Enslaved People, Virginia

Recommended, no. 1.

“The Old South, like any other long-vanished society, is distant from us, and strange. The more we learn about it, the more we realize we do not know. If the story of free Afro-Virginians in Prince Edward County teaches us anything, it is the danger of making assumptions about that past and its people based on what we see around us today, or on what we think we know about the history of other periods, or on the hubristic notion that our own society is superior to theirs in every conceivable way.”

At 619 pages, this is not light reading. But may I strongly recommend to anyone with the least interest in 19th century, southern, or African-American history Melvin Patrick Ely’s Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s through the Civil War. It’s a richly detailed, scrupulously documented, compellingly limned history of Israel Hill, a community of freed slaves in southern Virginia.

 

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