Hot Best Seller

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

Availability: Ready to download

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 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. 


Compare

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 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. 

30 review for The Devil's Half Acre: The Untold Story of How One Woman Liberated the South's Most Notorious Slave Jail

  1. 4 out of 5

    Firetruckmama

    I received an e-ARC version of this book from NetGalley and the publisher. “The Devil’s Half Acre” is by Kristen Green. It’s a non-fiction story about the part Richmond, Virginia had in the role of slavery. Yes, my summary differs from the publisher’s summary, but - let me be honest - this is a difficult book for me to review! If I could give a rating based upon the amount of historical research Ms. Green did for this book, I would - and it would be a very high five stars. She lists an extensive a I received an e-ARC version of this book from NetGalley and the publisher. “The Devil’s Half Acre” is by Kristen Green. It’s a non-fiction story about the part Richmond, Virginia had in the role of slavery. Yes, my summary differs from the publisher’s summary, but - let me be honest - this is a difficult book for me to review! If I could give a rating based upon the amount of historical research Ms. Green did for this book, I would - and it would be a very high five stars. She lists an extensive amount of articles and books she used for background material. She also consulted genealogical records to track movement - so, she did a great job of due diligence. However, because so little is known about Mary Lumpkin, while she’s a common thread in this story, so much is guesswork about her life. There are some facts however - she was an enslaved woman (at the time a young teenager) forced to bear children of Robert Lumpkin, who owned and ran Lumpkin’s Jail in Richmond, VA. Mary outlived Robert Lumpkin and she inherited the land Lumpkin’s Jail had been on (Robert died after the Civil War ended) and, she offered the land and buildings up to become a school, eventually becoming Virginia Union University. For me, sadly, where the overall book falls short is in the overall structure of the book. For instance, a lot of time is spent at the beginning with the author discussing her word choices and why she made those choices. There are ways to do this that don’t take nearly 30 pages to explain to the reader. Because so little is known about Mary Lumpkin, the author uses a lot of qualifiers “maybe Mary Lumpkin did this,” “Maybe Mary Lumpkin and Person_name discussed this,” and the etc. So much is unknown - including why she left Virginia and moved to Ohio (the author makes some guesses - but I would’ve preferred a straight “Mary moved there and lived with PersonX, but there’s no documentation saying why she made that choice.”). Mary is always referred to as “Mary Lumpkin,” which I found a bit awkward to read after a number of pages. Yes, that’s a stylistic choice, but since Mary seemed to be the only Mary in the book, it became annoying. The author had a message to convey with this book - and she delivers it, but at times for me it became mired down in political correctness, “these people good, these people bad,” and leaps in time (example: beginning a discussion occurring in 1840, then including historical information from the 1790s, then jumping to the 1930s before returning to the 1850s) that made it difficult to always keep track of what was happening when. As a side note, if you have read the historical fiction book "The Yellow Wife," by Sadeqa Johnson, the main character, Pheby Brown, is based upon Mary Lumpkin.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    The Devil’s Half Acre deals with an aspect of American based slavery that I had never considered, and one of great importance to the history of slavery throughout its history in this country. Richmond Virginia was the center of the slavery trading itself, becoming a crossroads where the human cargo from early ships or traded/sold slaves were bound to new destinations. This is where runaways were sought or brought if found. Mary was an enslaved black woman who lived in Robert Lumpkin’s house at h The Devil’s Half Acre deals with an aspect of American based slavery that I had never considered, and one of great importance to the history of slavery throughout its history in this country. Richmond Virginia was the center of the slavery trading itself, becoming a crossroads where the human cargo from early ships or traded/sold slaves were bound to new destinations. This is where runaways were sought or brought if found. Mary was an enslaved black woman who lived in Robert Lumpkin’s house at his slave jail at Devil’s Half Acre. She was mother to five of his children. That is known and acknowledged. Apparently several of these white jailers had many children by enslaved black women under their control. What the author has discovered, through careful and meticulous research over the years, is what happened to some of these women and their children. It’s a fascinating story that adds layers to the hypocrisy that surrounds the entire institution of slavery. In the course of this book, the story moves from the dominance of Virginia to the rise of the lower South and resulting move of large numbers of slaves also to the lower South. There are stories about the casual destruction of families as either parents or children are sold away. Another section deals with the Civil War in Richmond and what happens to the jails once the slaves have been freed. Mary Lumpkin (yes, she used his name) played a major role in this area, and in the future of her children and former slaves in Virginia. While there might not be specific facts available for each event in Mary Lumpkin’s life, the author was able to find her on census records, property deeds and family letters. She is also able to see trends for other women like Mary, who lived near her at different times and would have have had similar concerns re: their children, future, safety, etc. The sub-title itself may be somewhat misleading as to how large Mary’s role was, but she did have a role in the future education of black men in Richmond. I believe the extrapolation works here and that Green has made her case. Recommended reading to obtain a broader outlook on the history of race in the United States. A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Books.and.Salt

