Driven Toward Madness: The Fugitive Slave Margaret Garner and Tragedy on the Ohio

Nikki M. Taylor. Univ. of Ohio, $22.95 (152p) ISBN 978-0-8214-2160-4
Taylor (America’s First Black Socialist), professor of African-American history at Texas Southern University, rehabilitates the image of Margaret Garner, who escaped slavery and, in 1856, murdered her infant daughter rather than see her taken back into bondage. A number of abolitionists saw Garner’s actions as heroic, but popular opinion excoriated her as an unnatural woman and a monstrous mother—a “Modern Medea.” Garner’s story largely disappeared from the public eye until resuscitated through Toni Morrison’s celebrated 1987 novel Beloved. Taylor focuses on the psychological damage that Garner and other enslaved people suffered, and on the extent to which her actions resulted from this unending bodily and spiritual abuse. Deploying perspectives from feminist analysis and trauma theory, Taylor vividly portrays the sufferings Garner and her family endured under slavery and in their attempt to escape from it, placing their experiences in the wider context of the antebellum Midwest. For those familiar with the experiences of enslaved women in relation to sexuality, motherhood, and violence, little here will come as a surprise, but readers of Morrison’s novel will likely appreciate the ways that Taylor illuminates the gendered experience of enslavement and the dialectic by which the victims of violence may in turn become its perpetrators. Illus. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/2016
Release date: 12/01/2016
Hardcover - 152 pages - 978-0-8214-2159-8
Open Ebook - 180 pages - 978-0-8214-4586-0
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