An Evening With David Blight and the Memory of John Washington

Mark your calendars for Saturday, November 17.  On that day the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park will be hosting a special event featuring historian David W. Blight who will be discussing his new book, A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom.  Blight’s book includes two recently uncovered emancipation narratives one of which is by John Washington who lived in Fredericksburg.  I’ve already read both accounts and they are absolutely fascinating.  Blight’s introduction places these narratives within a broader historical context which helps to explain the genre and the time and place in which they were written.

Park historian John Hennessy was kind enough to ask me to join a special tour of John Washington’s world, including a trip into the living quarters where he spent much of his life and the site on the Rappahannock where Washington went across on April 18, 1862.  The tour will include Blight as well as a few of Washington’s descendants who have only recently been contacted and were not aware of the existence of this narrative.  Blight’s work on memory has been very important for my own research so it will be a real treat to finally meet him in person. 

John Hennessy should be applauded for his hard work in organizing events such as this.  I can think of no one who has done more to further the education of visitors to our Civil War battlefields.  John has already made use of Washington’s narrative in a recent park film on civilian life in the Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania County area.  Click here for his assessment as well as my review of the project.  I am really looking forward to this.

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“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

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5 comments… add one
  • Andrew Duppstadt Nov 9, 2007 @ 12:29

    Wow Kevin, I think you are in for a real treat next Saturday. David Blight is an amazing individual and it seems that you’ll be spending some quality time with him. As I’ve said before, when I sat in on a few sessions with him in Atlanta in September I was truly blown away. Have a great time; I can’t wait to read the report!

    Andrew Duppstadt

  • Brooks Simpson Nov 9, 2007 @ 10:22

    David’s a really nice fellow, very generous, and of course we go way back. Say hi.

  • Kevin Levin Nov 9, 2007 @ 8:45

    Thanks John. See you next Saturday.

  • John Hennessy Nov 9, 2007 @ 8:43

    John: Almost nothing is known about John Washington’s lineage beyond his grandmother, the origin of his surname, or even why he had a surname, when most slaves did not. David Blight addresses this issue in his introduction, which is excellent. There’s no evidence of any connection to the Washington family.

    Kevin, thank you for your too-kind words.

  • John Maass Nov 9, 2007 @ 7:19

    Was John Washington related to a George Washington slave from the Ferry Farm area?

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