From the 1800s to the 1940s, half a million people were enslaved to the United States’ great military strategist. What she did when she heard she could escape the scene of her abuse is a story as dark as the shadows the dark hair of the artisans would sway under.
Liz Chandler was enslaved in this fashion for 18 years, beginning in early 1811, when the Charleston ship that was supposed to take her to Philadelphia, Maine and Boston, instead sailed toward France, taking her so far away that no arrest could be made for her in the U.S.
Liz not only took the warnings of her captors and made a daring escape, but she also studied the black people who survived slavery in America, writing a book in the process. She was called Alta’s Diary, and details her brave escape in the book “The Alatriste Retribution.” Its life today is captivating — full of joy, sorrow and pain. But, more importantly, it’s a haunting story of guilt, of the white woman whose words even on her own side of the equation meant she was no better than her people. The legacy of slavery, death and vilification in Europe is often twisted in that same way.
But it’s clear that this disturbing book also had a light touch: Her brutal treatment spurred her into the writing that would change her life. Her writing is so definitive that when she and her family sailed off to Europe — but certainly not safe — her original publishing house pulled the book. Now, all these years later, her granddaughter, Rachel Alatriste, and publisher Beth Weymouth publish the fascinating details in a book that reveals Liz to be more than just a victim.
This powerful story has been re-released, “She’s Forbidden Her Steps” by Susan Brooks Howard.