Dismal Freedom: A History of the Maroons of the Great Dismal Swamp

Regular price $ 29.95

by J. Brent Morris

University of North Carolina Press

7/12/2022, hardcover

SKU: 9781469668253


The massive and foreboding Great Dismal Swamp sprawls over 2,000 square miles and spills over parts of Virginia and North Carolina. From the early seventeenth century, the nearly impassable Dismal frustrated settlement. However, what may have been an impediment to the expansion of slave society became an essential sanctuary for many of those who sought to escape it. In the depths of the Dismal, thousands of maroons--people who had emancipated themselves from enslavement and settled beyond the reach of enslavers--established new lives of freedom in a landscape deemed worthless and inaccessible by whites.

Dismal Freedom unearths the stories of these maroons, their lives, and their struggles for liberation. Drawing from newly discovered primary sources and archeological evidence that suggests far more extensive maroon settlement than historians have previously imagined, award-winning author J. Brent Morris uncovers one of the most exciting yet neglected stories of American history. This is the story of resilient, proud, and determined people who made the Great Dismal Swamp their free home and sanctuary and who played an outsized role in undermining slavery through the Civil War.


"Building on the work of archaeologists, historians, and his own deep archival work, Brent Morris has produced a comprehensive history of freedom-seekers: a testament to the power of both individual courage and collective solidarity." --Ed Baptist, author of The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

"By taking the reader deep inside the liberated zone known as the Great Dismal Swamp, J. Brent Morris vividly illuminates the political will of enslaved African Americans to be free. This gripping saga recounts one of America's greatest freedom stories." -- Marcus Rediker, author of The Slave Ship

"Very revealing! This outstanding and genuinely novel contribution to the history of slavery and the South makes excellent use of recent archaeological discoveries yet puts them into a historical perspective for the average reader. This will be the go-to book on U.S. marronage." --Timothy Lockley, author of Maroon Communities in South Carolina: A Documentary Record

About the Author:

J. Brent Morris is professor of history at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.