Tuesday, November 18, 2008

[Hannah]: Researching Revolutionary Virginia

[On life among Virginia plantation families, where white men for many generations had children by their slaves - the children remained in slavery and lived and worked for their fathers or were sold to nearby plantations...]
"To his surprise, Washington discovered in 1760 that a Mount Vernon slave was the offspring of another prominent white family: "I was informd that Colo. Cocke was disgusted at my House, and left it because he [saw] an old Negroe there resembling his own image."

[On "Black Jack" Custis, the father of Martha Washington's first husband, who had a child in his old age by a slave, and who loved this child far more than he loved his much-older legitimate son]:
"History has been carefully shaped to suppress evidence of cracks in the slave system and distort the actions of the masters and mistresses who deviated from orthodoxy... Washington's preeminent biographer, Douglas Southall Friedman, embellishes the Black Jack cover story by portraying Custis as a lunatic, writing that his "eccentricities were daily more marked and, in some ways, alarming. [He] had developed, in particular, an inexplicable fancy for a little slave boy named Jack, and once, after a madly unreasoning outburst of temper against [the older son] Daniel, actually was believed to have made a will in which he left nothing to his children and his entire estate to the small Negro."

- Henry Wienceck, An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America


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