via Prince William County, Virginia Digital Library
“The latest addition to our Digital Library is Joan W. Peters’ work, Slave and Free Negro Records from the Prince William County Court Minute and Order Books, 1752-1763, 1766-1769, 1804-1806, 1812-1814, 1833-1865 (Broad Run, Va.: Albemarle Research, 1996). Click on the following link http://eservice.pwcgov.org/library/digitalLibrary/index.htm and find it under Historic Records, 1700-1800. It covers all mentions of African Americans found in those records, including registrations of slaves and free Negroes, emancipations, arrests and lawsuits. The database is keyword searchable (use CTRL+F). It does not cover persons mentioned in deeds, wills, inventories, sales or tax lists. There are also gaps in the court minutes as shown in the years of coverage. We are grateful to Joan for allowing us to post her work online.”
For more: Historic Wanderings: PWC RELIC Digitizes Peters’ Slave and Free Negro Records from the Prince William County Court Minute and Order Books, 1752-1763, 1766-1769, 1804-1806, 1812-1814, 1833-1865.
Emily Clark. The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013.
Exotic, seductive, and doomed: the antebellum mixed-race free woman of color has long operated as a metaphor for New Orleans. Commonly known as a “quadroon,” she and the city she represents rest irretrievably condemned in the popular historical imagination by the linked sins of slavery and interracial sex. However, as Emily Clark shows, the rich archives of New Orleans tell a different story. Free women of color with ancestral roots in New Orleans were as likely to marry in the 1820s as white women. And marriage, not concubinage, was the basis of their family structure. In The Strange History of the American Quadroon, Clark investigates how the narrative of the erotic colored mistress became an elaborate literary and commercial trope, persisting as a symbol that long outlived the political and cultural purposes for which it had been created. Untangling myth and memory, she presents a dramatically new and nuanced understanding of the myths and realities of New Orleans’s free women of color.
Margaret Washington. Sojourner Truth’s America. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009.
“This fascinating biography tells the story of nineteenth-century America through the life of one of its most charismatic and influential characters: Sojourner Truth. In an in-depth account of this amazing activist, Margaret Washington unravels Sojourner Truth’s world within the broader panorama of African American slavery and the nation’s most significant reform era.
Born into bondage among the Hudson Valley Dutch in Ulster County, New York, Isabella was sold several times, married, and bore five children before fleeing in 1826 with her infant daughter one year before New York slavery was abolished. In 1829, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a domestic, preached, joined a religious commune, and then in 1843 had an epiphany. Changing her name to Sojourner Truth, she began traveling the country as a champion of the downtrodden and a spokeswoman for equality by promoting Christianity, abolitionism, and women’s rights.
Gifted in verbal eloquence, wit, and biblical knowledge, Sojourner Truth possessed an earthy, imaginative, homespun personality that won her many friends and admirers and made her one of the most popular and quoted reformers of her times. Washington’s biography of this remarkable figure considers many facets of Sojourner Truth’s life to explain how she became one of the greatest activists in American history, including her African and Dutch religious heritage; her experiences of slavery within contexts of labor, domesticity, and patriarchy; and her profoundly personal sense of justice and intuitive integrity.
Organized chronologically into three distinct eras of Truth’s life, Sojourner Truth’s America examines the complex dynamics of her times, beginning with the transnational contours of her spirituality and early life as Isabella and her embroilments in legal controversy. Truth’s awakening during nineteenth-century America’s progressive surge then propelled her ascendancy as a rousing preacher and political orator despite her inability to read and write. Throughout the book, Washington explores Truth’s passionate commitment to family and community, including her vision for a beloved community that extended beyond race, gender, and socioeconomic condition and embraced a common humanity. For Sojourner Truth, the significant model for such communalism was a primitive, prophetic Christianity.
Illustrated with dozens of images of Truth and her contemporaries, Sojourner Truth’s America draws a delicate and compelling balance between Sojourner Truth’s personal motivations and the influences of her historical context. Washington provides important insights into the turbulent cultural and political climate of the age while also separating the many myths from the facts concerning this legendary American figure.”
Featured Image Credit: Sculptor Artis Lane, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Congresswoman Jackson Lee unveiling Sojourner Truth bust at the U.S. Capitol on April 28, 2009, via Dipnote: U.S. Department of State Official Blog
Vincent Carretta. Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011.
