various products.
VERDICT A well-researched, well-told story that also contributes to the debate about reparations. Recommended for both academic and general readers.
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