A Mind to Stay: White Plantation, Black Homeland

A Mind to Stay: White Plantation, Black Homeland

by Sydney Nathans


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The exodus of millions of African Americans from the rural South is a central theme of black life and liberation in the twentieth century. A Mind to Stay offers a counterpoint to the narrative of the Great Migration. Sydney Nathans tells the rare story of people who moved from being enslaved to becoming owners of the very land they had worked in bondage, and who have held on to it from emancipation through the Civil Rights era.

The story began in 1844, when North Carolina planter Paul Cameron bought 1,600 acres near Greensboro, Alabama, and sent out 114 enslaved people to cultivate cotton and enlarge his fortune. In the 1870s, he sold the plantation to emancipated black families who worked there. Drawing on thousands of letters from the planter and on interviews with descendants of those who bought the land, Nathans unravels how and why the planter’s former laborers purchased the site of their enslavement, kept its name as Cameron Place, and defended their homeland against challengers from the Jim Crow era to the present day.

Through the prism of a single plantation and the destiny of black families that dwelt on it for over a century and a half, A Mind to Stay brings to life a vivid cast of characters and illuminates the changing meaning of land and landowning to successive generations of rural African Americans. Those who remained fought to make their lives fully free—for themselves, for their neighbors, and for those who might someday return.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674972148
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 02/20/2017
Pages: 344
Sales rank: 259,640
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Sydney Nathans is Professor Emeritus of History, Duke University.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Prologue: Unexpected 1

Part 1 Proving Ground 15

1 Spared 17

2 "Emigrants" 33

3 "A Place Perfectly Detested" 42

4 Held Back 61

5 Reversals 76

Part 2 A Foothold in Freedom 91

6 Exile's Return 93

7 'Against All Comers" 107

8 "If They Can Get the Land" 127

Part 3 Beyond a Living 145

9 "Hallelujah Times" 147

10 "A Game Rooster" 163

11 Sanctuaries 171

Part 4 Heir Land 191

12 "That Thirties Wreck" 193

13 New Foundations 208

14 "Unless It's a Must" 225

Epilogue: "A Heavy Load to Lift" 237

Appendix: The People of a Mind to Stay 245

Notes 249

Acknowledgments 295

Index 301

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