Voices of the Enslaved

Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana

By Sophie White

Voices of the Enslaved

Approx. 352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 40 color plates., 40 halftones, 2 tables, notes, index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5404-1
    Published: December 2019

Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press

Hardcover Available December 2019, but pre-order your copy today!

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

In eighteenth-century New Orleans, the legal testimony of some 150 enslaved women and men--like the testimony of free colonists--was meticulously recorded and preserved. Questioned in criminal trials as defendants, victims, and witnesses about attacks, murders, robberies, and escapes, they answered with stories about themselves, stories that rebutted the premise on which slavery was founded.

Focusing on four especially dramatic court cases, Voices of the Enslaved draws us into Louisiana’s courtrooms, prisons, courtyards, plantations, bayous, and convents to demonstrate how enslaved people viewed and experienced their worlds. As they testified, these individuals charted their movement between West African, Indigenous, and colonial cultures; they pronounced their moral and religious values; and they registered their responses to labor, to violence, and, above all, to the intimate romantic and familial bonds they sought to create and protect. Their words--punctuated by cadences of Creole and rich with metaphor--produced riveting autobiographical narratives as they veered from the questions posed by interrogators.

Carefully assessing what we can discover, what we might guess, and what has been lost forever, Sophie White offers both a richly textured account of slavery in French Louisiana and a powerful meditation on the limits and possibilities of the archive.

About the Author

Sophie White is associate professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame and author of Wild Frenchmen and Frenchified Indians: Material Culture and Race in Colonial Louisiana.
For more information about Sophie White, visit the Author Page.


"This meticulously researched and lyrically written study offers a road map through the archives and a reconceptualization of the autobiography of the enslaved in the Atlantic world. Sophie White’s interpretive strategies wrest a vibrant and complex history of slavery from testimony, court proceedings, and the voices of the enslaved themselves. A genre-busting book."--Jennifer L. Morgan, New York University