Karen Cook Bell

Sep 2, 2021

Running from Bondage

Enslaved Women and Their Remarkable Fight for Freedom in Revolutionary America

Cambridge University Press 2021

purchase at bookshop.org

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In this episode you’ll hear about: how Black women contributed to America’s first freedom war, reading against the grain, rival geographies, fugitivity as an act of resistance, why we must center Black women’s voices, and a discussion of the book Running from Bondage.

Our guest is: Dr. Karen Cook Bell, who is Associate Professor of History. Her areas of specialization include slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and women’s history. Her scholarship has appeared in the Journal of African American History; Georgia Historical Quarterly; Passport; U.S. West-Africa: Interaction and Relations; Before Obama: A Reappraisal of Black Reconstruction Era Politicians; Converging Identities: Blackness in the Contemporary Diaspora; and Slavery and Freedom in Savannah. She has published Claiming Freedom: Race, Kinship, and Land in Nineteenth Century Georgia, which won the Georgia Board of Regents Excellence in Research Award; and Running from Bondage: Enslaved Women and Their Remarkable Fight for Freedom in Revolutionary America. She is editor of Southern Black Women’s Struggle for Freedom during the Civil War and Reconstruction; and a contributor for Black Perspectives. She is a former AAUW Dissertation Fellow.

Today’s book is: Running from Bondage: Enslaved Women and Their Remarkable Fight for Freedom in Revolutionary America, which tells how enslaved women comprised one-third of all runaways, and the ways in which they fled or attempted to flee bondage during and after the Revolutionary War. Dr. Cook Bell's contribution to the study of slave resistance explores the individual and collective lives of these women and girls, and details about what led them to escape. She demonstrates that there two wars waged during the Revolutionary Era: a political revolution for independence from Great Britain and a social revolution for emancipation and equality in which Black women played an active role. Running from Bondage emphasizes the chances taken by these Black founding mothers and the important contributions they made to the cause of liberty.

Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, the co-producer of the Academic Life podcasts, and a historian of women and gender.

Listeners to this episode might be interested in:

  • Claiming Freedom: Race, Kinship, and Land in Nineteenth Century Georgia, by Karen Cook Bell
  • Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South, by Stephanie Camp
  • “What Can We Learn from a Digital Database of Runaway Slave Advertisements,” International Social Science Review vol 76 no. (2001), by Tom Costa
  • Never Caught, by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
  • This interview on reclaiming lost voices with Dr. Erica Armstrong Dunbar 
  • This interview about the social constructions of race with Dr. Brigette Fielder

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Christina Gessler

Dr. Christina Gessler is a historian of women, gender, and sexuality.

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