A Fable of Agency

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2022-05-21 21:45Z by Steven

A Fable of Agency

The New York Review of Books

Brenda Wineapple

Special Collections, University of Virginia Library

Lumpkin’s Jail; engraving from A History of the Richmond Theological Seminary, 1895

The Devil’s Half Acre: The Untold Story of How One Woman Liberated the South’s Most Notorious Slave Jail by Kristen Green. Seal, 332 pp., $30.00

Kristen Green’s The Devil’s Half Acre recounts the story of a fugitive slave jail, and the enslaved woman, Mary Lumpkin, who came to own it.

In The Allure of the Archives (1989), a gem of a book, the French historian Arlette Farge talks about unearthing, insofar as it’s possible, a past that’s not quite past—particularly in relation to the lives of women, whose histories have often been hidden, forgotten, or written over, women spoken about but whom we seldom hear speaking. Combing through the judicial archives at the Préfecture of Paris, Farge reads the sullen or angry answers that ordinary eighteenth-century Parisian women, some of the city’s poorest and most vulnerable, give to the police who have arrested them. And she knows that to understand what they say, or don’t say, we need to care and not to care: to distance ourselves with empathy while we set aside expectations and assumptions. Deciphering what’s left in the archives, Farge writes, “entails a roaming voyage through the words of others, and a search for a language that can rescue their relevance.”

Piecing together stories about women who managed the uncertainties and privations of their situations is even more difficult when the women in question have been enslaved and thus forbidden even the basic rights that an eighteenth-century Parisian laundress enjoyed. That is Kristen Green’s task in her impassioned The Devil’s Half Acre, which she calls “the untold story of how one woman liberated the South’s most notorious slave jail.”

Green is a journalist and also the author of Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County (2015), a personal account of how that Virginia county defied Brown v. Board of Education and shut down its schools for almost five years rather than integrate them. In The Devil’s Half Acre, she recovers the life of Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman of mixed race born in 1832 who, likely by 1840, was held in bondage at Lumpkin’s Jail, a chamber of horrors located between Franklin and Broad Streets in Shockoe Bottom, the central slave-trading quarter in Richmond, Virginia

Read the entire review here.

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The Devil’s Half Acre: The Untold Story of How One Woman Liberated the South’s Most Notorious Slave Jail

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2022-04-14 22:11Z by Steven

The Devil’s Half Acre: The Untold Story of How One Woman Liberated the South’s Most Notorious Slave Jail

Seal Press (an imprint of Basic Books)
352 pages
Hardcover ISBN-13: 9781541675636
eBook ISBN-13: 9781541675629
Audiobook ISBN-13: 9781549193354

Kristen Green

The inspiring true story of an enslaved woman who liberated an infamous slave jail and transformed it into one of the nation’s first HBCUs

In The Devil’s Half Acre, New York Times bestselling author Kristen Green draws on years of research to tell the extraordinary and little-known story of young Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman who blazed a path of liberation for thousands. She was forced to have the children of a brutal slave trader and live on the premises of his slave jail, known as the “Devil’s Half Acre.” When she inherited the jail after the death of her slaveholder, she transformed it into “God’s Half Acre,” a school where Black men could fulfill their dreams. It still exists today as Virginia Union University, one of America’s first Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

A sweeping narrative of a life in the margins of the American slave trade, The Devil’s Half Acre brings Mary Lumpkin into the light. This is the story of the resilience of a woman on the path to freedom, her historic contributions, and her enduring legacy.

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Betty Reid Soskin shares forgotten histories as a national park ranger

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2022-02-22 23:17Z by Steven

Betty Reid Soskin shares forgotten histories as a national park ranger

The San Francisco Chronicle

Brittany Bracy
Las Positas College, Livermore, California

Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle

The nation’s oldest ranger is hopeful for tomorrow: ‘I get a feeling that change is going to come’

At age 85, Betty Reid Soskin started a new career. She took a job as a park ranger at Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, sharing her story and the story of Black women’s and men’s efforts during World War II with visitors who are often familiar with the white “We Can Do It!” propaganda figure — and little else.

Soskin grew up in Oakland in the 1920s and ’30s, and well before she became the country’s oldest park ranger, she found ways to contribute to her community. She has been a record store owner, a fundraiser for the Black Panthers and a political aide during her “ordinary extraordinary” life.

Now 99, Soskin has used her platform with the National Park Service to educate the public about crucial moments in history and highlight the sacrifices of those whose names are often left out of the retellings. As she approaches her 100th birthday this year, Soskin’s wisdom and courage continues to have a positive impact on California residents and institutions.

This interview is part of Lift Every Voice, a series that connects young Black journalists with Black elders in our communities to celebrate and learn from their life experiences. The San Francisco Chronicle has joined Hearst newspapers, magazines and television stations to publish dozens of profiles as part of the project…

Read the entire interview here.