    I feel AWFUL giving this book two stars, because it's honestly well written and clearly a TON of research went into this book. I appreciate the amount of thought and care that went into the language used and descriptions given. There was a lot of interesting information included - it just was either uncertain or not about the title character. My issue is that there was so much speculation in this book. I understand that there isn't much information on her out there, but I would have preferred "an I feel AWFUL giving this book two stars, because it's honestly well written and clearly a TON of research went into this book. I appreciate the amount of thought and care that went into the language used and descriptions given. There was a lot of interesting information included - it just was either uncertain or not about the title character. My issue is that there was so much speculation in this book. I understand that there isn't much information on her out there, but I would have preferred "and we don't know what happened" over "well maybe she did this, but she probably did this." It's not factual information when it's just speculation. Also there was so many random quotes from other journals of enslaved people or records, that had nothing to do with this woman's story. I think if this book was marketed as telling the stories of female slaves in a certain time period, it would have been wonderful. But saying this is the story of a single specific woman, who very little information of was found, is inaccurate. Many thanks to SealPress for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Annette Jordan

    The Devil's Half Acre by Kristen Green takes the story of Mary Lumpkin , a formerly enslaved woman who survived and eventually transformed the slave jail of her former owner into a school which later became Virginia Union University , and uses it to illustrate what life was like for those enslaved in the United States before and during the American Civil War, and in its aftermath. The book is much broader in scope than I expected from the description and while Mary Lumpkin's story is the central The Devil's Half Acre by Kristen Green takes the story of Mary Lumpkin , a formerly enslaved woman who survived and eventually transformed the slave jail of her former owner into a school which later became Virginia Union University , and uses it to illustrate what life was like for those enslaved in the United States before and during the American Civil War, and in its aftermath. The book is much broader in scope than I expected from the description and while Mary Lumpkin's story is the central narrative thread that runs through the book, there is a lot of more general social commentary about the time. I was a little perturbed by the repeated use of phrases like "perhaps she felt" , while I understand that accurate historical sources are limited, I would have preferred to have a more concise account based on fact rather than supposition. As might be expected given the subject matter, this is not easy reading , there are many disturbing descriptions of the appalling treatment the enslaved endured. This is a well researched history book but those who are expecting a more narrative driven biography style book may be a little disappointed. I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Aileen Weintraub

