Engaging and accessibly written, Strange New Land explores the history of slavery and the struggle for freedom before the United States became a nation. Beginning with the colonization of North America, Peter Wood documents the transformation of slavery from a brutal form of indentured servitude to a full-blown system of racial domination. Strange New Land focuses on how Africans survived this brutal processand ultimately shaped the contours of American racial slavery through numerous means, including:
Mastering English and making it their own Converting to Christianity and transforming the religion Holding fast to Islam or combining their spiritual beliefs with the faith of their masters Recalling skills and beliefs, dances and stories from the Old World, which provided a key element in their triumphant story of survival Listening to talk of liberty and freedom, of the rights of man and embracing it as a fundamental righteven petitioning colonial administrators and insisting on that right.
Against the troubling backdrop of American slavery, Strange New Land surveys black social and cultural life, superbly illustrating how such a diverse group of people from the shores of West and Central Africa became a community in North America.
Long before there was a United States, Africans were present in what would become American history. In very condensed form, Duke University historian Wood follows Africans, from those who traveled with the early Spanish explorers to those who fought in the early years of the American Revolution. He illuminates how differences among the colonies, between North and South America, and among European powers affected the Africans' experience, including their differing relations with the Native American population and the diversity of the Africans themselves. With deft strokes, Wood provides a political milieu and a broad international context, such as the effects of the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the Paris Treaty of 1762. As succinctly, he provides a vivid sense of African daily life-the acquisition of new languages, hairstyling, food, music, religion-and the effect that had on America. There are no new revelations on the order of Wood's Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion, but Wood here offers a splendid synthesis of recent research for a lay reader's edification and , despite often horrific events, pleasure; the scholarly foundation upon which the book rests is hidden under its simple, straightforward and graceful style. This is an amazing "little" book, a really masterful distillation. (May) Forecast: Wood is coauthor of the textbook Created Equal: A Social and Political History of the United States, and one could recommend this as a fine book for young adult readers-except that might discourage intelligent and learned adults from picking it up. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.