The Roving Editor
Or Talks with Slaves in the Southern States, by James Redpath
Edited by John R. McKivigan
Publication date:15 April 1996
Length of book:388 pages
PublisherPenn State University Press
While a reporter at Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, James Redpath developed a strong curiosity about slavery and decided that he would travel south "to see slavery with my own eyes." Redpath interviewed slaves, recorded their opinions, and collected these letters into book form, publishing them in 1859 as The Roving Editor. While some historians over the years have utilized Redpath's book, many have treated it as merely another travel account of the antebellum South, dismissing the interviews as the fabrication of a radical abolitionist.
John R. McKivigan has uncovered important historical records that certify for the first time the authenticity of Redpath's interviews; he presents here the original newspaper articles that supply the places and times of many of the slave encounters, which Redpath had edited out of the book. Furthermore, using Redpath's unpublished correspondence, McKivigan verifies his residence in southern communities at the times these interviews were reported to have taken place, making The Roving Editor one of the most valuable and compelling sources of the slaves' own testimony regarding their treatment in the late antebellum period.
—Georgia Historical Quarterly