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‘America’s Oldest Park Ranger’ Is Only Her Latest Chapter

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2021-09-21 00:50Z by Steven

‘America’s Oldest Park Ranger’ Is Only Her Latest Chapter

The New York Times

Jennifer Schuessler

Chanell Stone for The New York Times

Betty Reid Soskin has fought to ensure that American history includes the stories that get overlooked. As she turns 100, few stories have been more remarkable than hers.

The Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park, which sprawls across the former shipyards in Richmond, Calif., on the northeast edge of San Francisco Bay, tells the enormous story of the largest wartime mobilization in American history and the sweeping social changes it sparked.

Visitors can climb aboard an enormous Victory ship, one of more than 700 vessels produced in Richmond — and, in the gift shop, pick up swag emblazoned with the iconic image of the red-kerchiefed Rosie herself, arm flexed up with “We Can Do It!” bravado.

But for many, the park is synonymous with another woman: Betty.

Betty Reid Soskin, who turns 100 on Sept. 22, is the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service. Over the past decade and a half, she has become both an icon of the service and an unlikely celebrity, drawing overflow crowds to talks and a steady stream of media interviewers eager for the eloquent words of an indomitable 5 feet 3 inch great-grandmother once described by a colleague as “sort of like Bette Davis, Angela Davis and Yoda all rolled into one.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Yellow Wife, A Novel

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Novels, Slavery, United States, Women on 2021-09-12 23:32Z by Steven

Yellow Wife, A Novel

Simon & Schuster
288 pages
Hardcover ISBN-13: 9781982149109
Paperback ISBN-13: 9781982149116
Audiobook ISBN-13: 9781797118819 (09:31:00)

Sadeqa Johnson

Called “wholly engrossing” by New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Grissom, this harrowing story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.

Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the estate’s medicine woman and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world.

She’d been promised freedom on her eighteenth birthday, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half Acre, a jail in Richmond, Virginia, where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailer’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.

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She was raped by the owner of a notorious slave jail. Later, she inherited it.

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2021-09-12 23:02Z by Steven

She was raped by the owner of a notorious slave jail. Later, she inherited it.

The Washington Post

Sydney Trent, Local enterprise reporter

An engraving print of the Lumpkin Slave Jail, from Corey’s “A History of the Richmond Theological Seminary.” (City of Richmond)

Robert Lumpkin was one of the South’s most prolific and brutal slave traders, presiding over a slave jail in Richmond so notorious that it was referred to as the “Devil’s Half Acre.”

Mary Lumpkin lived with him — and with the horror of who he was, bearing witness to the extreme punishments he meted out to enslaved people like her.

Under Robert Lumpkin’s ownership from 1844 until the end of the Civil War, the jail held thousands of enslaved men and women in its dim and cramped cells, permeated by the stench of human excrement. Many were destined for the auction block; others were captured runaways. Some had been delivered there by their masters to receive more expert punishment. The names of dead prisoners appeared on Robert Lumpkin’s insurance claims, their bodies buried in unmarked graves scattered about the property.

Described by an abolitionist minister who met her as “large, fair-faced . . . nearly white,” Mary was also Robert’s slave. She was raped and impregnated by him as a child, ultimately bearing at least seven of his children, five of whom survived. She kept house and raised their offspring within the fenced brick compound that included the jail…

Read the entire article here.

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Black Card: A Novel

Posted in Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Novels, United States, Virginia on 2019-08-27 01:53Z by Steven

Black Card: A Novel

272 pages
5.8 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9781948226264

Chris L. Terry

Black Card: A Novel by Chris L. Terry

Chris L. Terry’s Black Card is an uncompromising examination of American identity. In an effort to be “black enough,” a mixed-race punk rock musician indulges his own stereotypical views of African American life by doing what his white bandmates call “black stuff.” After remaining silent during a racist incident, the unnamed narrator has his Black Card revoked by Lucius, his guide through Richmond, Virginia, where Confederate flags and memorials are a part of everyday life.

Determined to win back his Black Card, the narrator sings rap songs at an all-white country music karaoke night, absorbs black pop culture, and attempts to date his black coworker Mona, who is attacked one night. The narrator becomes the prime suspect and earns the attention of John Donahue, a local police officer with a grudge dating back to high school. Forced to face his past, his relationships with his black father and white mother, and the real consequences and dangers of being black in America, the narrator must choose who he is before the world decides for him.

