Good Essay About Woman Of Color And Privilege

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Family, Slavery, Women, Race, Georgia, Parents, Slave, White

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/10/26

Based on the evidence supplied by author Kent Anderson Leslie, slaves in antebellum Georgia did not always live under the oppressive system of chattel labor. According to Leslie, the rules that applied to racial hierarchy were not strictly enforced, especially when it came to propertied and wealthy planters such as David Dickson who chose to raise his mixed-race daughter at home. Amanda Dickson’s experiences during Reconstruction demonstrate that she had much more freedom after slavery was abolished than may have been expected before the Civil War. Amanda Dickson’s experiences and those of her mother in particular do not fit the presumed mold of oppressed slave with no opportunity for a better life.
In the case of Amanda America Dickson, “her personal identity was ultimately bounded by her sense of class solidarity with her father, that is, by her socialization as David Dickson’s daughter, her gender role as a lady, and her racial definition as a person to whom racial categories did not apply.” This may mean that her freedom was less proscribed by race because she was not a male seeking political advantage. Some people of mixed-race in the nineteenth century South managed to create a personal identity and status that contradicts the contention that all non-whites in antebellum Georgia lived under the oppressive system of slavery. In any case, Amanda America Dickson perceived and performed her role as wealthy lady and apparently operated as though the regular definitions of race did not apply in her case. In the culture of nineteenth century South, Amanda had the advantage of being the daughter of a wealthy white man. According to Kent Anderson Leslie, Amanda America Dickson’s life as a “raceless” person meant that she was “alone, without nuclear family or extended family” and had no nation. This seems like an odd conclusion given all of the other evidence presented that Amanda Dickson lived a life defined by wealth, status, and social class, but not color.
In 1849, Amanda was born to a thirteen-year-old slave girl on the Hancock County plantation owned by David Dickson. Therefore, Amanda Dickson’s mother was a slave in Georgia and Amanda’s father was her owner. According to Leslie, David Dickson raped the slave girl whose name was Julia Frances Dickson. As a baby, Amanda Dickson was placed in the home of her paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Sholars Dickson. After her grandmother’s death the child was moved to her father’s home. Amanda America Dickson experienced a childhood filled with the level of wealth and privilege that could be expected to be accorded to a daughter of a wealthy white Southern planter. The fact that Amanda lived with her white paternal grandmother as a baby during the antebellum period in Georgia indicates that not all slaves were subjected to the unjust and cruel system of chattel labor.
Some reports indicate that Amanda’s mother, Julia, lived as an average house slave after her period nursing her daughter Amanda ended. As far as Julia Dickson, the information contained in Kent’s book presents the picture of a young girl and young woman who did not have the conventional life of a slave. Julia herself apparently explained that she worked making beds, sweeping, and tending to chores in the house and garden. She had other children after Amanda, a son by a slave and a daughter by a white man named “Doc Eubanks.” Julia was treated by the Dickson family doctor regularly for many years. David and Julia Dickson maintained an apparently intimate relationship. Slaves and whites both reported that the two had an intimate and affectionate relationship. In Georgia, old laws forbade “the teaching of reading and writing to slaves.” However, according to Leslie there were exceptions to the laws and rules. In this story those exceptions were based on wealth, privilege, and compunction. Amanda Dickson spent her teenage years living contentedly with her father in his large home. She received an education that included the standard skills taught to young ladies of rank, such as music and literature. Amanda Dickson’s mother lived with Amanda’s father. When she was about sixteen years old, Amanda Dickson married Charles Eubanks, who was a cousin, Civil War veteran, and white. Amanda Dickson and Charles Eubanks had two children. For some reason Amanda Dickson divorced her husband and took back her maiden name. In the case of Amanda Dickson, her life was not restricted and ruled by racial hierarchy, even though, according Kent Anderson Leslie, she was technically a slave until adolescence.
As far as what it meant to be mixed-race legally, as far as legal objectives were concerned, ex-slaves in Georgia during the Reconstruction period had opportunities they had been denied before the Civil War. This shows a huge change in their status from pre-war Georgia. In 1885, Amanda’s father died and willed a large part of his holdings to her. The estate was worth many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Dickson’s white relatives contested the will unsuccessfully. Still trying to contest the will, the white Dickson relatives filed an appeal unsuccessfully two years later. Of interest is that in the 1887 court decision, the judges wrote that the "rights of each race are controlled and governed by the same enactments or principles of law.” On the surface, this seems to indicate that blacks and mixed-race people had the same rights as whites.
Further evidence that after the Civil War mixed-race and black people in Georgia could break free of the cruel and oppressive system of slavery is evidenced by Amanda Dickson’s purchase of a home in a wealthy, integrated area of Augusta Georgia. This does not mean that there was not racism; it does indicate that the economic barriers and some of the social restrictions that existed before the Civil War no longer had as much power. Amanda Dickson married an ex-slave named Nathan Toomer in 1892. Toomer had served in the capacity of personal assistant and was educated in the conventions of upper class white society. Amanda died approximately one year after this marriage, in her early forties, apparently from neurasthenia.
Dickson’s life of wealth and privilege is not representative of how most people lived in the South during this period, regardless of their race and gender. Author Kent Leslie has documented his biography about Amanda Dickson in an effort to show that the history of all slaves and non-whites in pre- and post-Civil War Georgia was not dictated by the same rules. Not all blacks or mixed-raced slaves lived under the brutal forced labor systems that used people as property. The racial hierarchies of the South could apparently be mitigated before and after slavery became illegal, in this case by money. During Reconstruction laws against integration in Georgia’s wealthiest neighborhoods were removed allowing Amanda Dickson to buy a lavish home and set up an impressive and opulent lifestyle. This was not a common way for former African American slaves to live, neither was it typical of mixed-race people, or illegitimate children, black or white.


Leslie, Kent Anderson. 1995. Woman of color, daughter of privilege: Amanda America Dickson, 1849-1893. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

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