An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America

By Henry Wiencek

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"When George Washington wrote his will, he made the startling decision to set his slaves free; earlier he had said that holding slaves was his 'only unavoidable subject of regret.' In this groundbreaking work, Henry Wiencek explores the founding father's engagement with slavery at every stage of his life--as a Virginia planter, soldier, politician, president, and statesman. Washington was born and raised among blacks and mixed-race people; he and his wife had blood ties to the slave community.

"Yet as a young man he bought and sold slaves without scruple, even raffled off children to collect debts (an incident ignored by earlier biographers). Then, on the Revolutionary battlefields where he commanded both black and white troops, Washington's attitudes began to change."

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The Rebellious Slave: Nat Turner in American Memory

By Scot French

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Rather than presenting a traditional account of the slave rebellion that Turner led, French (African-American studies, U. of Virginia) traces the continuing discourse on race, slavery, America's tradition of revolutionary violence, and what to do with Turner's remains since his hanging in 1831.

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We Were Always Free: The Maddens of Culpeper County, Virginia: A Two-Hundred-Year Family History

By T.O. Madden, Jr., with Ann L. Miller

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Ever since 1758, when Sarah Madden was born to an unmarried Irish woman and an unknown black father, the Maddens have been free, escaping--and sometimes defying--the laws and customs that condemned other African Americans to slavery in their native state of Virginia.

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Juneteenth: A Day to Celebrate Freedom from Slavery

By Angela Leeper

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On June 19, 1865, slaves in Texas were formally notified that they had been emancipated, or given their freedom. This day became an annual holiday known as "Juneteenth," and it is celebrated today with food, fireworks, and community and family parties that commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.

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By Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Drew Nelso

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A simple retelling of the importance of Juneteenth. Part of a series of holiday books for kids.

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Stitched From the Soul: Slave Quilts From the Antebellum South

By Gladys-Marie Fry

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The beautiful illustrations in this book offer a glimpse into the lives and creativity of African American quilters during the era of slavery. It highlights many of the finest and most interesting examples of the quilts, woven coverlets, counterpanes, rag rugs, and crocheted artifacts attributed to slave women and men.
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Hidden in Plain View: The Secret Story Of Quilts And the Underground Railroad

By Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard

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Jacqueline Tobin tells the story African American quilter Ozella Williams handed down to her, describing how slaves made coded quilts and used them to navigate their escape on the Underground Railroad.

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Civil War Sesquicentennial Lecture Series Begins Thursday, February 10

Library of Congress Picture of Fugitive Slaves Crossing the Rappahannock

Civil War Sesquicentennial programs at the library kick off with a lecture series, "The Civil War Comes to Stafford," to be presented at the England Run branch. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park Historians will bring the Civil War to our backyard.

Join us for the first lecture in this series:

The Crossing: Slaves, Stafford, and the Great 1862 Exodus to Freedom, lecture by John Hennessy

England Run, Thursday, February 10, 7-8pm

In the spring and summer of 1862, Fredericksburg and Stafford witnessed one of the greatest flights to freedom in American history. As many as 10,000 slaves fled homes, farms, and plantations in nearby counties, bound for the Union army along the Rappahannock River. For individual slaves, the exodus represented an immense risk and an uncertain journey into freedom. For white residents, the exodus meant rapid and profound social change--the end of a labor system more than 200 years old. And for the army and federal government, the flood of freedom seekers--months before the  Emancipation Proclamation--raised a profound and simple question for: what now? This program will look at the great 1862 exodus across the Rappahannock from the human level, men and women forcing change on a community, state, and nation unprepared.

Find out more about Civil War Sesquicentennial events and resources.

Jefferson’s Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy, by Boynton Merrill, Jr.

Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy

They say every family has its black sheep.

Jefferson’s Nephews, by Boynton Merrill, Jr., tells of a vile murder mostly forgotten, which played out in the hinterlands of a new Kentucky settlement in the early 1800s. Two brothers had come away from their family’s land in Albemarle County, Virginia, to try to make a fresh start. But Isham and Lilburne Lewis brought with them bitter hearts and slave labor—a combination that was to prove lethal. The gruesomeness and cruelty of their crime rocked the nearby community of Livingston County. Perhaps more shocking to the white citizens was the brothers’ blue blood pedigree.