The long-hidden truth about America’s black pioneers, the frontier they settled, and their fight for a better nation
The American frontier is one of our most cherished and enduring national images. We think of the early pioneers who settled the wilderness as courageous, independent—and white.
This version of history is simply wrong. Starting in our nation’s earliest years, thousands of free African Americans were building hundreds of settlements in the Northwest Territory, a territory that banned slavery and gave equal voting rights to all men. This groundbreaking work of research reveals the lost history of the nation’s first Great Migration. Though forgotten today, these pioneers were a matter of national importance at the time; their mere existence leading to fierce political movements and battles that tore families and communities apart long before the Civil War erupted.
The Bone and Sinew of the Land is a story with its roots in the ideals of the American Revolution, a story of courageous pioneers transformed by the belief that all men are created equal, seeking a brighter future on the American frontier.
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“Anna-Lisa Cox convincingly shows that African American history has always been interwoven with the pioneer experience in America. At the same time, she reveals the blurred, often dangerous lines between freedom and bondage even in the territories that the Founding Fathers established from the beginning to be beyond the reach of America’s original sin: slavery…Cox uncovers a rich history that may surprise even those most devoted to the study of African American history. The Bone and Sinew of the Land is a revelation of primary historical research that is written with the beauty and empathic powers of a novel.”
Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard University
“The journey of America’s Black pioneers is a story that remains unknown to Americans…Starting in the earliest days of the republic, these brave men and women built new lives far away from the White enslavers who doubted them, threatened them, and attacked them. This groundbreaking work of research is a beautifully written testament to their bold courage, to their trailblazing strength.”
— Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award–winning author
“Engrossing…Cox’s book tells a story worth recovering, and it will interest anyone wanting to learn more about the lives of free black Americans before the Civil War.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Excellent…A must-read for gaining a deeper understanding of the history of racism in the Midwest.”
— Library Journal
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About Anna-Lisa Cox
Anna-Lisa Cox is an independent historian, a fellow at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, and a research associate at the Smithsonian. She has won numerous awards for her research, and her work on the subject of The Bone and Sinew of the Land is featured in the Power of Place exhibit at the National Museum of African American History. She is the author of A Stronger Kinship: One Town’s Extraordinary Story of Hope and Faith. She lives in Michigan.
About Elizabeth Wiley
Elizabeth Wiley, an Earphones Award–winning narrator, is a seasoned actor, dialect coach, and theater professor. In addition to her growing portfolio of audiobooks, her voice can be heard in The Idea of America, Colonial Williamsburg’s virtual learning curriculum; in Paul Meier’s e-textbook Speaking Shakespeare; and modeling US-English on one of the world’s top language-learning products.