The Known World

by

Author: Edward P. Jones
Title: The Known World
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 2003
Number of Pages: 400
Geographical Setting: Manchester County VA.
Time Period: 20 years before the Civil War
Series: No
Plot Summary:
One tiny line on the Manchester Co. historical registry about an African American freed male slave who owned his wife, their children, and two house servants inspires the Pulitzer prize winning tale of the Townsend family, and the residents of Manchester County VA and their very ugly history.  The epic multi generational and character rich tale starts with Augustus Townsend, the family patriarch, who buys his freedom as well as his wife and their son.  Much to the shock of the reader the story continues with the son Henry Townsend, starting a small plantation and purchasing slaves for himself.  At times it seems that after all Henry’s father has done for him he still views their former owner, Mr. Robbins as a mentor father figure. The plot weaves back and forth from Henry’s death bed, his childhood, and continues after his death.  The point of view changes as the story continues from family to family and generation to generation. The book ends with Henry’s wife, Caledonia’s final thoughts on the entangled life that her husband has created for them.  The entire story leads up to Mrs. Townsend’s life changing decision on whether or not to free their slaves or keep them to run the plantation.
12 Appeal: Well-written, character-centered, bitter sweet, introspective, historical details, thought-provoking, engaging, detailed setting, complex, small town, reflective
Subject Heading: African American slave holders, plantation life, 19th century, Historical Fiction, Virginia, Generational.
3 terms describing the book: Introspective, Controversial, Unpopular History.

Three relevant fiction books & why:
My Jim: A Novel by Nancy Rawles
(Sadie tells her story, after her husband decided to run away with a white boy named Huck Finn)
Cane River by Lalita Tademy
(An isolated 19th century community of free slaves, and white French creoles living in perfect harmony unbeknownst to the rest of the world)
Clotel, or, The president’s daughter: a narrative of slave life in the United States by William Wells Brown (The fictional story of Thomas Jefferson’s illegitimate biracial daughter)
Three relevant non-fiction books & why:
Master of Mahogany: Tom Day free black cabinet maker by Mary E. Lyons
(The story of a free, educated, African American cabinet maker living in the south)
Runaway and Freed Missouri Slaves and Those Who Helped Them by Harriet C. Frazier
(The true story of life after slavery)
Remembering slavery: African Americans talk about their personal experiences of slavery and freedom edited by Ira Berlin, Marc Favreau, and Steven F. Miller
(True accounts of slavery survivors)
Name: Laura Bartnik

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