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In 1795, Saleh was born in the western African Fulani tribal homeland. Her uncle Tenkaminen, a sorcerer and healer, chose his intelligent, beautiful niece as the recipient of his knowledge of herbs, spells and visions. But her impoverished father sold her to the British, who sent her to be a House slave at Pinewood Plantation, Virginia, their colony in America. At a Charleston, South Carolina, auction house, Saleh was bought by George Leyland—a young, wealthy tobacco planter—who was captivated by her at first sight. Immediately, he changed her name to Sally and drew her into a life of ever-increasing humiliation and sexual brutality. Sally, her daughter Young Sally and her granddaughter Missy all suffered the same forced attentions from three generations of Leyland men. As the Civil War approached, these three black women were suddenly confronted with the possibility of using confusion and dislocation of the tumultuous times to make a strike, each in her own way, for escape to the North ... and to freedom.

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