100 books like Maroon Societies

By Richard Price (editor),

Here are 100 books that Maroon Societies fans have personally recommended if you like Maroon Societies. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation

Sylviane A. Diouf Author Of Slavery's Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons

From my list on runaways and Maroons in the Americas.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a social historian of the African Diaspora. I am passionate about writing stories that have never been told. The stories I uncover detail the lives, struggles, and resistance of enslaved people. I am interested in and have written about such overlooked topics as African resistance to the transatlantic slave trade; Maroons in the American South; the experience of African Muslims enslaved throughout the Americas; and the lives of the people deported on the Clotilda, the last slave ship to the US. Much still needs to be unearthed to help form a more comprehensive history of the people who, in countless and remarkable ways, fought against their subjugation.

Sylviane's book list on runaways and Maroons in the Americas

Sylviane A. Diouf Why did Sylviane love this book?

I thoroughly enjoyed this exhaustive study of American runaways that uses a wide variety of often ignored archival material.

This great book details the reasons, the places, the profiles, the strategies, and the objectives of some of the tens of thousands of people who, each year, left the plantations behind. They included Free Blacks who had been kidnapped and managed to get away.

There is quasi nothing on Maroons but, to my delight, Franklin and Schweninger show that contrary to popular belief, most runaways did not attempt to go North but remained in the South, close to their families, or in nearby cities and towns, another county, or another state. 

By John Hope Franklin, Loren Schweninger,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Runaway Slaves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From John Hope Franklin, America's foremost African American historian, comes this groundbreaking analysis of slave resistance and escape. A sweeping panorama of plantation life before the Civil War, this book reveals that slaves frequently rebelled against their masters and ran away from their plantations whenever they could.
For generations, important aspects about slave life on the plantations of the American South have remained shrouded. Historians thought, for instance, that slaves were generally pliant and resigned to their roles as human chattel, and that racial violence on the plantation was an aberration. In this precedent setting book, John Hope Franklin and…


Book cover of Fugitive Slaves and Spaces of Freedom in North America

Sylviane A. Diouf Author Of Slavery's Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons

From my list on runaways and Maroons in the Americas.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a social historian of the African Diaspora. I am passionate about writing stories that have never been told. The stories I uncover detail the lives, struggles, and resistance of enslaved people. I am interested in and have written about such overlooked topics as African resistance to the transatlantic slave trade; Maroons in the American South; the experience of African Muslims enslaved throughout the Americas; and the lives of the people deported on the Clotilda, the last slave ship to the US. Much still needs to be unearthed to help form a more comprehensive history of the people who, in countless and remarkable ways, fought against their subjugation.

Sylviane's book list on runaways and Maroons in the Americas

Sylviane A. Diouf Why did Sylviane love this book?

By placing the American runaways’ experience in a continental perspective, this well-researched book brings a fresh outlook to the increasingly popular topic of runaways.

Besides the North and Canada, the contributors examine the motivations, lives, and networks of the people who looked for freedom in all directions. Taking their lives into their own hands, they found refuge in Southern cities, the Texas-Mexico borderlands, Mexico, which abolished slavery in 1829, Indian Country, and the Caribbean.

For each destination, the contributors study and evaluate the degree of freedom, formal, semiformal, and informal, which these self-liberated men and women were able to achieve.

By Damian Alan Pargas (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fugitive Slaves and Spaces of Freedom in North America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume introduces a new way to study the experiences of runaway slaves by defining different "spaces of freedom" they inhabited. It also provides a groundbreaking continental view of fugitive slave migration, moving beyond the usual regional or national approaches to explore locations in Canada, the U.S. North and South, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Using newspapers, advertisements, and new demographic data, contributors show how events like the Revolutionary War and westward expansion shaped the slave experience. Contributors investigate sites of formal freedom, where slavery was abolished and refugees were legally free, to determine the extent to which fugitive slaves experienced…


Book cover of Runaway Slave Settlements in Cuba: Resistance and Repression

Sylviane A. Diouf Author Of Slavery's Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons

From my list on runaways and Maroons in the Americas.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a social historian of the African Diaspora. I am passionate about writing stories that have never been told. The stories I uncover detail the lives, struggles, and resistance of enslaved people. I am interested in and have written about such overlooked topics as African resistance to the transatlantic slave trade; Maroons in the American South; the experience of African Muslims enslaved throughout the Americas; and the lives of the people deported on the Clotilda, the last slave ship to the US. Much still needs to be unearthed to help form a more comprehensive history of the people who, in countless and remarkable ways, fought against their subjugation.