“With Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773), Phillis Wheatley (1753?–1784) became the first English-speaking person of African descent to publish a book and only the second woman—of any race or background— to do so in America. Written in Boston while she was just a teenager, and when she was still a slave, Wheatley’s work was an international sensation. In Phillis Wheatley, Vincent Carretta offers the first full-length biography of a figure whose origins and later life have remained shadowy despite her iconic status.
A scholar with extensive knowledge of transatlantic literature and history, Carretta uncovers new details about Wheatley’s origins, her upbringing, and how she gained freedom. Carretta solves the mystery of John Peters, correcting the record of when he and Wheatley married and revealing what became of him after her death. Assessing Wheatley’s entire body of work, Carretta discusses the likely role she played in the production, marketing, and distribution of her writing. Wheatley developed a remarkable transatlantic network that transcended racial, class, political, religious, and geographical boundaries. Carretta reconstructs that network and sheds new light on her religious and political identities. In the course of his research he discovered the earliest poem attributable to Wheatley and has included it and other unpublished poems in the biography.
Carretta relocates Wheatley from the margins to the center of her eighteenth-century transatlantic world, revealing the fascinating life of a woman who rose from the indignity of enslavement to earn wide recognition, only to die in obscurity a few years later.”
Geoffrey Sanborn. “‘People Will Pay to Hear the Drama’: Plagiarism in Clotel.” African American Review 45, no. 1 (2012): 65–82.
It is no secret that William Wells Brown did not write everything that appears under his name in Clotel; or, the President’s Daughter, the first published novel by an African American. Since 1969, when William Edward Farrison published an edition of Clotel with extensive notes on Brown’s sources, scholars have known that Brown lifted passages from Lydia Maria Child’s “The Quadroons,” John Reilly Beard’s The Life of Touissant L’Ouverture, Bishop William Meade’s Sermons Addressed to Masters and Servants, and Theodore Weld’s Slavery As It Is. Almost all of chapters four and eight and part of chapter twenty-three are taken from “The Quadroons”; the opening of chapter twenty-three and ten sentences in chapter twenty-four are taken from The Life of Touissant L’Ouverture; eight paragraphs in chapter six are taken from Meade’s collection; and four sentences from Weld’s introduction appear in chapter sixteen. Elsewhere, Farrison shows, Brown recycles some of his own previously published material, reprints a poem by Grace Greenwood without identifying her as the author, and incorporates newspaper articles without citing their actual sources.1 In the latter cases, Brown does not actually represent the work of another writer as his own; at most, he simply leaves open the possibility that he composed the passages. The same is true of several similar cases identified by Robert S. Levine in his 2000 edition of Clotel.2 In a 2005 online edition of the novel, however, Christopher Mulvey reported the discovery of six more plagiarized passages, four of which are voiced by Georgiana Carlton, the most lecture-prone character in the novel.3 That brought the total amount of the plagiarism in Clotel to eighteen passages, or 4,781 words, derived from eight different sources….
E. Lee Shepard at the Virginia Historical Society’s Blog on processing the Life Insurance Company of Virginia’s records:
“Processing thirteen volumes that make up records from the formative years of the Life Insurance Company of Virginia was my first task on this project. Exploring these apparently routine books became an extraordinary experience for this veteran archivist. The evidence they disclose about a broad cross-section of Virginians dealing with the aftermath of a huge and devastating conflict is both unexpected and invaluable…..
The majority of the volumes are registers, indicating to whom life insurance policies were sold and for what premium and benefit amounts. The Life Insurance Company of Virginia, founded in Petersburg in 1871 and known familiarly as “Life of Virginia” in the twentieth century, recorded an extraordinary amount of information about its policyholders here besides just names and policy amounts—date and place of birth, race, occupation, age, and beneficiaries, for instance.
I was frankly amazed to see the range of policyholders. I had expected the strong showing of Petersburg and Richmond merchants and professionals; I found, too, a liberal smattering of artisans, laborers, domestics, and householders. Judy Batte of Hicksford, Virginia, a “house servant,” was the first African American to secure a policy, in February 1872, and she was followed by a fairly steady stream of men and women of her race. In fact, as the company grew and its client base became more national in scope, women made up an increasing percentage of policyholders….” (my emphasis)
Image Credit: First page of policies in the Register for the Life Insurance Company of Virginia, April 1871-December 1886 (Virginia Historical Society, Mss3 L6263 a 1, detail)