Dolen Perkins-Valdez: A tender spot in master-slave relations

Source: WaPo, 1-21-11

Novelist Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Novelist Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Photos By Mark Gail)

Dolen Perkins-Valdez was reading a biography of W.E.B. DuBois when she came across the small aside. It was piece of history she hadn’t known, and couldn’t stop thinking about.

The land for Ohio’s Wilberforce University, the nation’s oldest private historically black college, where DuBois had once taught, at one time had been part of a resort – a place called Tawawa House, where wealthy Southern slaveholders would take their slave mistresses for open-air “vacations.”

“I had never heard of anything like that,” says Perkins-Valdez, then a writing professor at the University of Mary Washington. She knew of masters taking slaves north to attend to them, “but the thought of them taking women to a vacation resort was just stunning to me. I didn’t know what to do with that.”

What she did first was wonder: How would they have gotten there? And what did the resort look like? Then she asked: Why would a slave taken to a Northern free state not run?

Her attempts to answer those questions turned into the novel “Wench,” out in paperback Tuesday, just in time for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War…READ MORE

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