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Schweninger, Loren 1941- (Lorn Lance Schweninger)

Schweninger, Loren 1941- (Lorn Lance Schweninger)

PERSONAL:

Born January 7, 1941, in Culver City, CA; son of Ivan Franklin (a teacher) and Wanda Butler (a secretary) Schweninger; married Patricia Jean Eames (a teacher), August 21, 1965; children: four. Education: University of Colorado, B.A., 1962, M.A., 1966; University of Chicago, Ph.D., 1972.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Greensboro, NC. Office—Department of History, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, P.O. Box 26170, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

High school history teacher in Jefferson County, CO, 1962-65; Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL, instructor, 1970-71; University of North Carolina, Greensboro, instructor, 1971-73, assistant professor, 1973-78, associate professor of history, 1978-86, professor, 1986—, Elizabeth Rosenthal Excellence Professor, 2003—; director, Race and Slavery Petitions Project, 1991—. Fulbright senior lecturer, University of Geneva, Italy, 1991; Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Studies, University of Uppsala, Sweden, 2007.

MEMBER:

American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, Southern Historical Association.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Excellence Fund Faculty fellow, University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG), 1975; American Philosophical Society grant, 1978; Robert Brown Award from Louisiana State Historical Society, 1979, for article "A Negro Sojourner in Antebellum New Orleans"; Senior Fellowship for College Teacher, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), 1985-86; Senior Scholar Award, UNCG, 1986; Presidents' Memorial Award for best article in Louisiana History, 1989; Elliot Rudwick Award, University of Illinois Press, 1990, for Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915; Best Article Award, South Carolina Historical Magazine, 1992; NEH Residency Grant, 1995, 1996-97, 1997-99; National Historical Publications and Records Commission research grants, 1991-2005; Charles Stewart Mott Foundation research grants, 1997-2005; Los Angeles Times best book, 1999, and Lincoln Prize, with John Hope Franklin, 2000, both for Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation; Pulitzer Prize nomination in United States history, 1999; Research Excellence Award, UNCG, 2002.

WRITINGS:

James T. Rapier and Reconstruction, University of Chicago Press, 1978.

(Editor and author of introduction) James P. Thomas, From Tennessee Slave to St. Louis Entrepreneur: The Autobiography of James Thomas, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1984.

Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1990.

(With John Hope Franklin) Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1999.

(Editor) The Southern Debate over Slavery, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), Volume 1: Petitions to Southern Legislatures, 1778-1864, 2001, Volume 2: Petitions to Southern County Courts, 1775-1867, 2007.

(Editor) Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks, Series II: Petitions to Southern County Courts, 1775-1867, Lexis-Nexis (Bethesda, MD), 2002.

(With John Hope Franklin) In Search of the Promised Land: A Black Family and the Old South, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Also contributor to periodicals, including Civil War History, Ontario History, Alabama Review, Journal of Negro History, and Business History Review.

Contributor of articles to history journals.

SIDELIGHTS:

Loren Schweninger told CA that his first book, James T. Rapier and Reconstruction, "examines the role of Rapier and other blacks during reconstruction. I suggest that Rapier and his Negro colleagues struggled desperately, though unsuccessfully, to bring meaning to Jefferson's words that ‘all men are created equal.’ His life and those of other leaders poignantly illustrate the inadequacy of conservative stereotypes in recounting the Negro in American history. Dignified, intelligent, principled, fully aware of their heritage in slavery and freedom, black leaders spent their lives trying to improve the social, political, and economic conditions of blacks in the South.

"For more than a century now observers have shown a keen interest, even fascination, in the most unique and anomalous group in the South—wealthy Negroes—yet there is no general study of this group. In the antebellum era there were rich free Negroes who lived on sprawling plantations and controlled large contingents of slaves, and late in the nineteenth century, there were wealthy black undertakers, bankers, and insurance company owners. Yet, many questions about this group remain unanswered: how they acquired their wealth, how they maintained or failed to maintain their status, and how the relentless passing of time affected them and their children."

Schweninger, editor of the series Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks, Series II: Petitions to Southern County Courts, 1775-1867, is perhaps best known for the book Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation, which he wrote with John Hope Franklin. Based on extensive research of documents such as newspaper advertisements about runaway slaves, the book shows that, contrary to the lingering belief that most slaves were content with their situation, many slaves resisted their condition whenever possible, through passive and active means. For some, this meant performing their tasks badly so as to destroy an owner's property or profits; for others, it could mean escape. Schweninger and Franklin explain the various motives that could prompt a slave to run away; in most cases, the impetus came from a specific incident such as an unusually harsh punishment or the forced breakup of a family. Often, a runaway slave stayed relatively near to the owner's property, returning after a period of time. Though punishments for runaways were particularly brutal, fugitives who returned were sometimes able to negotiate a work settlement with the owner. Other escaped slaves were able to reach the north or Canada and to make contact with others in the abolitionist movement. Schweninger and Franklin also identify personality characteristics that runaway slaves had in common, including intelligence, self-confidence, determination, and resourcefulness.

In his review of Runaway Slaves in the New York Times Book Review, Benjamin Schwarz acknowledged the importance of the book's subject but observed that its focus on documenting the horrors of slavery is misguided. Schweninger and Franklin, wrote Schwarz, are "kicking down a door already flung open [since] historians have repeatedly demonstrated that resistance and flight were pervasive features of slavery." Because Runaway Slaves strives to make this unnecessary point, the critic added, the book suffers from lack of cohesion and interpretation. Schwarz expressed disappointment that Schweninger and Franklin do not explore the nega- tive implications of "day to day resistance," which Eugene Genovese and Peter Kolchin have associated with negative behaviors that contributed to slaves' self-contempt; or the "complex and crucial relationships between slave resistance and accommodation."