    The Devil's Half Acre is a carefully researched excavation of history. Green tells the story of Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman who survived the brutality and trauma of slavery inside a prison known as The Devil's Half Acre. When the jail was bequeathed to her after the slave trader who owned it died, she help found a school on the site, which became the cornerstone for one of America's first HBCUs. As one of 2 million women and girls enslaved in America's south, Lumpkin's is a story that needs The Devil's Half Acre is a carefully researched excavation of history. Green tells the story of Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman who survived the brutality and trauma of slavery inside a prison known as The Devil's Half Acre. When the jail was bequeathed to her after the slave trader who owned it died, she help found a school on the site, which became the cornerstone for one of America's first HBCUs. As one of 2 million women and girls enslaved in America's south, Lumpkin's is a story that needs to be told. This is powerful book of resilience detailing her historic contributions.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    The author shares a lot of meandering stories of slavery and the slave trade. Many of which are fairly well known but still interesting. I was looking forward to an in depth historical account of Mary Lumpkin, who I have not heard about. However, this never really came to fruition. A very large part of the “history” shared by the author is heavily rooted in supposition. The author had some basic historical tidbits which she then ran with to mold Mary Lumpkin into a character of her making. The a The author shares a lot of meandering stories of slavery and the slave trade. Many of which are fairly well known but still interesting. I was looking forward to an in depth historical account of Mary Lumpkin, who I have not heard about. However, this never really came to fruition. A very large part of the “history” shared by the author is heavily rooted in supposition. The author had some basic historical tidbits which she then ran with to mold Mary Lumpkin into a character of her making. The author's writing with regards to Mary is riddled with phrases such as: “most probably”, “perhaps”, “likely”, “may or may not”. It’s almost comical how often these phrases are used in a supposed historical account. I realize much of Mary’s history is missing, or not yet revealed but to just fill in the blanks without proof is the genre of historical fiction. It absolutely seems like Mary had a rough go of it to say the least but to lionize her with conjecture is not right either. The author states that the Richmond Jail/slave pen was liberated by Mary. I may have missed something but I believed the slave pens were liberated by the impending arrival of the US Army under Grant as they moved into Richmond after Lee skedaddled. Also much is made of the slave pen Mary owned as it was transformed into a school for former slaves that morphed into a HBCU. A good thing for sure but Mary’s motivation to sell or rent the pen for this purpose as altruistic is suspect at best. After the Civil War her finances were in shambles.She owned an old slave pen that had no use for it’s designed purpose and she owed taxes on it. No one wanted to buy an old slave pen, there were many in Richmond, except for those who wanted to convert them into schools for the formerly enslaved. So I’m thinking the motivation to sell was something much less than that of a grand vision and more of limited means and survival. I really wanted to like Mary for being fearsome abolitionists working behind the scenes but the proof, at least with this book, is just not there. The author canonizes Mary on scant to no actual hard evidence. It’s just as likely Mary was an opportunist, capitalizing on the cards dealt to her after a brutal system collapsed towards the last days of the Civil War, and who could blame her for that.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Carol Dunlap

    I am really enjoying this nonfiction, sweeping account of the life of Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman forced into a relationship with a slave trader, and to bear his children. Her enslaver was the owner of a slave jail in Richmond, Va. While the author freely discusses that much is missing in terms of specific details of Mary Lumpkin's thoughts, she provides context that asks readers to draw on their own sense of humanity, of vulnerability, to calculate the possibilities. That this enslaved woma I am really enjoying this nonfiction, sweeping account of the life of Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman forced into a relationship with a slave trader, and to bear his children. Her enslaver was the owner of a slave jail in Richmond, Va. While the author freely discusses that much is missing in terms of specific details of Mary Lumpkin's thoughts, she provides context that asks readers to draw on their own sense of humanity, of vulnerability, to calculate the possibilities. That this enslaved woman could accomplish so much under such constricted circumstances, in securing freedom and education for her children, and in establishing a school for others who had been enslaved, is a marvel. That the author was able to compile so much fact-based context is a testament to preserving and celebrating the life of Mary Lumpkin. I have learned so much. It is my sincere hope that this book will be read far and wide. Mary Lumpkin is a true American hero.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mariah

    This is a harsh book to read about a hard topic. As the author states at the beginning of the book, they are not going to sugarcoat anything about the time period or the people they are writing about. There are quite a few parts of this book that are hard to read and I had to break it into chunks sometimes, just so I could absorb what the author was writing. Even if you think you know about slavery and that era from school or other places, this book really lays bare aspects of slavery that are n This is a harsh book to read about a hard topic. As the author states at the beginning of the book, they are not going to sugarcoat anything about the time period or the people they are writing about. There are quite a few parts of this book that are hard to read and I had to break it into chunks sometimes, just so I could absorb what the author was writing. Even if you think you know about slavery and that era from school or other places, this book really lays bare aspects of slavery that are not talked about enough and what it was like for those enslaved people. There is frank writing throughout the book about the choices that those who were enslaved made and what they went through that might have factored into those choices. Those who were enslaved had to often make really hard decisions about how they lived and interacted with not only their fellow enslaved people, but also with those who enslaved them and anyone who was not enslaved. There is really too much in this book to distill it down into one review, but all I can say is that this book is hard and it does not shy away from the history it discusses and it leaves you needing to learn more no matter how hard. A highly-recommended read, but be prepared for some tough reading.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Having just read the book, I totally agree with FIRETRUCKMAMA’s review. Marvelous research and a wonderful story. But the writing is truncated and politically correct, so the book is difficult to read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Lewis

