WOMAN OF COLOR, DAUGHTER OF PRIVILEGE
Amanda America Dickson 1849-1893 by Kent Anderson Leslie
Kent and I are both alumni of Marietta High School. We graduated the same year. I knew her and her two brothers well enough to – well, speak to them by name, and they in turn, knew me about the same way.
I knew she had written this book, I read about it in the paper when it was first published and have stumbled on it more than once at the Marietta History Museum. On a visit to the High Museum last year I ran into Kent. We spoke. I decided to get her book and read it. I did and found it very good.
Kent wrote it as her thesis or dissertation , when she was in college.
It is a very well researched book. The end-notes pages take up a big portion of the book.
It mostly takes place in Hancock County, Georgia, and ending mostly in Augusta, Bibb County, Georgia.
A wealthy young plantation man, or brat, David Dickson raped one of the family slaves, Julia Frances Dickson. Julia had a child by this rape, a daughter that was named Amanda America Dickson.
I perked up a this. America is a rare name. She is the second person I know that had that name, except Captain America in the comics. The first person was my mother Ethel America Petty Hunter, or “Janie”.
There are unbelievable amount of censuses, conclusions from the censuses, agricultural reports, state and county laws studied, and statistics and more.
David Dickson did not hide the fact that Amanda was his child and his mother sort of gained possession of her. Legally she was more property of the white ruling family than the daughter of a slave.
In time Julia moved from the slave area to the house and was House-Slave, and through the years more or less ran the household. She even kept the papers and paid venders who delivered things to the plantation – which demonstrates how much trust David had in the lady.
David became the master of the plantation and with his planning it became very productive and he became one of the richest men in Georgia.
Being a self-earned of the richest came with bragging rights which David fully used, he wrote articles on farming – how he did it.
And during this same time Amanda grew up well petted among the white family that care for her.
David said he was very humane with his slaves and it appeared that they had a caste system on the plantation. The more productive a slave was the more benefits he or she got.
After slavery was abolished one old ex-slave on the Dickson plantation remembered the whipping post and the food served in troughs, kind of the same way hogs were fed – how was that for humanness?
Visitors who visited the Dickson house for dinner had a rare experience. Amanda, and I think Julia too, sat at the table and ate with everybody else. They knew ahead of time, if they had a problem with that, then they did not come.
I don’t want to give away too much of the book. Kent looks down every avenue and possibility in the book.
The society in Hancock County, probably more so than most other counties probably was at its height of racism holding the black man down with Jim Crow laws when David Dickson died and left Amanda a fortune. All of his white relatives had a fit and challenged the will. You will have to read the book to see what ruing the courts handed down.
The book also tells how Amanda’s family developed – her husbands and off springs, etc.
I thought it was good and educational – but a bit sad, as far as human dramas go – but that is life.