As a fan of history and autonomous groups I was really intrigued by this article in The Smithsonian magazine about an archaeologist bringing up history of a run away slave sanctuary in the middle of early America. Read the piece and find out about small groups of people, maybe even one at a time, who cast off their shackles to the degree they could and made a refuge away from authority. Estimates of the community reach into the thousands. Talk about a “free state project”!

In the strangest twist of fate the man reviving this story is a Marxist and he views these former slaves as victims of capitalism. While the slave trade was certainly a for-profit venture it is not in any way a fundamental requirement for capitalism at all. Indeed history has shown us Socialists/Marxists who just as brutally caged and worked people for merely for disagreeing with them. It isn’t a requirement but it also has happened frequently. As a Voluntaryist I read this story with an understanding that the run aways were defying rulers, rulers who sanctioned the owning of other humans because why not? They sanctioned taking from their subjects some product of their labor … why not extend that to the full labor of people who had never been their subjects.

These slaves took to a place with natural barriers that would deter those seeking to bring them back to the usurpers of freedom. In this element they formed their own society. Was it one of egalitarian style or could it have been more barbaric? Or a mix of islands that each had their own methods and merits? We may never know the whole story because there is little record covering their traditions. Maybe they had a chief or maybe they had elections or maybe they had none. Whatever society they built they chose to stay there for decades.

Why then did these people evacuate the Dismal Swamp, why are their descendent’s not still there? As the war between the states ended in 1865 these people no longer feared a return to slavery and apparently assimilated into society. To that extent I postulate that they voluntarily left their autonomous zone covering thousands of acres and embraced the capitalist system. For it wasn’t capitalism that caused them to hide among the swamps, thorns and wild beasts – it was domination of man over other men. I will assume they actually sought the favorable conditions that came with  greater access to capitalism. For the defiant people had already been engaging in some trade with the outside, they had skills and knowledge and that is a foundation for success.

If you’d like to learn more this Marxist fellow has an $80 book for sale on Amazon, I’m sure it’s worth the price but if supply and demand for A Desolate Place for Defiant People increase then maybe his price will decrease and still leave him with a well earned profit for so many days toiled in the bog and sifting through the soil. I certainly hope he finds more foundations, remnants of the people and further islands of communities among the wet mire. I hope one day more of us, voluntaryists, will find greater freedom, even total freedom, without the current talks of how to run away from the oppression and takers of freedoms to some extreme place or situation.