    Green has done a masterful job of reconstructing the life of Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman who inherited an infamous slave jail in Richmond, Va., and transformed it into a place of hope. The book’s title, The Devil’s Half Acre, refers to the jail itself, a true place of horrors for countless enslaved people. Even with Green’s exhaustive research, she’s had to fill in some of the gaps as she imagines various details of Lumpkin’s life. This is an essential re-creation that sheds light on a bruta Green has done a masterful job of reconstructing the life of Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman who inherited an infamous slave jail in Richmond, Va., and transformed it into a place of hope. The book’s title, The Devil’s Half Acre, refers to the jail itself, a true place of horrors for countless enslaved people. Even with Green’s exhaustive research, she’s had to fill in some of the gaps as she imagines various details of Lumpkin’s life. This is an essential re-creation that sheds light on a brutal and horrible chapter of American history. It was at times a difficult read, but I’m grateful to have received an advance copy.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    Green provides more of a social commentary about the history of slavery around Richmond, Virginia than focusing solely on the life of Mary Lumpkin, which makes for a very misleading title.. What she includes about Lumpkin is quite interesting. She envelops it in broad historical sweeps that are distracting, it felt like she was trying to add in every major historical event from colonial times to present. She makes numerous suppositions that are nebulous and vague. I learned more by reading The Y Green provides more of a social commentary about the history of slavery around Richmond, Virginia than focusing solely on the life of Mary Lumpkin, which makes for a very misleading title.. What she includes about Lumpkin is quite interesting. She envelops it in broad historical sweeps that are distracting, it felt like she was trying to add in every major historical event from colonial times to present. She makes numerous suppositions that are nebulous and vague. I learned more by reading The Yellow Wife. Thanks to Seal Press and NetGalley for the early read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Leeann

    4.5/5.0 stars

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    This book brilliantly demonstrates how much of Black history we scarcely know about. “White men have historically told the stories. As the record keepers, they determined whose stories would endure the test of time and whose would vanish.” This story was not only about Mary Lumpkin, but also the hardships that Black enslaved women, like Mary, had to face for the duration of their lives. The resilience that Mary inhabited was demonstrated beautifully throughout this story. Green’s extensive resea This book brilliantly demonstrates how much of Black history we scarcely know about. “White men have historically told the stories. As the record keepers, they determined whose stories would endure the test of time and whose would vanish.” This story was not only about Mary Lumpkin, but also the hardships that Black enslaved women, like Mary, had to face for the duration of their lives. The resilience that Mary inhabited was demonstrated beautifully throughout this story. Green’s extensive research included a numerous amount of retellings about other enslaved men and women and their abusers. One of those short retellings happened to be about Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman who was Thomas Jefferson’s “concubine” at the age of 16. “The legacy of America’s beloved third president did not include his enslaved children and their enslaved mother, an omission that suspended Americans in a false understanding of their nations history.” These retellings go on to further exemplify the abuse that Black enslaved women had to endure throughout history that continue to go unacknowledged nor talked about today. Though Green had to fill in some gaps with Mary’s story, The Devils Half Acre does justice recounting Mary’s life as well as recounting the unfair, cruel treatment done upon those just like her. Very grateful to receive a copy of this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    Ms Green has carefully researched and patched together the story of Mary Lumpkin as best possible given the scarcity of records on enslaved women. She sheds light on the injustices practiced against enslaved families and enslaved women in particular by enslavers. The history of slave trade is laid bare with all its sordid detail. Several figures of speech and terms are explained in the context in which they came to be. An excellent read that particularly bores into the finer details of slave tra Ms Green has carefully researched and patched together the story of Mary Lumpkin as best possible given the scarcity of records on enslaved women. She sheds light on the injustices practiced against enslaved families and enslaved women in particular by enslavers. The history of slave trade is laid bare with all its sordid detail. Several figures of speech and terms are explained in the context in which they came to be. An excellent read that particularly bores into the finer details of slave trade mostly in Virginia (where Ms Lumpkin herself was enslaved). We follow her up north and encounter several other contemporaries who, like herself, contributed to pivotal moments in US history. More people should hear the story of the founder of Virginia Union. A great addition to any library's history collection. Ms Green's engaging narrative style makes this a hard book to put down.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    This is a very good book. Definitely worth a read, amazing story of courage and resolve. I highly recommend it. What a great read! Can I make a general remark on something I've noticed with almost every Goodreads email suggestions? There is a very distinct lack of diversity of authors. The vast majority of writers being promoted are women. It's great to see as I love women writers with a different perspective on many things, but it needs to be more balanced than it is. It's beginning to look lik This is a very good book. Definitely worth a read, amazing story of courage and resolve. I highly recommend it. What a great read! Can I make a general remark on something I've noticed with almost every Goodreads email suggestions? There is a very distinct lack of diversity of authors. The vast majority of writers being promoted are women. It's great to see as I love women writers with a different perspective on many things, but it needs to be more balanced than it is. It's beginning to look like it's biased against male writers and I've noticed that many new releases by male writers are ignored. Let's have some equality. IOf 60 books listed, at least 42 of them are women writers. It's been like this for quite some time. This is gender bias too.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Bell