Sylviane's book list on runaways and Maroons in the Americas

Sylviane A. Diouf Why did Sylviane love this book?

I have been totally captivated by this book about Cuban palenques, Maroon settlements, from 1737 to 1850.

La Rosa Corzo gives a fascinating account of several communities, their organization, activities, and resistance. I particularly appreciate his use of slave hunters’ diaries and military dispatches, which provide a unique insight into the repression against the palenqueros.

The author's meticulous study confirms what I found when researching Maroons in the United States:  whenever possible, they preferred flight to combat, an approach that enabled them to stay alive, return to their settlement once the danger had passed, or build a new one elsewhere.

In the case of Cuba, it was a winning strategy: several of these settlements have survived as small towns. 

By Gabino La Rosa Corzo, Mary Todd (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Runaway Slave Settlements in Cuba as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Combining archaeological and historical methods, Gabino La Rosa Corzo provides the most detailed and accurate available account of the runaway slave settlements ( palenques ) that formed in the inaccessible mountain chains of eastern Cuba from 1737 to 1850, decades before the end of slavery on the island. The traces that remain of these communities provide important clues to historical processes such as slave resistance and emancipation, anticolonial insurgency, and the emergence of a free peasantry. Some of the communities developed into thriving towns that still exist today. La Rosa challenges the claims of previous scholars and demonstrates how romanticized…


Book cover of Flight to Freedom: African Runaways and Maroons in the Americas

Sylviane A. Diouf Author Of Slavery's Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons

From my list on runaways and Maroons in the Americas.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a social historian of the African Diaspora. I am passionate about writing stories that have never been told. The stories I uncover detail the lives, struggles, and resistance of enslaved people. I am interested in and have written about such overlooked topics as African resistance to the transatlantic slave trade; Maroons in the American South; the experience of African Muslims enslaved throughout the Americas; and the lives of the people deported on the Clotilda, the last slave ship to the US. Much still needs to be unearthed to help form a more comprehensive history of the people who, in countless and remarkable ways, fought against their subjugation.

Sylviane's book list on runaways and Maroons in the Americas

Sylviane A. Diouf Why did Sylviane love this book?

This book is predominantly about Caribbean runaways and Maroons, with some brief forays into South America and the United States.

I found Thompson’s approach quite enlightening. Rather than studying marronage by country, as is usually the case, he chose an encompassing thematic approach across territories. He studies the topic in four major parts: the ideological bases of marronage, its origin and development, maroon organization, and the question of accommodation and revolution.

This panoramic view, which also offers a lot of details, helps point out commonalities but also differences between communities. 

By Alvin O. Thompson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Flight to Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

African slavery in the Americas has left indelible marks on the geographical, political, economic, social and cultural landscapes of the Americas. An important part of that indelibility is marronage that involved both flight from slavery and the establishment of free communities. This book is about the struggles of enslaved Africans in the Americas who achieved freedom through flight and the establishment of Maroon communities in the face of overwhelming military odds on the part of the slaveholders. Incontestably, Maroon communities constituted the first independent polities from European colonial rule in the hemisphere, even if the colonial states did not accord…


Book cover of Slavery's Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons

Justin Iverson Author Of Rebels in Arms: Black Resistance and the Fight for Freedom in the Anglo-Atlantic

From my list on Black resistance to slavery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of slavery and resistance in early America and in the Atlantic world, and I have long been passionate about how enslaved people refused to accept the chattel system and the many creative ways they found to resist their status. It has also become a central goal of mine to tell their stories and make sure we know more about how slave resistance influenced U.S. society in the past and how it shapes the world in which we live today.

Justin's book list on Black resistance to slavery

Justin Iverson Why did Justin love this book?

The history of Maroons, runaway slaves who created their own autonomous communities, is not well known to the general public in the United States or especially to those outside the Caribbean where prominent Maroon communities existed.

Sylviane Diouf shatters that problem and provides a comprehensive history of Maroons who lived in the present-day United States.

Diouf expertly traces how common these groups of runaways were in the U.S. South and tells their wonderful stories that inspire students to explore their history more deeply.

