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Israel on the Appomattox (Signed First Edition)

Melvin Patrick Ely

66 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0679447385 / ISBN 13: 9780679447382
Published by Knopf, 2005
New Condition: New Hardcover
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About this Item

New York: Alfred A. Knopf [2005. First edition. First printing. Hardbound. New in dust jacket, very fine/very fine in all respects. A pristine unread copy, in protective mylar wrap. Smoke-free. SIGNED BY AUTHOR on title page. 0.0. Bookseller Inventory # debo57

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Israel on the Appomattox (Signed First ...

Publisher: Knopf

Publication Date: 2005

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:New

Dust Jacket Condition: New

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st Edition....

About this title


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 lives there alongside white neighbors and other blacks who had gained their liberty earlier.
Fittingly, the Randolph freedpeople called their promised land Israel Hill. These black Israelites and other free African Americans established farms, plied skilled trades, and navigated the Appomattox River in freight-carrying “batteaux.” Hercules White’s son Sam and other free blacks bought and sold boats, land, and buildings, and they won the respect of whites.

Melvin Patrick Ely captures a series of remarkable personal and public dramas: free black and white people do business with one another, sue each other, work side by side for equal wages, join forces to found a Baptist congregation, move West together, and occasionally settle down as man and wife. Even still-enslaved blacks who face charges of raping or killing whites sometimes find ardent white defenders.

Yet slavery’s long shadow darkens this landscape in unpredictable ways. After Nat Turner’s slave revolt, county officials confiscate and auction off free blacks’ weapons–and then vote to give the proceeds to the blacks themselves. One black Israelite marries an enslaved woman and watches, powerless, as a white master carries three of their children off to Missouri; a free black miller has to bid for his own wife at a public auction. Proslavery hawks falsely depict Israel Hill to the nation as a degenerate place whose supposed failure proves blacks are unfit for freedom. The Confederate Army compels free black men to build fortifications far from home, until Lee finally surrenders to Grant a few miles from Israel Hill.

Ely tells a moving story of hope and hardship, of black pride and achievement. He shows us an Old South we hardly know, where ties of culture, faith, affection, and economic interest crossed racial barriers–a society in which, ironically, many whites felt secure enough to deal fairly and even cordially with free African Americans partly because slavery still held most blacks firmly in its grip.

From the Back Cover:

"Melvin Patrick Ely previously wrote a wonderfully original and significant book on the popular radio and television series Amos 'n' Andy that upset a number of facile assumptions. He has now done exactly the same for Israel Hill, a largely forgotten community of free Black farmers and workers in antebellum Virginia. Once again we are indebted to him for enabling us to take a deeper look at aspects of our past and our culture we thought we fully understood."
--Lawrence W. Levine author of Black Culture and Black Consciousness

"Melvin Ely achieves an astonishing project by meticulously mining rich veins of archival sources
to give us a fresh (and refreshing) view of the constraints and possibilities for rural free blacks living
in antebellum times. The book unfolds as a revelation, and it contributes profoundly to the revision
of our understanding of African-American life in the nineteenth century."
--Michael Kammen, author of American Culture, American Tastes

"This remarkable account of a free black community in the heart of antebellum Virginia is rich with new insights on the dimensions of bondage and freedom in the slave South. The author's meticulous research and elegant writing make the experience of reading it both a reward and a pleasure."
--James M. McPherson, author of The Battle Cry of Freedom

"In an astonishing act of historical research and imagination, Melvin Ely has recreated an entire world in a forgotten corner of the slave South. The people of his remarkable story--black and white, free and enslaved--emerge from a dark past to stand before us in sharp relief . By understanding their lives we understand the American South in a new and more profound way."
--Edward L. Ayers, author of In the Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863

"In this extraordinary book, Melvin Ely unfolds the drama of three generations of African Americans successfully building a community on the banks of Virginia's Appomattox River, negotiating business, and even social relations with white neighbors Israel on the Appomattox is a surprising and often heartening story of human struggle, personal dignity and complex interracial cooperation in the deep shadow of slavery. It up-ends traditional assumptions about race in the Old South and, in so doing, poses striking possibilities for America's future."
--James Oliver Horton, co-author of Hard Road to Freedom: The Story of African America

"A path-breaking analysis of antebellum Virginia, Ely's superbly documented discussion of race
relations is seminal and destined for controversy. Imaginative use of evidence like court records
shows black-white interactions ranged from commerce to marriage; courts often treated Afro-
Virginians fairly, and blacks were self-regarding actors far removed from Sambo stereotypes."
--Gerald Jaynes, author of Branches Without Roots: The Genesis of the Black Working Class

"This is a remarkable book. Based on exhaustive research in county records, it reconstructs in extraordinary detail the experiences of a distinctive free black community in antebellum Viginia. In the process, it sheds new light on black-white relations in the Old South and challenges some of our conventional views."
--George M. Fredrickson, author of White Supremacy

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