    The way this book is described is misleading. As the author admits, Mary Lumpkin has been largely erased; the traces of her in the historical record are slight. Therefore, much of this book is speculation. In order to build this into more than article length, Green is forced to include other women in similar situations and to carry the narrative forward into the story of HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and the removal of Confederate monuments in Richmond. This is all powerful The way this book is described is misleading. As the author admits, Mary Lumpkin has been largely erased; the traces of her in the historical record are slight. Therefore, much of this book is speculation. In order to build this into more than article length, Green is forced to include other women in similar situations and to carry the narrative forward into the story of HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and the removal of Confederate monuments in Richmond. This is all powerful, important, neglected history; but whole passages are tangential to Mary herself. The part that moved me most talked about Mary's living descendants. Many of their ancestors not only passed for White but in the process lost the knowledge of their Blackness and of their remarkable foremother. I'm so glad Green is restoring the parts of that history she can.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Maura

    I have a passion for both Virginia history and Black history, so I have been eagerly anticipating this book, especially because Kristen Green's Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle is such an important and fascinating mix of research and personal experience. Unfortunately, The Devil's Half Acre just didn't work for me as a book, simply because there isn't enough information to find about Mary Lumpkin's history. Green should get massi I have a passion for both Virginia history and Black history, so I have been eagerly anticipating this book, especially because Kristen Green's Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle is such an important and fascinating mix of research and personal experience. Unfortunately, The Devil's Half Acre just didn't work for me as a book, simply because there isn't enough information to find about Mary Lumpkin's history. Green should get massive credit for her exhaustive research and for the fact that she has seemingly unturned every stone in order to find any little scrap of information related to Lumpkin, but the substance of what she did find would make a fine long-form Sunday newspaper magazine article, not a book. With so many holes in Mary Lumpkin's actual story, Green resorts to supposition more often than not, and while her guesses about Mary's motivations and what she might have been thinking or feeling at any given point may be likely to be true, they are all guesses, not history. I found myself frustrated by all the "perhaps", "probably", "likely" and wanted just to know what can be *known*, for sure. I did find the ancillary information about other enslaved women who had been forced to have children and later had quasi-families with owners of slave jails to be fascinating, disturbing, and thought-provoking. And I found myself fascinated with the mentions of Mary Lumpkin's descendants, who had no idea that they were descended from a Black woman or from a notoriously cruel slave trader and the child he raped and forced to bear his children. What, if anything, does that family history mean to those descendants who have discovered it? What impact does it have on identity to find you are descended from someone who "passed" as white? How might it change ones own story, or motivate a person to learn more about their family history? How does it impact political identity? For me, that fascinating bit was only barely touched upon, and it is just one of the ways that the core story about Mary Lumpkin might have been fleshed out into a fuller examination built on that theme. It could also have been a focused book that looked at women in the domestic slave trade in Virginia, both white women and Black women and the contradictory and surprising roles they played, and the blurring of their roles as victims and oppressors based on how much power they were able to wield in an evil system. Or, it could have stayed focused on the history of Lumpkin's jail itself, from its role in the Anthony Burns case to other notorious mentions of it in history, placing Mary Lumpkin's presence