By Sylviane A. Diouf,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Slavery's Exiles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The forgotten stories of America maroons-wilderness settlers evading discovery after escaping slavery
Over more than two centuries men, women, and children escaped from slavery to make the Southern wilderness their home. They hid in the mountains of Virginia and the low swamps of South Carolina; they stayed in the neighborhood or paddled their way to secluded places; they buried themselves underground or built comfortable settlements. Known as maroons, they lived on their own or set up communities in swamps or other areas where they were not likely to be discovered.
Although well-known, feared, celebrated or demonized at the time, the…


Book cover of South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War

Ann Marie Jackson Author Of The Broken Hummingbird

From my list on Americans learning to live in Mexico.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am fascinated by the places where cultures intersect and the means by which they do so. I am an American lucky to live in gorgeous San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and previously in Hirakata, Japan; Shanghai, China; Suva, Fiji; and Oxford, England. Each move entailed a challenging but rewarding effort to absorb a new set of unwritten societal rules. A great way to grow is to immerse yourself in the unknown and have things you took for granted about how the world works suddenly come into question. Another is to learn from those who have gone before us, so I am delighted to share these wonderful books with you.

Ann's book list on Americans learning to live in Mexico

Ann Marie Jackson Why did Ann love this book?

South to Freedom tells the relatively unknown story of Americans who moved to Mexico for the most existential of reasons: to flee slavery in the 1840s-1850s.

Although Mexico has its own history of slavery, it abolished that evil earlier than the United States did, and this book provides accounts of Mexican officials and ordinary citizens risking their lives to protect fugitive slaves from pursuing slaveholders.

Southern states believed that annexing Texas and invading Mexico would ensure slavery's continuation, but as Baumgartner shows, those actions were instead among the proximate causes of the Civil War. Baumgartner’s important book enhances the sanitized version of Civil War history I learned in school and sheds light on this noble aspect of Mexican history.

By Alice L. Baumgartner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked South to Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A "gripping and poignant" (Wall Street Journal) account of the coming of the American Civil War, showing the crucial role of slaves who escaped to Mexico

The Underground Railroad to the North promised salvation to many American slaves before the Civil War. But thousands of people in the south-central United States escaped slavery not by heading north but by crossing the southern border into Mexico, where slavery was abolished in 1837.

In South to Freedom, prize-winning historian Alice L. Baumgartner tells the story of why Mexico abolished slavery and how its increasingly radical antislavery policies fueled the sectional crisis in…


Book cover of The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America's Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War

James Traub Author Of What Was Liberalism?: The Past, Present, and Promise of a Noble Idea

From my list on the run-up to the American Civil War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a journalist and NYU professor whose primary field is American foreign policy. As a biographer, however, I am drawn to American history and, increasingly, to the history of liberalism. I am now writing a biography of that arch-liberal, Hubert Humphrey. My actual subject thus appears to be wars of ideas. I began reading in-depth about the 1850s, when the question of slavery divided the nation in half, while writing a short biography of Judah Benjamin, Secretary of State of the Confederacy. (Judah Benjamin: Counselor To The Confederacy will be published in October.) It was the decade in which the tectonic fault upon which the nation was built erupted to the surface. There's a book for me in there somewhere, but I haven't yet found it.

James' book list on the run-up to the American Civil War

James Traub Why did James love this book?

Even now we can't quite help thinking that America could have ended slavery without fighting a monstrous war. Delbanco argues that war was not only unavoidable--hardly, in fact, a controversial proposition--but that what made it so was not Kansas-Nebraska or Dred Scott but the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Once Congress agreed that slave-owners could pursue escaped slaves into free territory, and mobilize the federal government to track them down, Northerners got to see first-hand just what it meant to treat humans as chattel. Those sickening scenes helped bring the Republican Party into existence and made its cause that of the North.

By Andrew Delbanco,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The War Before the War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Notable Book Selection

Winner of the Mark Lynton History Prize

Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award

Winner of the Lionel Trilling Book Award

A New York Times Critics' Best Book

"Excellent... stunning."-Ta-Nehisi Coates

This book tells the story of America's original sin-slavery-through politics, law, literature, and above all, through the eyes of enslavedblack people who risked their lives to flee from bondage, thereby forcing the nation to confront the truth about itself. The struggle over slavery divided not only the American nation but also the hearts and minds of individual citizens faced with the timeless problem…


Book cover of The Underground Railroad

Ciera Horton McElroy Author Of Atomic Family

From my list on historical fiction featuring strong women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I may be only 27, but I’ve spent years researching the Cold War. Mostly because it’s very personal to me…my grandfather was a scientist at a top-secret hydrogen bomb plant in the 1960s. I began researching to understand his work and how it affected my family. I didn’t expect to become so consumed by the sixties. The more I learned about the nuclear arms race and the protests that were led, largely, by women, the more I felt convinced that there was a story here. I’m passionate about the often untold stories of resistance—resilience—endurance. Especially women’s stories. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I do! 

Ciera's book list on historical fiction featuring strong women

Ciera Horton McElroy Why did Ciera love this book?