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Old Glory: The Symbol of One America

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Virginia on 2015-03-18 16:19Z by Steven

Old Glory: The Symbol of One America

1696 Heritage Group

Keith Stokes, Vice President

Richard Gill Forrester, c. 1850

The photograph taken in 1850 during the earliest years of a new-fangled technology called photography, captures a well-dressed, handsome five year old boy named Richard Gill Forrester, of antebellum Richmond, Virginia. Just as the photograph represented a new era in the technology of imagery, young Forrester, and others like him, represented a new-fangled generation of what it meant to be an American. Our national motto, “E Pluribus UnumOut of Many, One, whose meaning some have come to suggest that out of many ethnicities, races, and religions would emerge a single people and America, seems to be embodied by the little boy pictured. And Forrester, who was my great, grandfather, with blended Jewish and Christian religion; black, Indian and white race; and northern and southern political persuasion, would grow and defend his right to be called an American.

After four long years of war, Union Troops on the morning of April 3, 1865 entered the city of Richmond, Virginia then capital of the Confederate States of America. Richmond had become the single-minded focus of the Union war effort, in a civil war between Americans of Northern and Southern persuasions that would claim an estimated three quarter of a million combatants…

Read the entire article here.

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Southern Race Question

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Virginia on 2013-08-24 20:24Z by Steven

Southern Race Question

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Tuesday, 1893-07-25
page 2, column 5
Source: Brooklyn Public Library’s Brooklyn Collection
Transcribed by Steven F. Riley

The Views Expressed in a Richmond Religious Newspaper

How the Negro Is Taking Advantage of the Opportunities for Advancement—Some Singular Ideas as to the Future Outcome of Present Developments — Another Talker Suggests a Colored State.

Richmond, Va., July 25—A startling editorial appeared in the last issue of the Richmond Christian Advocate, the leading Methodist organ In the South, on the negro question, Written by Dr. J. J. Lafferty. Among other things it said:

“A Southern Methodist advocate has this incident: In a village of the cotton belt a big, burly blackr ode up to a store and said to the owner: ‘Let this man (pointing to a poor white laborer) have two dollars’ worth of goods and charge it to me.’ This transaction may fret the reader, but it has a wide significance.”

“The Northern people, during the war, were drawn to the plantation peasantry of the South. The lot of fat and fun loving negro, the happiest working class on earth, was, for years, pictured as a bitter bondage, the slave was represented as longing for freedom, and during the war praying through the nights for the coming of the national troops. Those moving though mistaken fancies and much more of the same sort, stirred the philanthropic heart of the cotton thread millionaires, and the rich army contractors turned virtuous. A great sum was sent South for the education of the negro. It expenditure. In the main, helped the negro. It was wisely directed that these donations should have a practical turn. What was the outcome? We find in nearly every Southern state the negro boys of the brighter sort in training schools.”

“In the meanwhile, the negro reported in the census is growing rapidly as a citizen, with a home and decent income, a thrifty member of society. Moreover, the Southern commonwealth began after the war to tax the white property holders heavily to educate the sons of the non tax paying negro.”

“The negro laborer received as much money for coarse work as the ex-soldier of Lee. The white man consumed more of his earnings in house rent, clothing and food, hence he could not spare his son at the school. He needed the boy at the plow to aid in bringing up the family. The negro boy first loomed in the free school to read and write, then he learned in these technical schools how to make fine shoes, buggies, saddles, etc.”

“The newspapers recently reported that the private secretary to Mr. Blount of Georgia, representing the United States in the Hawaiian Islands, would shortly marry the daughter of a rich Chinaman of Honolulu. This educated young gentleman and of social standing seeks an alliance with an ex-coolie—a pig eyed pagan. Who will dare say that the olive colored octoroons and quadroons, the bright mulattoes, the heiresses of wealthy-men of mixed blood, will not be sought in the next century by impecunious, thriftless and idle young men of the white race? The negro maidens are seen at certain colleges for women of high degree in the North. Whereunto will this grow?”

“Consider the future of the friendless and fatherless boy of the white race in the South. Can he pay $500 to attend the Stevens Institute in New York. Can he command money for board and raiment while a student at any state school with a small annex of tools and a shop? He hasn’t money enough to buy oven a railroad ticket to such a college.”

“The grandchildren of warlike men with historic names, who made the Southern army a synonym of dauntless courage, are drifting toward the helot class, and in the century dawning there will come to pass social conditions that would stir the corpses in the jackets of grey.

“No man has soon the harvest from the sowing after Appomattox. The statesmen among us robbed the ex-soldier of Lee to educate black competitors of his children. Then Northern millionaires, in hatred of the paroled citizens, have endowed colleges of tools and machines to equip the ex-slave to surpass and subjugate the sons of the confederate in the struggle for the best pay and position in the skilled trades. It is a condition and not a theory that confronts us. Thoughtful men do not contest the fact.”

