Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

In His Own Words: Houston H. Holloway's Slavery, Emancipation, and Ministry in Georgia

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

In His Own Words: Houston H. Holloway's Slavery, Emancipation, and Ministry in Georgia

Article excerpt

In His Own Words: Houston H. Holloway's Slavery, Emancipation, and Ministry in Georgia. By Houston Hartsfield Holloway. Edited by David E. Paterson. (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2015. Pp. xxii, 247. $35.00, ISBN 978-0-88146-545-7.)

Houston Hartsfield Holloway was a blacksmith, a teacher, a Methodist minister in Georgia, and, for part of his life, an enslaved person. He also composed a 24,000-word autobiography over a period of approximately ten years, concluding four years before his death. David E. Paterson describes Holloway's autobiographical manuscript as "one of perhaps a handful of surviving autobiographies written by former American slaves, unmediated by an editor or amanuensis, with no mind to publication, and with no evident propaganda agenda" (p, 1).

Paterson uses primary sources, such as contemporary newspapers and local county records, and secondary sources to supplement and interpret Holloway's autobiography. Paterson takes a twofold approach--giving the reader an edited version of Holloway's manuscript and a well-documented summary that places Holloway's life in historical context. Paterson presents the material under subtitle headings such as "Holloway's Emancipation" and "Conjurors, Spirits, Ghosts, and Divine Interventions" (pp. 30, 17). This subject-based narrative is useful in showing Holloway's life as a series of events and situations. This organizational style enables the reader to quickly categorize the content, making for a logically flowing read and allowing researchers to efficiently access and focus on specific topics. In editing Holloway's biography. Paterson also masterfully explains and interprets the self-educated Holloway's idiosyncratic writing style. Additionally, Paterson includes maps, biographical sketches, and genealogical information to further document Holloway's life.

Holloway wrote in an unassuming manner, with only unadorned statements of fact as he simply recounted events. His life was both remarkable and ordinary. His account of enslavement is absorbingly interesting but reveals nothing that would reshape interpretations of the institution of slavery. …

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