there in the context of other historical events and perhaps raising questions about how she might have navigated her role. Instead, though, this book goes in LOTS of directions...a history of HBCU's in general and Virginia Union in particular, Richmond history and a history of the domestic slave trade, Richmond's more recent political history and efforts to tell the history of slavery, more fully fleshed out stories about other "wives" of slave traders...and lots and lots and lots and lots of speculation. It felt scattered and I never had a strong sense of the direction in which it was going. Audiobook narration by Deanna Anthony was overall excellent, but frequent misplaced emphasis in sentence structure and a few notable repetitions of mispronunciations ("executor" of a will, for example, pronounced like the person who executes people) were jarring distractions. This is something I would have expected Anthony's producer to catch before final production. Overall: I want to give 5 stars to Green for effort and for exhaustive research, and for attempting to shine a light on the fascinating and perplexing story of Mary Lumpkin. I am grateful for her passion and work to amplify the stories of enslaved Virginians. As a finished product, however, it falls short of the promise of the book's description as a history of Mary Lumpkin.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dea

    This is the most disorganized and mistitled book I have ever read. I understand that the information on the life of Mary Lumpkin is scarce, but the author made it sound like she was able to scrounge something by sources other than Mary's own words. Instead we got a lot of stories about people adjacent to Mary and those who were unrelated to her in any way shape or form. This is not telling her story. There is also not much about the jail becoming a school. The part of it going from one to anothe This is the most disorganized and mistitled book I have ever read. I understand that the information on the life of Mary Lumpkin is scarce, but the author made it sound like she was able to scrounge something by sources other than Mary's own words. Instead we got a lot of stories about people adjacent to Mary and those who were unrelated to her in any way shape or form. This is not telling her story. There is also not much about the jail becoming a school. The part of it going from one to another is a couple of pages. The rest is just bits and pieces of people's lives in a haphazard retelling. Part of me thinks that the reason Mary Lumpkin was made the center of the book is because women's narratives, especially enslaved women's narratives, are popular right now. People would be enticed, for whatever reason, to pick up a book about a life of an enslaved woman who bore children from her enslaver. Less people would pick up a book about a slave jail and those that resided inside. The only reason I gave this book an extra star is for teaching me that slave jails existed. Somehow that fact, that people that were property would need to be kept somewhere for extended period of time outside of plantations, never occurred to me.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Karley Sharkey

    2.5/5--What bothered me the most about this book was that its subtitle led me to believe it would actually be about "the untold story of how one woman liberated the south's most notorious slave jail," but was most certainly not. The story of Mary Lumpkin was written almost entirely as asides from the rest of the book, which focused on a general retelling of the history of American slavery. What was written about Mary Lumpkin was more or less just presumption, as most of her history has been lost 2.5/5--What bothered me the most about this book was that its subtitle led me to believe it would actually be about "the untold story of how one woman liberated the south's most notorious slave jail," but was most certainly not. The story of Mary Lumpkin was written almost entirely as asides from the rest of the book, which focused on a general retelling of the history of American slavery. What was written about Mary Lumpkin was more or less just presumption, as most of her history has been lost to us. By the end of the book, Mary Lumpkin is hardly mentioned as it jumps forward to modern day, its last chapter capturing American history as recently as 2021. It was an informative read, but certainly a misleading one.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Penny Forrest

