CONVERSATIONS WITH THE EXPERTS
Gene Allen Smith
The Slaves' Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.
Long before the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the War of 1812 provided an opportunity for slaves to throw off their chains. In this crisply told story, Gene Allen Smith, a history professor at Texas Christian University and curator of history at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, recreates the growing conflicts between the fledgling U.S., Great Britain, Spain, and various Native American groups, and shows how each “tried to mobilize the free black and slave populations in the hopes of defeating the other.” Many slaves saw this jostling for their loyalties as “an avenue to freedom,” and consequently joined armies or communities of Native Americans or mulattoes on the fringes of society. Yet the War of 1812 did not create these kinds of opportunities for all slaves, and Smith demonstrates that, for the most part, slaves fled or joined militias only when hospitable troops were in the area.