Atlantic Monthly critic Leon F. Litwack also noted that Schweninger's and Franklin's heavy reliance on documentary records "limits our view of the world of runaway slaves," adding that the book would have been strengthened by the incorporation of material from slave narratives. But Litwack nevertheless found Runaway Slaves an important and impressive work. Schweninger and Franklin, the critic concluded, "help redeem the rightful place of these men and women in the historic struggle for justice and human dignity, even as this nation continues to come to grips with the consequences of its contradictory legacies of liberty and slavery, freedom and repression." Runaway Slaves won the Lincoln Prize in 2000.

In their book In Search of the Promised Land: A Black Family and the Old South, Schweninger and Franklin focus on three generations of one family to explore the experience of urban slavery. The matriarch, Sally Thomas, served as a slave on a Virginia plantation and later moved as a "virtually free" slave to Nashville, Tennessee, where she ran her own dry cleaning establishment. Sally bore three mixed-race sons, and the book traces their history and that of Sally's grandchildren. These stories, wrote Peggy G. Hargis in the Journal of Southern History, "serve as a prism through which readers can view a full spectrum of decisions and behaviors, many of which might surprise those who think of slavery and freedom as opposite conditions." Praising Schweninger and Franklin for their lucid explanation of the social, economic, and political contexts in which these stories took place, Hargis concluded that the book gives readers "an in-depth account of an individual family and also a broad perspective of slavery and freedom during the antebellum period."

Schweninger's book Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915 documents what Business History Review critic Peter Rachleff called "black achievement in the fact of great odds," in particular the achievements of slaves who managed to accumulate property and buy freedom for themselves and their families. Commenting that Schweninger "has conducted one of the most impressive searches for sources ever seen in this field," the critic went on to question Schweninger's argument that blacks shared many of whites' attitudes toward property. Such an argument, in Rachleff's view, "fails to take into account two fundamental elements of the historical context: institutional racism … and the importance of collectivism within African American culture." Even so, the critic acknowledged the book's importance and concluded that it will stimulate debate.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

ABA Journal, August 1, 1994, "Following Slavery's Legal Trail: History Professor Finds Untold Stories in the Records of Southern Courthouses," p. 38.

American Historical Review, December 1, 1991, Pete Daniel, review of Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915, p. 1626.

American Visions, August 1, 1999, "Fleeing Death, Seeking Life," p. 18.

Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, May 1, 1992, Victor B. Howard, review of Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915, p. 212.

Atlantic Monthly, November 1, 1999, Leon Litwack, review of Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation, p. 116; November 1999, "Forgotten Heroes of Freedom—Book Review," p. 116.

Black Issues in Higher Education, May 24, 2001, Wilma King, review of Runaway Slaves, p. 27.

Booklist, February 15, 1999, Vanessa Bush, review of Runaway Slaves, p. 1032.

Business History Review, summer, 1992, Peter Rachleff, review of Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, September 1, 1999, T.D. Hamm, review of Runaway Slaves, p. 215; July 1, 2006, J.D. Smith, review of In Search of the Promised Land: A Black Family and the Old South, p. 2059.

Christian Century, August 30, 2000, Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, review of Runaway Slaves, p. 881.

Civil War History, September 1, 1991, Joe M. Richardson, review of Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915, p. 266; September 1, 2003, Jason H. Silverman, review of The Southern Debate over Slavery, p. 284.

Ebony, August 1, 2005, review of In Search of the Promised Land, p. 26.

History: The Journal of the Historical Association, October 1, 1991, Martin Crawford, review of Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915, p. 446.

Journal of American History, September 1, 1991, Peter A. Coclanis, review of Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915, p. 653; December 1, 2000, Douglas R. Egerton, review of Runaway Slaves, p. 997.

Journal of Economic History, September 1, 1991, Stanley L. Engerman, review of Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915, p. 751.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History, summer, 1992, Larry E. Hudson, review of Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915.

Journal of Negro History, spring, 2001, review of Runaway Slaves.

Journal of Southern History, August 1, 1992, Juliet E.K. Walker, review of Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915, p. 519; February 1, 2003, Whittington B. Johnson, review of The Southern Debate over Slavery, p. 150; February 1, 2007, Peggy G. Hargis, review of In Search of the Promised Land, p. 176.

Journal of the Early Republic, fall, 1991, Michael Tadman, review of Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915.

Library Journal, March 1, 1999, A.O. Edmonds, review of Runaway Slaves, p. 96; May 15, 2000, Andrew Albanese, "History Authors Win Lincolns," p. 16; September 1, 2005, Edward G. McCormack, review of In Search of the Promised Land, p. 160.

Mississippi Quarterly, fall, 1991, Linda O. McMurry, review of Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915.

New York Review of Books, June 10, 1999, Edmund S. Morgan, review of Runaway Slaves, p. 30.

New York Times Book Review, August 15, 1999, Benjamin Schwarz, review of Runaway Slaves.

Publishers Weekly, June 20, 2005, review of In Search of the Promised Land, p. 73.

Times Literary Supplement, April 30, 1999, John Shelton Reed, review of Runaway Slaves, p. 4.

ONLINE

University of North Carolina at Greensboro Web site,http://www.uncg.edu/ (February 19, 2008), Loren Schweninger faculty profile.

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