Happy Dreams of Liberty: An American Family in Slavery and Freedom


Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
6.0 X 9.0 X 1.5 inches | 1.3 pounds

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About the Author

R. Isabela Morales is the Editor and Project Manager of the Princeton & Slavery Project and the Digital Projects Manager at the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum. She received her PhD in history from Princeton University.


"Happy Dreams of Liberty is an extraordinary family saga and a profound exploration of the shifting contours of slave and free, Black and white. From an Alabama plantation across the Kansas prairies to the mining boomtowns of Colorado, the Townsends' quest for freedom, equality, and belonging in the decades surrounding the Civil War is an unforgettable odyssey, driven by possibility and haunted by dreams deferred. Isabela Morales brilliantly projects an intimate story onto the vast canvas of the American experience." -- Daniel J. Sharfstein, author of The Invisible Line: A Secret History of Race in America

"Morales's engrossing family history is the product of old-fashioned archival research, cutting-edge analysis, and brilliant writing. With empathy and imagination, she recreates the lives of a remarkable group of men and women, born into slavery, freed in one enslaver's will. We see and feel their dreams of freedom and opportunity along with their lifelong efforts to achieve them. It's a peculiarly American story. It's anything but black and white." -- James Goodman, author of Stories of Scottsboro

"In Happy Dreams of Liberty, R. Isabela Morales skillfully peels back the multilayered narrative of the Townsends--a mixed-race family from Alabama in the late nineteenth century--for all the world to see. This is much more than a fascinating piece of history found buried deep in the archives. The Townsends' complex story of inheritance and the struggle for freedom in post-Civil War America remains relevant today as we confront the continuing legacy of the institution of slavery, the persistence of racism, and the ways that we as a society choose to memorialize the past." -- W. Ralph Eubanks, author of The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South