A Story about Family and Race in Antebellum Virginia
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Georgia Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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List of Illustrations
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This book is not fiction. I have not made up facts, moved events around in time, or invented dialogue. But this book, even more than most history books, is an act of imagination. I wanted to bring to life a person who reached...
1. A New Birth of Freedom
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Samuel Johnson stepped from the dim courthouse to the bright outdoors, the air heavy with late summer’s smells—grass, earth, horses, sweat. The town center stirred with the bustle of court day. Men and women from miles around had come to...
2. Among an Anomalous Population
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The first step Samuel Johnson had to take to free his family was to purchase them. They would not then be free. They still would be slaves. But with Johnson as their owner they would not be sold away from him...
3. Petitioning for Freedom in an Era of Slavery
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For a while Samuel Johnson could accept that he held his family as his slaves—but only for a while. As he aged, he worried more and more about it. Johnson knew that their legal status held great importance...
4. Visions of Rebellion
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Perhaps Nat Turner was responding partly to the greater restrictions on liberty in Virginia when he plotted what became the most famous and most deadly slave rebellion in American history. In late August...
5. Race, Identity, and Community
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Spencer Malvin had decided who he wanted to be: a free man in a free state where he could freely denounce slavery. His departure forced others to make choices about their identities too. One enslaved man named Sandy chose...
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Samuel Johnson did die before he left. Or, rather, he left only by dying. Johnson had long feared what would happen upon his death. If he believed in heaven he could be pretty sure that he would go there, but he feared death...
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It is possible to trace Samuel Johnson’s descendants into the early twenty-first century. I began that quest in an effort to find living descendants, with the hope that they might share some family stories...
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Acknowledgments sections, like Samuel Johnson’s petitions to the Virginia legislature, tend to be formulaic. But I mean what I say as sincerely as he did. It really is a great pleasure to thank the many people who helped make this book...
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Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 6 b&w photos, 1 map
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Race in the Atlantic World, 1700-1900