A Plantation Epic
By Erskine Clarke
(Yale University Press, Hardcover, 9780300108675, 624pp.)
Publication Date: September 2005
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
Published some thirty years ago, Robert Manson Myers’s Children of Pride: The True Story of Georgia and the Civil War won the National Book Award in history and went on to become a classic reference on America’s slaveholding South. That book presented the letters of the prominent Presbyterian minister and plantation patriarch Charles Colcock Jones (1804–1863), whose family owned more than one hundred slaves. While extensive, these letters can provide only one part of the story of the Jones family plantations in coastal Georgia. In this remarkable new book, the religious historian Erskine Clarke completes the story, offering a narrative history of four generations of the plantations’ inhabitants, white and black.
Encompassing the years 1805 to 1869, Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epic describes the simultaneous but vastly different experiences of slave and slave owner. This “upstairsdownstairs” history reveals in detail how the benevolent impulses of Jones and his family became ideological supports for deep oppression, and how the slave Lizzy Jones and members of her family struggled against that oppression. Through letters, plantation and church records, court documents, slave narratives, archaeological findings, and the memory of the African-American community, Clarke brings to light the long-suppressed history of the slaves of the Jones plantations—a history inseparably bound to that of their white owners.
Erskine Clarke is professor of American religious history, Columbia Theological Seminary.
"Erskine Clarke's narrative of more than three generations of interlocking
and enslaving familes in Liberty County, Georgia, is epic in its scope and
mastery. With extensively detailed research and evocatively restrained
writing, "A Dwelling Place" is one of the best books ever on what it meant
in day-to-day terms to be slaves and slave masters in the antebellum
South."—Mark Noll, Wheaton College, author of "America's God, from
Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln"
"In this masterful composite biography, Erskine Clarke-an uncommonly gifted historian-portrays a broad swath of southern history. It is a work of both consummate scholarship and great literary flair. It is long, but one doesn't want it to end. I absolutely loved reading this book."-John Boles, Rice University
"This is a work of grand sweep and great power. In a form that reads like a novel, Erskine Clarke tells the stories of four generations of wealthy white planters and their slaves and the extraordinarily complex ways in which these two communities interacted. It is a multigenerational tale of black and white, told in a grand narrative style."-Dan T. Carter, University of South Carolina
-Dan T. Carter
"Erskine Clarke's narrative of more than three generations of interlocking and enslaving familes in Liberty County, Georgia, is epic in its scope and mastery. With extensively detailed research and evocatively restrained writing, Dwelling Place is one of the best books ever on what it meant in day-to-day terms to be slaves and slave masters in the antebellum South."-Mark Noll, University of Notre Dame, author of America's God, from Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln
"A deeply informative and moving book"
"Clarke's magisterial, multiperspective study of the antebellum South describes two family groups . . . and those of their slaves. . . . [Clarke] achieves . . . a 'total' history of interconnected people divided by race, legal status, and gender."-Choice