    This is a frustrating book and review. It is an amazing factual account of the lives of enslaved people, especially women. These stories are horrifying and the author’s research is extensive. However, this book is not the story of Mary Lumpkin. Very little is known of her life- those few facts would fill only a few paragraphs. In this book, Mary’s life is noted with “perhaps” and “maybe”. Reading a book with such extensive research with “perhaps this happened to Mary” discredits the true account This is a frustrating book and review. It is an amazing factual account of the lives of enslaved people, especially women. These stories are horrifying and the author’s research is extensive. However, this book is not the story of Mary Lumpkin. Very little is known of her life- those few facts would fill only a few paragraphs. In this book, Mary’s life is noted with “perhaps” and “maybe”. Reading a book with such extensive research with “perhaps this happened to Mary” discredits the true accounts. A compilation of the stories of the brave people in the book without guesses regarding the life of Mary Lumpkin would a much more compelling read. My rating is an average- 5 for the factual accounts and 1 for the story of Mary Lumpkin

  21. 5 out of 5

    DEVONIA BOURGEOIS

    I really should have stopped listening to this book when she said "maybe this happened" and "probably this” but I continued to give the book a fair shot. Well the title of this book is very misleading and the story is all over the place. I really should have stopped listening to this book when she said "maybe this happened" and "probably this” but I continued to give the book a fair shot. Well the title of this book is very misleading and the story is all over the place.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Becky Edwards

    This was a very informative read. I had read “Yellow Wife” which was a historical fiction about Mary Lumpkin, and this book provided some great historical context and details.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Maum

    This is a sensitively written exploration of the systems and people who enslaved other humans and their efforts to keep the institution of slavery in place, told through the lifetime of one enslaved woman, Mary Lumpkin. Written in a readable and accessible manner, Kristin Green handles challenging material with grace and compassion, while also wielding impressive chops as a researcher and storyteller. Fans of Patrick Radden Keefe will be greatly satisfied by the important book, an excellent pair This is a sensitively written exploration of the systems and people who enslaved other humans and their efforts to keep the institution of slavery in place, told through the lifetime of one enslaved woman, Mary Lumpkin. Written in a readable and accessible manner, Kristin Green handles challenging material with grace and compassion, while also wielding impressive chops as a researcher and storyteller. Fans of Patrick Radden Keefe will be greatly satisfied by the important book, an excellent pairing to Dr. Rebecca Hall’s recently released “Wake: The secret history of women-led slave revolts.”

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jana Eisenstein

    Wow. This book was a fascinating, if at times difficult, read - not because of the style, but because on the content. Author Kristen Green brings to light the overlooked achievements of a young enslaved girl, Mary Lumpkin, who, when free, founded a school to help educate other freed slaves. The book is well-researched and though some of Mary Lumpkin's story is educated speculation on the part of the author, Kristen Green refers to historical records, court cases, and letters when possible. As sh Wow. This book was a fascinating, if at times difficult, read - not because of the style, but because on the content. Author Kristen Green brings to light the overlooked achievements of a young enslaved girl, Mary Lumpkin, who, when free, founded a school to help educate other freed slaves. The book is well-researched and though some of Mary Lumpkin's story is educated speculation on the part of the author, Kristen Green refers to historical records, court cases, and letters when possible. As she explains, the records of poor Black slave women rarely survived. But it's heartening to know that even with a dearth of physical records, the stories of brave, accomplished, and invisible Black women are starting to be told. I found this book to be informative and empowering.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ddoddmccue

    The history and contributions of the Mary Lumpkins in US history warrant recognition. The Devil’s Half Acre seeks this goal but demands a motivated reader. The author’s intent and research skills, while clearly displayed, are not well served by this book. They may be better served by tighter organization and writing, balance of topics, and limited use of speculation concerning Mary’s motivations and actions. The reader is too often confronted with “Mary may have thought,” “Mary might have,” or “pe The history and contributions of the Mary Lumpkins in US history warrant recognition. The Devil’s Half Acre seeks this goal but demands a motivated reader. The author’s intent and research skills, while clearly displayed, are not well served by this book. They may be better served by tighter organization and writing, balance of topics, and limited use of speculation concerning Mary’s motivations and actions. The reader is too often confronted with “Mary may have thought,” “Mary might have,” or “perhaps Mary…” To quote Twain, “ Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.” The recent publication of a novel based on Mary Lumpkins may have limited this as an option for this author. Additionally, and related to publication timing, the later and relatively shorter chapters focus on HBCUs and recent preservation, remembrance, and monument removals events in Richmond. While relevant and timely additions, they are not effectively linked to the book’s preceding content.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Melnick

