Entangled in Freedom by Ann DeWitt and Kevin M. Weeks Xlibris Corporation
reviewed by Peter M. Fitzpatrick
"In my humble opinion, I really believe the north don't want the cotton industry to spread farther West."
The year is 1862 and the above quote is spoken by an African American slave in Mableton, Georgia. Eli Whitney's cotton gin had indeed made the short grain cotton that grew in abundance throughout the South easily seeded and exported. Previously, only the long grain cotton of the southern coastlines was economically feasible to harvest. The expanded market made slave labor and cotton "king" from Georgia to Texas. So there is truth in the statement, but why would an African American slave say it? Indeed, why would African Americans even fight and die to defend the Confederacy? This book looks at one such "family" of slaves and their master. Complex issues of race, economics, and war are bravely brought into the light.
Ostensibly a Young Adult novel, this is engaging and illuminating enough for the general reader. History is an ongoing narrative and to hear the voices of black confederate soldiers as they interact with white ones rivets the attention. The sharp edges of class and race and roles allowable ring through the pages like the loud echoes of the same do today. African Americans wore the grey as well as the blue, here is a window onto their story. Self-interest, altruism, compulsion, even the struggle for respect: these are some of the motives slaves might have had to defend the institution that enslaved them. They are also American motivations, ones we all can taste. Taste them we do, in this grand, yet simple, story.