Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War

Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War

Melvin Patrick Ely

Language: English

Pages: 660

ISBN: 0679768726

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

WINNER OF THE BANCROFT PRIZEA New York Times Book Review and Atlantic Monthly Editors' ChoiceThomas Jefferson denied that whites and freed blacks could live together in harmony. His cousin, Richard Randolph, not only disagreed, but made it possible for ninety African Americans to prove Jefferson wrong. Israel on the Appomattox tells the story of these liberated blacks and the community they formed, called Israel Hill, in Prince Edward County, Virginia. There, ex-slaves established farms, navigated the Appomattox River, and became entrepreneurs. Free blacks and whites did business with one another, sued each other, worked side by side for equal wages, joined forces to found a Baptist congregation, moved west together, and occasionally settled down as man and wife. Slavery cast its grim shadow, even over the lives of the free, yet on Israel Hill we discover a moving story of hardship and hope that defies our expectations of the Old South.

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for Josiah Cheadle and others, and where shoemaker John Moss handled large sums of money. Jim League Sr.—the white Revolutionary War veteran who lived with his daughter Martha and her mixed-race children—resided in the same vicinity. In this end of the county, James Dungey and his white wife, Elizabeth, had openly married and reared their family. After James Dungey died, his children continued to carry on business with their white neighbors; as in the old days, they attended processionings of

organizing at the time Seay heard Harry and company bid to join the Whites in freedom. Another Baptist juror, a minister, had sat as a justice on the called court that acquitted Edmund Young of arson at the new county poorhouse in 1827. One panelist apparently had done business with Hercules White Sr. The same man would be convicted a month after his jury service of trading with a slave without the master’s consent.151 A couple of citizens on the panel had had free Afro-Virginian families living

Afro-Virginians who bought real estate apparently managed to do so without receiving special concessions or discounts. Most, perhaps all, made offers and entertained counteroffers from whites who “named their price,” just as happened in the opposite direction when a white man sought to buy a lot from Philip White III. Benjamin C. Peters, a prominent white citizen, sold two lots to free blacks in 1854 and 1863, and at least three more after the Civil War; he had more dealings than most whites

negroes”; “much respected”; “those old commanders”: Rip Van Winkle, “Farmville Then and Now,” Farmville Herald, August 31, 1906. 225. “Rapid and clear”: See Lewis Miller, Farmville at Appomattox River (painting); Trout, ed., Seay Stories, p. 34; see also purchase of fish hooks in William A. Seay, acct with Venable & Co., 1820 Sep 26, Venable v Seay. “Most any beautiful shaped rock” and potholes: Trout, ed., Seay Stories, p. 39. 226. More cleared land: Bruce, New Man, p. 43; Bradshaw, Prince

interpretation presented here. 45. Alleged assault on patrol: CW v Jenkins, Wheeler, Noble, Erambert, and Womack, CirCt 1851 Apr (presentments); CirCt 1852 Apr (CW v Womack), and 1852 Aug (the other four cases). Joel W. Womack a county justice: Bradshaw, Prince Edward County, pp. 679 and 680. The acquittals and nol-prosses came even though Hillery G. Richardson, soon to be sheriff, joined the patrolmen in giving testimony before the grand jury that presented the “rescuers.” 46. Allowing slaves

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