Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Recent Acquisitions to My Library

Too long pushed to the margins, and often ignored for their historical contributions, enslaved African American men and women cooks finally get a focused study with Bound to the Fire: How Virginia's Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine, by Kelley Fanto Deetz. 

I heard Deetz speak on this topic last year at a lecture Stratford Hall and was happy to see this book released through the University Press of Kentucky last week. Of course, I snatched up a copy which arrived yesterday.

How better to learn about Civil War soldiers' experiences than to read their own thoughts put to paper. Your Brother in Arms: A Union Soldier's Odyssey, edited by Robert C. Plumb, gives us the diary entries of George P. McClelland of the 155th Pennsylvania Infantry, along with significant editorial interpretation. Part of the V Corps during the Petersburg Campaign, I'm looking forward reading McClelland notes on the fighting and camp life that that corps endured.

The Secret Life of Bacon Tait, a White Slave Trader Married to a Free Woman of Color, by Hank Trent, is probably the best book that I've read this year. This fascinating story of a Lynchburg businessman who ended up becoming one of the most prominent slave traders in antebellum Richmond is a fascinating look into the complex world of the domestic slave trade and the impact it made on the lives of those that participated in it. Bacon Tait's participation in the business apparently limited his marital options to such an extent that he developed a relationship with a free woman of color in Richmond and established a second home in Salem, Massachusetts, with her and their four children, all while retaining the trading business in Richmond. Trent's research is thorough and his writing style is easy to read and thought provoking. I highly recommend this one. 

After finishing the Bacon Tait book, I searched out other works on individual slave traders and came across The American Dreams of John B. Prentis, Slave Trader by Kari J. Winter. Prentis was a few years older than Tait, but apparently followed a similar path to prosperity through exploiting others through the domestic slave trade. I'll be reading critically, searching for similarities and differences to Tait's life story.

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