Published March 16, 2022

Authors Justene Hill Edwards (Unfree Markets: The Slaves Economy and the Rise of Capitalism in South Carolina) and Vanessa M. Holden (Surviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner’s Community) share their new histories offering a fuller picture of the interactions and social relationships of enslaved people as they sought opportunities to survive. In conversation with Laurent Dubois.

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“Centering enslaved men, women, and children as actors on the grand stage of South Carolina’s economy, Hill Edwards demonstrates that the entrepreneurial enterprises of the enslaved did not undermine the institution of bondage but instead reinforced it. Beautifully written and researched, Unfree Markets is a welcome addition to the history of African Americans and capitalism.” ―Erica Armstrong Dunbar, author of Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

“A rich study of an important and understudied topic. Unfree Markets illuminates the many ways enslaved people participated in the expanding markets of early America. Justene Hill Edwards brings new insights to our understanding of how markets changed enslaved people’s day-to-day economic lives, never losing sight of the profound ways that these same markets continued to undermine their freedom.” ―Caitlin Rosenthal, author of Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management

“With intricate research and deft analysis, Vanessa M. Holden presents a bold new exploration into Nat Turner’s Southampton Rebellion of 1831 and the imperative roles women and children played in the ongoing fight for Black survival.” ―Ms.

“Vanessa Holden successfully moves our attention from Nat Turner to his community at a time when the appeal for uncovering societies of resistance has never been more apparent.” ―Civil War Monitor


Virginia Festival of the Book staff, volunteers, partners, and attendees appreciate all of our sponsors. It is their crucial support, along with individual donors, that allows us to present the 2022 Virginia Festival of the Book almost completely free of charge. We appreciate the generous commitment from our Premier Sponsor, The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, and these major sponsors: Michelle and David Baldacci, Dominion Energy, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Community Partner

We appreciate the support of our community partner for helping share information about this event: The Corcoran Department of History at UVA 

Learning Experience

The Birth of Public Education in Four Rural Virginia Counties

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