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Summary

Published in 1974, Roll, Jordan, Roll is American historian Eugene Genovese's epic study of slavery in the United States in the late 18th and 19th centuries. It provides a nuanced understanding of the relationship between master and slave.

Slave owners saw it as their duty to limit slaves' freedoms for their own good, as a father might deal with his children. But Genovese looked beyond this notion of paternalism to suggest the relationship was more complex. Slaves did not simply accept their lot passively. They used sophisticated techniques to survive - an acceptance of some of the slave masters' demands combined with the ability to negotiate certain rights - all the while maintaining their own sense of humanity through song and prayer.

Genovese's uncovering of these relationships caused controversy, because he refused to make simplistic moral claims that slaveholders were "bad" and slaves were "good".

With Roll, Jordan, Roll, Genovese won the prestigious Bancroft Prize for American history writing, and the book remains a key text on American slavery.

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