Lois Leveen


April 10, 2013

Devil’s Half-Acre

At several points in THE SECRETS OF MARY BOWSER, Mary refers to "Devil's Half-Acre," the site of Lumpkin's Jail, a public whipping post and slave auction site.
I was honored and awed to be asked to speak at that site on April 6, as part of the Future of Richmond's Past, a citywide commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and Emancipation.

When I arrived at the site, the African American woman I was with -- a Richmond native who spent the day showing me around and discussing the history of the black community -- told me she always feels uncomfortable being in that spot, knowing her own family members were likely bought and sold there. Fifteen minutes later and fifteen yards away, an older white woman came up to tell me she was almost done reading SECRETS for her book club next week. Then she mentioned that she's an officer of the local UDC (United Daughters of the Confederacy) chapter, and that they were doing a program on spies in January, and she was glad they could include Mary Bowser. I never imagined the UDC coming to embrace a former slave who spied for the Union. These two women did an amazing job of reminding me of the power of literature.

Here's the talk I gave. Apologies for the ambient noise!

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