Madison, Wis., July 25—At the Monona lake assembly yesterday, John Temple Graves of Georgia advanced some radical ideas regarding the negro race problem in his lecture entitled, “Uncle Tom’s’ New Cabin.” He said:

“The remedy Is to be found in a negro state planted in the heart of our own great republic, under the shadow of the flag, under the benediction of the government. Here let him, unmolested, work out his final destiny. In the region of Colorado, Now Mexico and Arizona is to be found on area of 150,000,000 acres upon which our whole negro population could find subsistence and yet not be so densely populated as I found Germany or Belgium. The government should lend them every aid in developing the country. Negroes alone should hold the offices and rule the country. Nor are they opposed to such action. Actual investigation has shown that numbers are ready to go even to Africa where they can have a state of their own.”

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Doctor’s quest to engineer a “master race” in the early 1900s still hurting Virginia’s Indian tribes

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Virginia on 2011-11-25 15:27Z by Steven

Doctor’s quest to engineer a “master race” in the early 1900s still hurting Virginia’s Indian tribes

Richmond, Virginia

Mark Holmberg, Staff reporter

RICHMOND— Richmond’s famous Hollywood Cemetery serves as the final resting place of presidents, statesmen and generals.

Few have had the impact of Dr. Walter Plecker. His stormy legacy continues today, 150 years after his birth.

“My parents always made sure we knew the story of what Walter Plecker had done and how it had affected our people,” said Wayne Adkins, president of the Virginia Indian Tribal Alliance For Life.

“Plecker was a menace to Virginia Indians over many years,” said Stephen R. Adkins, chief of the Chickahominy Tribe. “My mom and dad, for instance, had to go to Washington DC in 1935 to get married as Indians. It was illegal to do so in Virginia under penalty of up to a year in jail.”

“Dr. Plecker was convinced that there was a need to purify the white race,” said Paul Lombardo, a law professor at Georgia State University and formerly a eugenics expert at the University of Virginia. “He thought that he was preserving the Commonwealth of Virginia, that he was maintaining the United States of America and, most importantly to him, that he was protecting the white race.”

For 34 years, starting in 1912, Dr. Plecker served as the director of Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics, carefully compiling birth, death and marriage records.

For Plecker, a native of Augusta County, there were only two races: white and non-white. Anyone who had what he thought was one drop of other than white blood was listed as “colored.” They were mongrels, in his view.

Plecker was a complex man who saved the lives of countless babies, including those of blacks and Indians, with updated birthing and midwife techniques, along with simple, homemade incubators for premature babies, according to historic profiles.

He was relentless. With great energy he compiled lists and wrote letters chastising whites who applied for marriage licenses with those Plecker thought were impure. Those letters are part of the extensive correspondence that are part of the vast Plecker record.

“There’s no question that Plecker was incredibly aggressive using the few prerogatives the law gave him to register people,” Lombardo said. “He used those prerogatives really to threaten people, to coerce them… Dr. Plecker once boasted that he had a list of people, by race, that rivaled the list that was kept by Hitler of the Jews.”

If he even just suspected someone had any African-American blood, they would go on his mongrel list.

Virginia’s Native Americans particularly felt his wrath. He was certain the tribes had interbred with blacks. “Like rats, when you’re not watching, they’ve been sneaking in their birth certificates though their own midwives,” Plecker wrote.

“We couldn’t claim we were Indian, it was against the law to say we were Indian,” said Kenneth Branham, chief of the Monacan Tribe. “What do we claim? We’re not black. And we’re not white.”

“That whole idea that you’re not what you believe yourself to be,” said Sharon Bryant, the newly elected Monacan chief. “That an entire community would tell you that, it becomes very oppressive to the people.”

“Whole groups of people who formerly were recognized among the tribes of Virginia simply disappeared from the records,” Lombardo said. “They were no longer considered to be Native Americans or Indians as they were called. Their children were not recognized as members of the tribes, and they’re living with that legacy right now.

Plecker and his many supporters believed not only that the races should never intermarry, they shouldn’t even mingle. Strict segregation would last for generations.

Blacks had to have their own schools and neighborhoods. So did Indians…

…In 1924, at Plecker’s urging and with the support of many Virginians, the General Assembly passed the Racial Integrity Act, which narrowly defined race and made it illegal to for whites to marry anyone of any other race. Plecker wrote to the governors of the rest of the states, urging them to pass similar laws to save the white race.

Also, that year, Lombardo said, “there’s a sterilization law that’s passed in Virginia, upheld later in the United States Supreme Court, allowing some 60,000-plus people to be sterilized in institutions in 32 states all over the country.”

There was also a strict immigration law passed then.

The Racial Integrity Act stood until 1967, when the Loving case about an interracial couple led to a Supreme Court reversal.

But the damage to Virginia’s Indian tribes continues. There are more than 560 federally recognized Indian tribes in the country. But none of Virginia’s tribes, the ones that helped the settlers survive, have that crucial recognition that gives them, in essence, sovereign status and entitles them to nation-building assistance.

The U.S. Department of the Interior requires that tribes be able to show an unbroken bloodline. And Walter Plecker carved a hole – decades long – in their heritage…

Read the entire article here.

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