The Devil’s Half Acre: The Untold Story of How One Woman Liberated the South’s Most Notorious Slave Jail

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2021-09-12 23:18Z by Steven

The Devil’s Half Acre: The Untold Story of How One Woman Liberated the South’s Most Notorious Slave Jail

Seal Press (an imprint of Basic Books)
2022-04-12
352 pages
Hardcover ISBN-13: 9781541675636
eBook ISBN-13: 9781541675629
Audiobook ISBN-13: 9781549193354

Kristen Green

The inspiring true story of an enslaved woman who liberated an infamous slave jail and transformed it into one of the nation’s first HBCUs

In The Devil’s Half Acre, New York Times bestselling author Kristen Green draws on years of research to tell the extraordinary and little-known story of young Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman who blazed a path of liberation for thousands. She was forced to have the children of a brutal slave trader and live on the premises of his slave jail, known as the “Devil’s Half Acre.” When she inherited the jail after the death of her slaveholder, she transformed it into “God’s Half Acre,” a school where Black men could fulfill their dreams. It still exists today as Virginia Union University, one of America’s first Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

A sweeping narrative of a life in the margins of the American slave trade, The Devil’s Half Acre brings Mary Lumpkin into the light. This is the story of the resilience of a woman on the path to freedom, her historic contributions, and her enduring legacy.

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She was raped by the owner of a notorious slave jail. Later, she inherited it.

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Virginia, Women on 2021-09-12 23:02Z by Steven

She was raped by the owner of a notorious slave jail. Later, she inherited it.

The Washington Post
2020-02-01

Sydney Trent, Local enterprise reporter


An engraving print of the Lumpkin Slave Jail, from Corey’s “A History of the Richmond Theological Seminary.” (City of Richmond)

Robert Lumpkin was one of the South’s most prolific and brutal slave traders, presiding over a slave jail in Richmond so notorious that it was referred to as the “Devil’s Half Acre.”

Mary Lumpkin lived with him — and with the horror of who he was, bearing witness to the extreme punishments he meted out to enslaved people like her.

Under Robert Lumpkin’s ownership from 1844 until the end of the Civil War, the jail held thousands of enslaved men and women in its dim and cramped cells, permeated by the stench of human excrement. Many were destined for the auction block; others were captured runaways. Some had been delivered there by their masters to receive more expert punishment. The names of dead prisoners appeared on Robert Lumpkin’s insurance claims, their bodies buried in unmarked graves scattered about the property.

Described by an abolitionist minister who met her as “large, fair-faced . . . nearly white,” Mary was also Robert’s slave. She was raped and impregnated by him as a child, ultimately bearing at least seven of his children, five of whom survived. She kept house and raised their offspring within the fenced brick compound that included the jail…

Read the entire article here.

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