Saturday, December 23, 2017

Tiya Miles

Tiya Miles's latest book is The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: You write, “Even in Detroit, in the North, and in Canada—places that we like to imagine as free—slavery was sanctioned by law and carried out according to custom.” What role did enslaved people play in the early days of Detroit?

A: The Dawn of Detroit explores how Detroit's first European settlers positioned themselves in relation to land, natural "resources," and people of color; how enslaved people persevered through adversity; and how surprising alliances were sometimes forged between white merchant elites, white working class people, and enslaved people in this borderland space.

Native people and African Americans were both enslaved within the town and along the expansive Detroit River. Both groups were essential to the success of the fur trade, Detroit's chief economic enterprise, as well as to the maintenance of domestic households and family farms. Detroit would not have developed into a major American metropolis without the contributions of Native and black enslaved residents.

Enslaved people were men and women as well as children, Native Americans as well as African Americans. Slave owners exploited unfree labor to develop and further the lucrative international trade in animal furs and to create and sustain the fort town.

Enslaved men packed and carried pelts across vast distances, manned ships that transported items across the Great Lakes, constructed buildings, delivered local goods, and did agricultural labor on farms.

Enslaved women did all manner of work within and around households, including: growing, preparing and serving foodstuff, sewing and cleaning linens and clothing, keeping domestic spaces livable, and caring for the children of their owners. The evidence suggests that ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue