A comprehensive history of the black experience in an overlooked sector of the state
Encyclopedic in scope yet intimate in detail, African American Life in South Carolina's Upper Piedmont, 1780–1900 delves into the richness of community life in a setting where blacks were relatively few, notably disadvantaged, but remarkably cohesive. W. J. Megginson shifts the conventional study of African Americans in South Carolina from the much-examined lowcountry to a part of the state that offered a quite different existence for people of color. In Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens counties—occupying the state's northwest corner—he finds an independent, brave, and stable subculture that persevered for more than a century in the face of political and economic inequities.
Drawing on little-used state and county denominational records, privately held research materials, and sources available only in local repositories, Megginson brings to life African American society before, during, and after the Civil War. He portrays relationships—variously cordial, patronizing, and harsh—between African Americans and whites; the lives of free people of color; the primal place of sharecropping in the post–Civil War world; and the push for education and ownership of property as the only means of overcoming economic dependency.
Megginson's work joins a growing chorus of books that demonstrate the success of Reconstruction across the South. Black Republicans and even some black Democrats took up the rights and duties of leadership and made great strides in redressing antebellum wrongs. He underscores the fact that although the white Democrats' "redemption" of South Carolina government in 1876 greatly curtailed the black political movement, African Americans in the upper piedmont quietly continued to assert their place in the political realm.
Through detailed vignettes of individuals and families coupled with deft analysis of overarching social contexts, African American Life in South Carolina's Upper Piedmont, 1780–1900 adds a new dimension to our understanding of the African American experience in South Carolina and in the South.
A native of upstate South Carolina, W. J. Megginson has lectured at Arkansas State University, Hendrix College in Arkansas, Drexel University, and La Salle University. He is the author of Tracing Your Family Roots, Before Slavery and Shortly Thereafter, and Black Soldiers in World War I: Anderson, Pickens, and Oconee Counties, South Carolina.
"Relying on a broad range of contemporary and statistical evidence, Megginson offers a new perspective concerning the complex nature of race relations over more than a century in an area where the black population remained in a minority and stable over several generations."—Loren Schweninger, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
"This remarkable and totally engrossing piece of scholarship—among the very best works ever published about African-American life in the south—stands as a model of local history research and writing. Every page casts new and revealing light on such subjects as race relations and black religion, education, and social life in the South during the period. Megginson has seemingly left no source of information untapped in this balanced and judiciously argued study that offers rewarding, compelling, and informative reading for the layman and professional historian alike."—Allen B. Ballard, professor of history and Africana studies, SUNY-Albany, and author of One More Day's Journey: The Story of a Family and a People