The author of the article Forgotten Heroes of Freedom Leon F. Litwack argues America’s freedom native has been written primarily by slave owners, hence, the lack of attention to slave rebels and fugitives in the south. He reminds the readers the usual narrative celebrates those slaves who were deemed obedient, and some historians went as far as to convince the public that most slaves were well-fed and happy.
However, the book Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation by John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger argues this is not true as many slaves desired freedom and even made attempts for it due to a number of reasons such as ill-treatment by the owners and the desire to re-unite with families. Out of estimated peak slave population of four million, 50,000 would make an attempt for freedom on an annual basis according to conservative estimates. But the successful attempts at reaching the north usually numbered 1,000 or 2,000. The desire to reunite families didn’t diminish after the civil war and stories like these dispel the popular myth that slaves did not care about marital and family relations. The article reports even the kindest families treated their slaves in varied fashion, depending upon their mood. In addition, the slaves also felt betrayed by the broken promises of freedom. Franklin and Schweninger found the slaves who made attempts at freedom tended to be young, male, and field hands. They also tended to exhibit characteristics such as determination, intelligence, self-reliance, and resourcefulness.
It is clear this article wants to change the way American history is told, particularly as related to slaves. It wants to dispel the myths that slaves were treated humanely and many embraced slavery by choice. Last but not least, it wants to portray rebel slaves in a positive light.