Reviews

Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Rivers's deeply researched and gracefully written book is the most comprehensive history of the "peculiar institution" in Florida available. Surveying the slave experience in Florida from the age of exploration to the era of emancipation, Rivers positions both slavery and plantation culture at the center of the state's economic and political development, especially in middle and east Florida. The alliance of runaway slaves and Seminole Indians posed a constant threat to the hegemony of whites and underscored the close political, cultural, and familial nexus between persons of African and Native American heritages. Slavery in Florida's plantation belts resembled the institution elsewhere in the Deep South; bondsmen labored under the "task and gang systems" and as craftsmen. Leased and hired slaves provided their masters with a flexible work force and a profitable return on their investments. Harsh slave codes maintained strict white racial control and kept most bondsmen at a subsistence level. Though under constant threat by the domestic slave trade, sexual abuse by masters, and the dispersal of slaves to planters' various estates, the slave family nonetheless provided degrees of security in an otherwise insecure world. Rivers's work is a model state study and deserves wide readership. For all college and university collections. J. D. Smith; North Carolina State University


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Rivers spent two decades gathering information about the Spanish treatment of blacks, and because of his research, he differentiates slavery in Florida from slavery in the other southern states. He traces the presence of Africans in Florida from Spain's early attempts to build an American empire, long before the institution of slavery was introduced. The impact of Spanish treatment was such that blacks, even under slavery, enjoyed more freedom, more interracial mixing, and broader acceptance of that mixing than they did under the hands of the British and southern Anglo culture. Rivers also examines the Seminole wars' effects on slavery in Florida and the presence in Florida of armed black slaves and ex-slaves, because the state was a haven for runaway slaves from Georgia and the Carolinas. The greater social and economic freedom born of Spanish influence and close relationships between rebellious blacks and Seminoles set the stage for the largest slave rebellion in U.S. history. A fascinating account of a variant experience of an institution too often viewed from a single perspective. --Vanessa Bush