Free blacks

We Were Always Free by T.O. Madden, Jr.

Cover to We Were Always Free

Fiction authors sometimes begin historical narratives by announcing the discovery of a long-forgotten strong box in a dusty attic containing purportedly true accounts of times passed handily preserved for the modern reader’s enjoyment.  T.O. Madden, Jr.'s  We Were Always Free starts with just such a scenario, but unlike historical fiction, this is no ploy.  The history unearthed is real and traces back to colonial Virginia when Mary Madden, an Irish woman, gave birth to a child of mixed race on August 4, 1758 in Spotsylvania County.

Because of the laws of the time, just as the mother was free so would Mary’s child, Sarah, be considered free, as would all of Sarah’s descendents.  Mary and her newborn were first tended at the Collins farm in Spotsylvania, and the church vestry paid the Collins for their year of upkeep with 600 pounds of tobacco taken in tithes from the parishioners.  In 1759, still being paupers, Mary was sent along with her baby, to the local workhouse where the poor labored to support themselves. 

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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Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Union During the Civil War

By Thomas B. Allen

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"Readers discover that Harriet Tubman--well-known to them as an ex-slave who led hundreds of her people to freedom along the Underground Railroad--was also a spy for the Union Army. More specifically she worked behind Confederate lines in South Carolina getting information about troop movement and Rebel fortifications from slaves that she was leading to freedom on the Underground Railroad."

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Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House

By Rickey Pittman

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Based on a true story. Jim Limber Davis was rescued from an abusive guardian by Varina Davis when he was only five years old. Jefferson and Varina Davis welcomed him into their home, the Confederate White House, as one of the family, and Jim lived with them until the fall of the Confederacy.

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Fannie Richards: Integration Pioneer

From The Journal of Negro History, Volume 1, January 1916

 The following is excerpted from The Journal of Negro History, Volume 1, January 1916, pp. 30-36, which is available online at Manybooks.net.

She was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, October 1, 1841. As her people left that State when she was quite young she did not see so much of the intolerable conditions as did the older members of the family. Miss Richards was successful in getting an early start in education. Desiring to have better training than what was then given to persons of color in Detroit, she went to Toronto. There she studied English, history, drawing and needlework. In later years she attended the Teachers Training School in Detroit. Her first thought was to take up teaching that she might do something to elevate her people. She, therefore, opened a private school in 1863, doing a higher grade of work than that then undertaken in the public schools. About 1862, however, a colored public school had been opened by a white man named Whitbeck. Miss Richards began to think that she should have such a school herself.