Hanna, “Cartographic Memories of Slavery and Freedom”

Hanna’s article describes the changing intention and use of maps through one created by John Washington, an enslaved man during the Civil War.  Washington, a literate man who fled slavery to find freedom, displays a particular point of view since many slaves at the time were not able to read or write.  In 1873, Washington revealed his story in a memoir, where he also provided a map of Fredericksburg, Virginia.  On this map, he points out specific landmarks that tie back to significant moments in his life.  Hanna explains that while Washington’s memoir has attracted much attention from historians, his map is not considered as important.  Hanna challenges this, using arguments made by J.B. Harley, saying that Washington’s map reveals more about southern society than it does about Washington’s cartography skills.  Hanna argues that the places Washington marks on the map represent moments where he was able to defy his position in the slave system.  While Hanna mentions that Washington’s true intention for creating the map is unknown, the current use of the map illustrates how cultural context can change.  Currently, Washington’s map is used by historical societies and the National Parks Service to show the experiences of an enslaved person in Fredericksburg during the Civil War.  Washington’s map allows scholars to connect Fredericksburg today to the lives of those whose stories are not always written.  Washington’s map has changed from a sketch in a book for reference, to a source that symbolizes African American experience during the Civil War.

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