I am including The Underground Railroad as it’s both historical fiction and magical realism—a beautiful surrealist imagining of Civil War history. This inventive novel follows Cora, who is enslaved on a plantation in Georgia. When Cora hears of the underground railroad, she plots her escape—but in this book, the railroad is more than a secret network. It is a real, physical, underground train. Cora must fight for her life and her freedom on a harrowing journey north, evading the slave hunter Ridgeway as he seeks to track her down. Cora’s strength and independence make her a character that will stick with you.

By Colson Whitehead,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Underground Railroad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NOW A MAJOR TV SERIES BY BARRY JENKINS (COMING MAY 2021)

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION 2017
WINNER OF THE ARTHUR C. CLARKE AWARD 2017
LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2017
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER 2016

'Whitehead is on a roll: the reviews have been sublime' Guardian

'Luminous, furious, wildly inventive' Observer

'Hands down one of the best, if not the best, book I've read this year' Stylist

'Dazzling' New York Review of Books

Praised by Barack Obama and an Oprah Book Club Pick, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead won the National Book Award 2016 and the…


Book cover of The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself

Angela Woollacott Author Of Gender and Empire

From my list on how gender helped empires to rule the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been teaching university courses on gender and colonialism for about thirty years. I find students engage with the stories of the daily lived reality of women and men in the past. The books on my list are ones I have assigned at universities in two different countries. It’s so powerful to read someone’s own story from centuries ago, in their own words, like that of Mary Prince. While I love to recommend fiction to history students, I’ve always been fussy about only assigning novels set in a time period and context that the author knew first-hand. It makes these stories—like Heart of Darkness, Burmese Days, and Coonardoo—truly historical evidence. 

Angela's book list on how gender helped empires to rule the world

Angela Woollacott Why did Angela love this book?

We all know that slavery was practised by many empires through world history, but it is rare to find the voice and life experience of someone who was enslaved. Literary scholar Moira Ferguson has edited and republished the memoir of Mary Prince, who was born into slavery in Bermuda but escaped in 1828 when her owners took her to London. Mary Prince found refuge with anti-slavery reformers, who wrote down and published her account of her life. I find it a searing account of how enslaved people were torn from their own families and loved ones, and the brutality of their lives in the Caribbean. Be warned: the sexual assault, violence, and cruelty are shocking. But if you want to know about slavery, this book will tell you.

By Mary Prince,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mary Prince was the first black British woman to escape from slavery and publish a record of her experiences. In this unique document, Mary Prince vividly recalls her life as a slave in Bermuda, Turks Island, and Antigua, her rebellion against physical and psychological degradation, and her eventual escape to London in 1828.

First published in London and Edinburgh in 1831, and well into its third edition that year, The History of Mary Prince inflamed public opinion and created political havoc. Never before had the sufferings and indignities of enslavement been seen through the eyes of a woman-a woman struggling…


Book cover of Soul Catcher

Robert J. Begiebing Author Of The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin

From my list on British and American historical fiction, 1850-1960.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the author of ten books, including fiction, memoir, collected journalism, and criticism. My novels are historical fiction, hence my decision to make my recommendations within that genre, mostly. My own historical novels comprise a tetralogy beginning with The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin and ending with The Turner Erotica, so the series takes the reader roughly from 1648 to 1900. The second book chronologically in the series, Rebecca Wentworth’s Distraction, won the 2003 Langum Prize for historical fiction. Retired now, I was the founding director of the MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction at Southern New Hampshire University.

Robert's book list on British and American historical fiction, 1850-1960

Robert J. Begiebing Why did Robert love this book?

This historical novel is set just before the American Civil War. What singles it out is not the theme—the struggle of an African American slave and mother, Rosetta, for her freedom. More unusual is White’s courageous depiction of the full yet flawed humanity of her slave (“soul”) catcher, Augustus Cain, as Rosetta flees her inhumane conditions in Virginia enroute to Boston. Cain is one of the best at what he does, but the journey both characters endure also brings both toward mutual compassion and redemption. Though published in 2007, the book fits perfectly into, and helps to amplify further, our current awakening to our historical racism and the vast suffering white Americans have inflicted on their Black brothers and sisters. 

By Michael C. White,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Soul Catcher as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Augustus Cain is a man with his back against the wall. A war-scarred wanderer, he faces a past he wants to forget, a present without prospect or fortune, and an uncertain future marred by the loss of his most prized possession - his horse - which he has carelessly gambled away. But he is not without skill - he has an uncanny, if unwelcome, ability to track the most elusive runaway slaves. And to repay a debt and keep his horse, he must head north from Virginia and retrieve a runaway named Rosetta. When he eventually runs Rosetta to ground…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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