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BOOK REVIEWS87 Bloody Dawn: The Christiana Riot and Radical Violence in the Antebellum North. By Thomas P. Slaughter. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. Pp. xiv, 252. $29.95.) Bloody Dawn relates in careful detail the 1851 incident in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in which a Maryland slaveholder attempted to recapture three escaped slaves. Yet there is much more to this important monograph, which throws new light on the status of antebellum African Americans in the North. Looked upon as outsiders, blacks there soon came to realize that should they face the threat of kidnapping and return to slavery, they would have to rely on their own resources. Led by William Parker, a former slave, they organized a self-defense group that sprang into action when Edward Gorsuch tried to apprehend three of the four slaves who had escaped from his Maryland farm nearly two years before. A crowd composed of a few whites but mostly African Americans gathered to prevent the rendition. Before the incident ended, Gorsuch was shot and hacked to death and his son seriously wounded. The fugitive slaves, along with Parker, fled to Canada. The riot received far more attention in the contemporary press than it has from later historians. Clearly, some of the crowd had violated the Fugitive Slave Law, but instead of indicting anyone for that offense the Fillmore administration charged the perpetrators with treason. Indictments named thirty-eight of the rioters on a total of 117 separate counts. Castner Hanway, a local white miller, was named ringleader and was the first to be tried. Hanway was a poor choice. His role in the riot was minor, and even lying government witnesses were unable to convict him. Hanway's acquittal severely damaged the entire case, and eventually all the charges were dropped. Thomas Slaughter uses the Christiana Riot to discuss the status of race relations and violence in nineteenth-century America. Castner Hanway 's indictment resulted in part from the inability of whites to recognize that African Americans could organize for their own defense. It was assumed that there must have been a white person behind the riot. Even sympathetic whites among the Lancaster County Quakers did not recognize blacks as equals, segregating them in their meetings for worship. The violence of the riot was not unique. Many more incidents of personal and group violence occurred than were recorded in later histories. Slaughter tells of several cases of violence against successful middle-class blacks, including the hanging of two blacks convicted of murder and rape, and the 1911 lynching of another person. Above all, Slaughter avoids oversimplification or stereotyping of his subjects. He does not describe wicked slaveholders and good blacks and abolitionists. Edward Gorsuch, for example, was a paternalistic master who practiced a policy of freeing his slaves when they reached the age 88CIVIL WAR HISTORY of twenty-eight. Yet his determination to defend his honor led him to search for the fugitives and to refuse to retreat in the face of overwhelming odds. Some African Americans were willing to betray the fugitives, and at least one of them, the mother-in-law of William Parker, requested a return to slavery. The characters in Bloody Dawn are fleshand -blood people. The chapter "Race, Violence, and Law" is especially provocative. In it Slaughter discusses changing attitudes toward the lower class, domestic and personal violence, and their reflection in the courts. He concludes that studying other violent incidents enables us to learn something about "violence and race, gender and class, law and community, and the meaning of the Christiana Riot in its own time and for ours." This is an important, well-written book with a clearly stated point of view, one that can throw light on contemporary violence as well as on bloody incidents in the past. Larry Gara Wilmington College Celia: A Slave. By Melton A. McLaurin. (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1991. Pp. xi, 148. $19.95.) In 1850, Robert Newsome, a sixty-year-old, widowed, slaveholding farmer from Callaway County, Missouri, came to neighboring Audrain County in order to purchase a fourteen-year-old female slave named Celia. On the way back to his farm, he raped the girl. By...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 87-88
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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