Book Talk: "Happy Dreams of Liberty" with R. Isabela Morales *19 and Martha A. Sandweiss

April 28, 2022

The author, R. Isabela Morales *19, discusses her new book, "Happy Dreams of Liberty: An American Family in Slavery and Freedom," with historian Martha A. Sandweiss of Princeton University. In-person and virtual, hosted by the Princeton Public Library.

Monday, May 9, 2022
7 - 8 pm ET
Princeton Public Library and Zoom

About the Book

From Oxford University Press: "A poignant, multi-generational saga of a mixed-race family in the US West and South from the antebellum period through the rise of Jim Crow. . . . In this deeply researched, movingly narrated portrait of the extended Townsend family, R. Isabela Morales reconstructs the migration of this mixed-race family across the American West and South over the second half of the nineteenth century. Searching for communities where they could exercise their newfound freedom and wealth to the fullest, members of the family homesteaded and attended college in Ohio and Kansas; fought for the Union Army in Mississippi; mined for silver in the Colorado Rockies; and, in the case of one son, returned to Alabama to purchase part of the old plantation where he had once been held as a slave. In Morales's telling, the Townsends' story maps a new landscape of opportunity and oppression, where the meanings of race and freedom—as well as opportunities for social and economic mobility—were dictated by highly local circumstances. During the turbulent period between the Civil War and the rise of Jim Crow at the turn of the twentieth century, the Townsends carved out spaces where they were able to benefit from their money and mixed-race ancestry, pass down generational wealth, and realize some of their happy dreams of liberty."


R. Isabela Morales is an author and public historian. She is the Editor and Project Manager of The Princeton & Slavery Project and the Digital Projects Manager at the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum, central New Jersey's first Black history museum. Morales received her Ph.D. in history from Princeton University in 2019, specializing in slavery and emancipation. She received her B.A. in history and American Studies from the University of Alabama, where she began the research that would become "Happy Dreams of Liberty" in an undergraduate history seminar. "Happy Dreams of Liberty" is her first book.

Martha A. (Marni) Sandweiss is Professor of History at Princeton University and the founder and director of The Princeton & Slavery Project. She is the author of "Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line," and the author or editor of numerous other works on the history of photography and the history of the American West.