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My Brother Slaves"Friendship, Masculinity, and Resistance in the Antebellum South"$
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Sergio A. Lussana

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813166940

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813166940.001.0001

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Enslaved Men, the Grapevine Telegraph, and the Underground Railroad

Enslaved Men, the Grapevine Telegraph, and the Underground Railroad

Chapter:
(p.125) 5 Enslaved Men, the Grapevine Telegraph, and the Underground Railroad
Source:
My Brother Slaves
Author(s):

Sergio A. Lussana

Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
DOI:10.5810/kentucky/9780813166940.003.0006

Slaveholders tightly regulated enslaved people’s access to the outside world; however, as this chapter demonstrates, despite their best efforts, owners failed to prevent the operation of an illicit “grapevine telegraph”—a network spreading news and correspondence between enslaved communities maintained by mobile bondpeople. Enslaved men were key players in this network. Their mobility presented them with more opportunities than their female counterparts to acquire geographical knowledge and make contact with abolitionist sources. This chapter unravels the secret operations of this network. Through this system of communication, enslaved men exchanged subversive ideas as well as daily news. Indeed, evidence shows that men used the grapevine telegraph to forge an inter-plantation network with other men and hold conspiratorial meetings. The nucleus of slave insurrectionary plots in the South can be found in this subversive homosocial space.

Keywords:   Slavery, Antebellum South, Grapevine telegraph, Resistance to slavery, Underground Railroad, Slave insurrection, Slave runaways

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