The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America's Forgotten Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality

PublicAffairs. Jun. 2018. 304p. maps. notes. index. ISBN 9781610398107. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781610398114. HIST
Recent scholarship on the history of slavery, white supremacy, and domestic terrorism has expanded well beyond the bounds of the South, and Cox has made an excellent contribution with her latest book (after A Stronger Kinship). Here, the author addresses the old Northwest Territory or upper Midwest, one of the first areas of the country considered to be a frontier and settled by (ideally white) pioneers. This region was perceived to be a new promise of freedom after the American Revolution, but tensions became hostile after free blacks began to establish successful farms and businesses. The white backlash against them was horrific, and Cox uncovers both the legislative steps taken to undermine equality as well as the physical violence and terror whites in these new states inflicted on both free blacks and runaway slaves. The focus on some of these black pioneering families, including the Griers and Lyles of Indiana, drives the narrative with rich details about their struggles and triumphs.
VERDICT A must-read for gaining a deeper understanding of the history of racism in the Midwest, particularly present-day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
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