Dawn of Detroit : A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits
by Miles, Tiya

A celebrated historian dispels the long-accepted fact that slavery was a largely Southern institution and that the Northern states and territories provided stops on the Underground Railroad by detailing the lives and struggles of slaves in the frontier outpost of Detroit.

Tiya Miles is the recipient of a 2011 MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" and is a professor at the University of Michigan in the departments of American culture, Afro-American and African studies, history, women's studies, and in the Native American Studies Program. She lives in Ann Arbor.

*Starred Review* Miles' account of the founding and rise of Detroit is an outstanding contribution that seeks to integrate the entirety of U.S. history, admirable and ugly, to offer a more holistic understanding of the country. Recipient of a 2011 MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant and decorated cross-disciplinary professor at the University of Michigan, Miles presents the reality of slavery's foundational role in the "City of the Straits." Northern cities, she argues, do not merit their reputations as safe havens for slaves fleeing the south. Native Americans and African Americans were forced to provide essential skills, namely hunting ability and transport labor, in the animal-pelt-driven economy that allowed Euro-Americans to grow roots in Detroit. Miles sets a standard for thoroughness. With scant historical documentation available, she details personal accounts of the lives of the "unfree" and the political ideologies and actions that affected them. Major events and historical figures from 1760 to 1815 are examined in relation to their consequences for Detroit's enslaved in developments including Pontiac's siege, the American Revolution, the great fire of 1805, the Michigan Territorial Court, black militiamen in the War of 1812, and the lives of Peter and Hannah Denison and their daughter, Elizabeth. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

A history of the Michigan metropolis as a center of the Northern slave trade. "We tend to associate slavery with cotton in the commercial crop heyday of the southern ‘cotton kingdom,'" writes MacArthur Fellow Miles (American Culture/Univ. of Michigan; The Cherokee Rose, 2015, etc.), "but in the northern interior space, slavery was yoked to the fur industry." In this connection, slavery enfolded Native Americans, putting individuals in thrall and binding communities in a network of trade obligations. When recently ascendant Americans imposed the Treaty of Detroit in 1807, they cleared several such well-entrenched communities both to create military defenses and to enhance the "processes of surveillance and recapture for American slaveholders" whose property—in this case African-Americans—tended to disappear into Native realms before the advent of the Underground Railroad. African-Americans were also bought and sold in Detroit, Miles writes, though this story is little known and unrecorded by any memorial. Whether those African-Americans were in personal service or worked as trappers or freighters, whether they were claimed by French Canadians, British, or American owners, they were just as unfree as if in New Orleans. Drawing on archival records and a thin scholarly literature, Miles pieces together a story in which African-Americans were used "like railroad cars in a pre-industrial transit system that connected sellers, buyers, and goods." At times, the narrative takes turns that push it away from general readers into the hands of postmodern-inclined academics: "There is perhaps one space in the American-Canadian borderlands in which a radical alterity to colonial and racialized complexity existed." But for the most part, the author's account is accessible to anyone with an interest in local history as well as the larger history of world systems in the time of the Seven Years War and beyond. A book likely to stand at the head o f further research into the problem of Native and African-American slavery in the north country. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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