Slavery

Colonial Virginia

What was it like to live long ago when Virginia belonged to England? When there were no cars, no computers, few hospitals and no free public schools?

Without cars, trains or airplanes, people traveled by boat, horseback or on foot by "shank's mare". The reason so many colonial towns were located next to rivers is that often the roads were terrible seas of mud. It was so much easier to travel on the rivers!

Virginia Hamilton: Writer of “Liberation Literature”

Virginia Hamilton, self-described writer of "Liberation Literature,"* was born in Yellow Springs, Ohio, the same place where her grandfather was brought to freedom as an infant through the Underground Railroad. Yellow Springs has a connection to our area because it was here that Moncure Daniel Conway brought his newly-freed slaves from Stafford County to settle in the days just before the Civil War.

John Randolph of Roanoke

By David Johnson

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"One of the most eccentric and accomplished politicians in all of American history, John Randolph (1773--1833) led a life marked by controversy. The long-serving Virginia congressman and architect of Southern conservatism grabbed headlines with his prescient comments, public brawls, and clashes with every president from John Adams to Andrew Jackson. The first biography of Randolph in nearly a century, John Randolph of Roanoke provides a full account of the powerful Virginia planter's hard-charging life and his impact on the formation of conservative politics."
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Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker: The Unlikely Friendship of Elizabeth Keckley & Mary Todd Lincoln

By Lynda Jones

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In 1868, a controversial tell-all called Behind the Scenes introduced readers to Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley. Mrs. Keckley was a former slave who had been Mary Todd Lincoln's dressmaker and friend during the White House years, and in the aftermath of President Lincoln's assassination. How could such a bond have developed between a woman born into slavery and the First Lady of the United States? Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker answers this question by chronicling the extraordinary lives of these women.
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Conversations with God: Two Centuries of Prayers by African Americans

By James Melvin Washington

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Beautiful words from slaves, writers, preachers, and theologians of color who sound out their faith in God's justice through poetry, prayers, hymns, and stories.

Slavery and the eclipse of the African Gods, 1760-1860 -- The crucible of the Anglo-African conscience, 1861-1893 -- The vale of tears, 1894-1919 -- The new Negro, 1920-1955 -- The Civil Rights ethos, 1956-1980 -- Postmodern African-American worlds, 1981-1994.

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Weevils in the Wheat: Interviews with Virginia Ex-slaves

By Charles L. Perdue

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Taken from the records of the Federal Writers' Project of the 1930s, these interviews with one-time Virginia slaves provide a clear window into what it was like to be enslaved in the antebellum American South.

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Thirty Years a Slave: From Bondage to Freedom: The Institution of Slavery As Seen on the Plantation and in the Home of the Planter

By Louis Hughes

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"Louis Hughes was born a slave in Virginia and at age 12 was sold away from his mother, whom he never saw again. After a few interim owners, he was sold to a wealthy slaveowner who had a home near Memphis and plantation nearby in Mississippi. Hughes lived there as a house servant until near the end of the Civil War, when he escaped to the Union lines and then, in a daring adventure with the paid help of two Union soldiers, returned to the plantation for his wife. The couple made their way to Canada and after the war to Chicago and Detroit, eventually settling in Milwaukee. There Hughes became relatively comfortable as a hotel attendant and as an entrepreneur laundry operator. Self-educated and eloquent, Hughes wrote and privately published his memoir in 1897."

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The Trials of Anthony Burns: Freedom and Slavery in Emerson's Boston

By Albert J. von Frank

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"Before 1854, most Northerners managed to ignore the distant unpleasantness of slavery. But that year an escaped Virginia slave, Anthony Burns, was captured and brought to trial in Boston--and never again could Northerners look the other way. This is the story of Burns's trial and of how, arising in abolitionist Boston just as the incendiary Kansas-Nebraska Act took effect, it revolutionized the moral and political climate in Massachusetts and sent shock waves through the nation.

"In a searching cultural analysis, Albert J. von Frank draws us into the drama and the consequences of the case. He introduces the individuals who contended over the fate of the barely literate twenty-year-old runaway slave--figures as famous as Richard Henry Dana Jr., the defense attorney, as colorful as Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Bronson Alcott, who led a mob against the courthouse where Burns was held, and as intriguing as Moncure Conway, the Virginia-born abolitionist who spied on Burns's master.

"The story is one of desperate acts, even murder--a special deputy slain at the courthouse door--but it is also steeped in ideas. Von Frank links the deeds and rhetoric surrounding the Burns case to New England Transcendentalism, principally that of Ralph Waldo Emerson. His book is thus also a study of how ideas relate to social change, exemplified in the art and expression of Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Theodore Parker, Bronson Alcott, Walt Whitman, and others.

"Situated at a politically critical moment--with the Whig party collapsing and the Republican arising, with provocations and ever hotter rhetoric intensifying regional tensions--the case of Anthony Burns appears here as the most important fugitive slave case in American history. A stirring work of intellectual and cultural history, this book shows how the Burns affair brought slavery home to the people of Boston and brought the nation that much closer to the Civil War."

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Slaves in the Family

By Edward Ball

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"In 1698, Elias Ball arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, from England to take possession of his inheritance: part of a plantation and twenty-five slaves. Elias and his progeny built a slave dynasty that lasted for 167 years, buying more than a dozen plantations along the Cooper River near Charleston, selling rice known as 'Carolina Gold,' and assembling close to 4,000 African and African American slaves before 1865, when Union troops arrived on the lawns of the Balls' estates to force emancipation.

"In Slaves in the Family, Edward Ball, a descendant of Elias, has written a nonfiction American saga like no other. Part history, part journey of discovery, this is the story of black and white families who lived side by side for five generations -- and a tale of everyday Americans confronting their vexed inheritance together. Using the copious plantation records of his family, supplemented by both black and white oral tradition, Ball uncovers the story of the people who lived on his ancestors' lands -- the violence and opulence, the slave uprisings and escapes, the dynastic struggles, and the mulatto children of Ball slaveholders and 'Ball slaves.' He identifies and travels to a prison in Africa from which his family once bought workers. Most remarkably of all, Ball also locates and visits some of the nearly 12,000 descendants of Ball slaves and reveals how slavery lives on in black and white memory and experience."

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"Negro President"--Jefferson and the Slave Power

By Garry Wills

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Wills argues that the U.S. Constitution's three-fifths clause for slave "representation" in Congress and the Electoral College gave slave holders the edge in winning most presidential elections, controlling the federal government, and maintaining slavery by throttling personal liberties.

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