DiscoverLady Killers with Lucy Worsley12. Margaret Garner - Icon of Tragedy & Resistance
12. Margaret Garner - Icon of Tragedy & Resistance

12. Margaret Garner - Icon of Tragedy & Resistance

Update: 2023-03-275


Lucy Worsley looks at the crimes of women from the 19th and early 20th centuries from a contemporary, feminist perspective.

Lucy explores the story of Margaret Garner, an enslaved mother in 1850s America, who commits a murder that transforms her into an icon of tragedy and resistance. Her life inspired Tony Morrison’s Pulitzer-winning novel Beloved.

To explore Margaret Garner’s remarkable story and its contemporary resonances Lucy is joined by Nikki M Taylor, Professor of African American History at Howard University in Washington DC and the author of Driven Towards Madness: The Fugitive Slave Margaret Garner and Tragedy on the Ohio.

Margaret Garner and her small four children are owned by a farmer in the slave state of Kentucky, and they live a tantalising 16 miles from Cincinnati in the free state of Ohio. Margaret and her husband Robert, who is enslaved on a nearby farm, decide to risk their lives, and the lives of their children, for a chance of freedom on the other side of the Ohio River. On the night of 27th January 1856, in temperatures close to -20 degrees celsius, the family escapes on a sleigh and, against the odds, they evade capture and make it across the frozen river to what they hope will be freedom and safety. But their owners are hard on their heels, and soon Margaret will have to give a terrible answer to the question ‘is slavery a fate worse than death?’.

Lucy wants to know what life was like for Margaret as an enslaved woman, wife and mother. How can we hear the voices of enslaved women when they left so few records of their lives? What does Margaret’s story tell us about the lives of black women in America today? What effect did her story have on the abolitionist movement, and how can her story inform the fight against slavery and sex trafficking today?

Producer: Jane Greenwood
Readers: Moya Angela and Laurel Lefkow
Sound Design: Chris Maclean
Series Producer: Julia Hayball

A StoryHunter production for BBC Radio 4

Comments (1)

Rhona Will

It is not just a race thing. It is the misogyny that still survives. Not the first woman to kill her children, believing they are better off. This breaks my heart ❤️. Deeply disturbing. Thank you, Lucy and team, for exposing this. No more enslavement! Best Podcast yet.

Jul 25th








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12. Margaret Garner - Icon of Tragedy & Resistance

12. Margaret Garner - Icon of Tragedy & Resistance

BBC Radio 4