Driven Toward Madness
The Fugitive Slave Margaret Garner and Tragedy on the OhioBook - 2016
Jon Gjerde Prize for Best Book in Midwestern History (Midwestern History Association), Honorable Mention
Margaret Garner was the runaway slave who, when confronted with capture just outside of Cincinnati, slit the throat of her toddler daughter rather than have her face a life in slavery. Her story has inspired Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a film based on the novel starring Oprah Winfrey, and an opera. Yet, her life has defied solid historical treatment. In Driven toward Madness, Nikki M. Taylor brilliantly captures her circumstances and her transformation from a murdering mother to an icon of tragedy and resistance.
Taylor, the first African American woman to write a history of Garner, grounds her approach in black feminist theory. She melds history with trauma studies to account for shortcomings in the written record. In so doing, she rejects distortions and fictionalized images; probes slavery’s legacies of sexual and physical violence and psychic trauma in new ways; and finally fleshes out a figure who had been rendered an apparition.
Professor Taylor recounts the story of a family of Kentucky slaves who sought freedom in mid-century Ohio. Rather than let her children be returned to bondage, their mother, Margaret Garner attacked her offspring, killing the youngest before being stopped. The incident incited sectional controversy and brought many questions: Was she insane or evil? Had slavery driven her to madness or had she chosen death as a rational choice over continued bondage. She is one of the few runaway slaves ever to testify at his or her own fugitive slave hearing. The book makes use of black feminist theory, trauma studies, pain studies, genetics, a history of emotions, and literary criticism. Annotation ©2017 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)