Murder at Montpelier: Igbo Africans in Virginia

Murder at Montpelier: Igbo Africans in Virginia

by Douglas B. Chambers


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Murder at Montpelier: Igbo Africans in Virginia by Douglas B. Chambers.

In 1732 Ambrose Madison, grandfather of the future president, languished for weeks in a sickbed then died. The death, soon after his arrival on the plantation, bore hallmarks of what planters assumed to be traditional African medicine. African slaves were suspected of poisoning their master.

For Montpelier, his estate, and for Virginia, this was a watershed moment. Murder at Montpelier: Igbo Africans in Virginia explores the consequences of Madison's death and the ways in which this event shaped both white slaveholding society and the surrounding slave culture.

At Montpelier, now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and open to the public, Igbo slaves under the directions of white overseers had been felling trees, clearing land, and planting tobacco and other crops for five years before Madison arrived. This deadly initial encounter between American colonial master and African slave community irrevocably changed both whites and blacks.

This book explores the many broader meanings of this suspected murder and its aftermath. It weaves together a series of transformations that followed, such as the negotiation of master-slave relations, the transformation of Igbo culture in the New World, and the social memory of a particular slave community. For the first time, the book presents the larger history of the slave community at James Madison's Montpelier, over the five generations from the 1720s through the 1850s and beyond. Murder at Montpelier revises many assumptions about how Africans survived enslavement, the middle passage, and grueling labor as chattel in North America. The importance of Igbo among the colonial slave population makes this work a controversial reappraisal of how Africans made themselves "African Americans" in Virginia.

Douglas B. Chambers is a professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604732467
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
Publication date: 12/31/2008
Pages: 325
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Table of Contents

Part 1Igbo Africans
Chapter 1Atlantic Africans and the Charter Event of Montpelier3
Chapter 2Out of Calabar: The Igbo Hinterland22
Chapter 3Village-Level Society in "Eboan Africa"38
Chapter 4The Significance of Poison67
Part 2In Virginia
Chapter 5The Seating of Mt. Pleasant and the Development of a Regional Community75
Chapter 6The Madison's Slave Community: The Charter Generation96
Chapter 7A Montpelier Community of Slaves: The Creolizing Generation112
Chapter 8The Creole Generations: Peak and Decline128
Chapter 9A Long Memory143
Chapter 10Historical Creolization in Virginia159
Conclusion: A Thread of Evidence188
ANew Virginia Slave Trade Statistics, 1676-1775193
BMadison Family Slave Population, 1720-1850198
CCensus of Madison Family Slaves, 1732-1868209
DSelected Orange County Tithables, 1738-1782232
EDispersal of Madison Family Slaves, 1770s-1850s240
FAccount of Montpelier Plantation, ca. 1795245

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