Stephen P. Hanna, “Cartographic Memories of Slavery and Freedom”

This article describes a slave from Fredericksburg, VA named John Washington.  John Washington was taught how to read and write, and was given experiences that was not typical for a slave such as working around Fredericksburg and gaining the experience of the world around him (50).  Then, Hanna explains how John left his ‘home’ and went over to a Union army camp to finally gain his freedom (51).  In 1873, Washington because a house and sign painter in Washington, D.C. and decided to write a memoir about his time in Fredericksburg, which included maps (51).  Washington’s map was not a normal map, but instead was a map that represented his personal experiences while in Fredericksburg (51).  Hanna notes that historians would interpret the meaning behind Washington’s memoir, but would disregard the map (51).  Hanna notes that because Washington drew this map without accuracy or the technology, it is often disregarded even though it still contains important information (52).  Hanna notes that indeed, this map was not created to help someone navigate around Fredericksburg, but it is important because it helps historians understand Washington’s perspectives and experiences as a slave.  Hanna further notes that historians need to see maps as both textual representations and material practices (53).  Hanna then discusses how maps (planter landscapes) were made in order to show poor whites and slaves what the elite white individuals did not know (54).  Slaves were controlled by whites throughout their whole life.  As Hanna states, “In contrast to the anger and sadness expressed in his description of these systems of control, Washington takes great delight in detailing the moments and spaces he took to escape this control (55).  Washington created this map to illustrate his happiness, his freedom, his enjoyment.  Hanna then discusses how Washington gained access as a slave to the insight of being a cartographer.  Hanna notes, “While Reconstruction did not lead to the full citizenship that the newly emancipated sought, educational and economic opportunities for men like Washington expanded greatly” (56).  Even though he gained access and experience, his memory was still a very important aspect to his map making (58).  For 134 years, this map was never publicly displayed due to the passing down of the map through generations, but as Hanna notes, “Since its publication in 2007, however, Washington’s map and the experiences of slavery, resistance, and emancipation it represents are open to new subjects performing the map within new contexts” (60).