“Chains and Freedom” Honor Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, Autumn Leaves Used Books has reissued the 1839 slave narrative “Chains and Freedom.” “Chains and Freedom” chronicles the life of Peter Wheeler, once a slave in Lansing, New York. The piece is unique among the approximately 200 known slave narratives because about half of the story takes place in the area of Central New York that would later be known as Tompkins County.”Chains and Freedom” chronicles the enslavement, flight to freedom, and life as a sailor of Peter Wheeler. Wheeler was born into slavery in New Jersey in 1789, and at the age of eleven, was separated from his family and sold to Gideon Morehouse. Morehouse moved from New Jersey to settle in Ludlowville in 1800. Although Morehouse was horribly cruel to Peter, Peter found support and aid from abolitionist neighbors in Ludlowville, including Thomas and Henry Ludlow, two of the brothers for whom the hamlet was named.Karen Edelstein, who edited the reissued volume, first read Wheeler’s story in 1991 shortly after she moved to Lansing. Said Edelstein, “Peter Wheeler’s story brings history alive for me. To walk through historic Ludlowville and imagine the scene there, over 200 years earlier, is powerful and compelling.”“We’re proud to make this text available to the community,” said Joe Wetmore, the book’s publisher and owner of Autumn Leaves. “Through the life of Peter Wheeler, we can gain insight both to his plight as a slave and as a freeman, and also learn about the role that slave narratives served to promote the cause of abolition. The narrative shows the cruelty of enslavement, as well as the challenges and better life that Peter found once he escaped.”The book is available at Autumn Leaves Used Books, and includes maps based on early 19th-century documents that were adapted to show Wheeler’s travels during the period of slavery, and after he was free.

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