Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War
Thomas Jefferson condemned slavery but denied that whites and liberated blacks could live together in harmony. Jefferson’s young cousin Richard Randolph and ninety African Americans set out to prove the sage of Monticello wrong. When Randolph died in 1796, he left land for his formidable bondman Hercules White and for dozens of other slaves. Freed, they could build new liv...more
Hardcover, 656 pages
Published September 14th 2004 by Alfred A. Knopf
(first published 2004)
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This is a really wonderful microhistory of a small county in central Virginia where, in the early nineteenth century, a small group of freed slaves set up a community for themselves in a place they called Israel Hill. Ely does a great job of examining constructions of race and race relations in the antebellum south, challenging both our assumptions about the period and our complacency about race relations in our own time. Ely doesn't argue that slavery was anything less than a barbaric, horrific...more
This is not an easy read, but it is well worth it. I liked the way the author systematically went through all the stereotypes that we associate with the Antebellum South and either explained them or disproved them using this one tiny settlement of free blacks in central Virginia. I know that the points the author makes does not work for all of the South. but it was very interesting to read about how much more complex antebellum society was than what is taught to us.
Great book. Ely examines a community of freedmen living in 19th century Virginia. Rather than the strict observance of racial mores in a slavery society that one would expect, Ely finds instead an atmosphere of accomodation and co-existance. Rather than use this as an argument to minimize the brutality of slavery, Ely argues that this actually heightens the horror as it undermines the Southern protestation that they didn't regard African slaves as human.