    I was thrilled to receive an advanced copy of this book. The Devil's Half Acre is a rarity in that it tells a riveting, true tale that also un-erases a Black woman from history. Kristen Green has worked deeply in archives to uncover the true story of Mary Lumpkin and how she survived slavery and went on to found one of the first HBCU's from the building site of a former slave jail. This is a story that never should have been lost; Mary Lumpkin should be celebrated and not forgotten. Green does j I was thrilled to receive an advanced copy of this book. The Devil's Half Acre is a rarity in that it tells a riveting, true tale that also un-erases a Black woman from history. Kristen Green has worked deeply in archives to uncover the true story of Mary Lumpkin and how she survived slavery and went on to found one of the first HBCU's from the building site of a former slave jail. This is a story that never should have been lost; Mary Lumpkin should be celebrated and not forgotten. Green does just that.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Gehring

    I loved this book! Kristen Green tells the story of Mary Lumpkin with such skill and complete devotion. The level of research and historical accuracy is impressive. What an important piece of forgotten history. Smartly written and engaging. Thank you to the publisher for an advance reader copy.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sara Hosey

    This is such an important book. The Devil's Half Acre recovers a neglected history and tells the story of Mary Lumpkin, a truly extraordinary person. A must-read! This is such an important book. The Devil's Half Acre recovers a neglected history and tells the story of Mary Lumpkin, a truly extraordinary person. A must-read!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    This was not an easy read. It includes so much history about slave trading, Lumpkin Jail, the time during the civil war, after the civil war, the process of uncovering the remains of the Lumpkin Jail and also future plans for a museum. I originally read The Yellow Wife which is a historical fiction about Mary Lumpkin. I hadn't ever read about the Lumpkin Jail before and I wanted to read more - which led me to this book. There is so little written history surrounding Mary Lumpkin, the author had This was not an easy read. It includes so much history about slave trading, Lumpkin Jail, the time during the civil war, after the civil war, the process of uncovering the remains of the Lumpkin Jail and also future plans for a museum. I originally read The Yellow Wife which is a historical fiction about Mary Lumpkin. I hadn't ever read about the Lumpkin Jail before and I wanted to read more - which led me to this book. There is so little written history surrounding Mary Lumpkin, the author had to rely on things happening during that time period and make many assumptions about her life and what might have happened. I understand it but it doesn't make for fluid reading. I would really give the reading experience 3 stars. I felt like I was taken down many different rabbit holes - important and interesting facts but a very bumpy road while trying to read it. I bumped the book up to 4 stars for the excellent research - no one can say she didn't research her tail off. I'm glad I read it but it sure wasn't easy.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    This book tells a very important story about Black women both before and after slavery. But I hate the writer's style so much I can't rate it very highly. The whole beginning uses the word "enslaved" much too liberally (if you've already told me that person X was enslaved, you don't have to keep telling me in every sentence. I'm not stupid, I can remember). And whereas the woman at the center of her story, Mary Lumpkin, lived a very interesting and fraught life, the truth is that very little is This book tells a very important story about Black women both before and after slavery. But I hate the writer's style so much I can't rate it very highly. The whole beginning uses the word "enslaved" much too liberally (if you've already told me that person X was enslaved, you don't have to keep telling me in every sentence. I'm not stupid, I can remember). And whereas the woman at the center of her story, Mary Lumpkin, lived a very interesting and fraught life, the truth is that very little is known about her at all. Perhaps all the speculation the author makes about Lumpkin's motivations and actions are meant to emphasize this, but for me it just came off annoying, due to all the repetition she makes about her motivations. That style just doesn't work for me. So I think you can probably find a better written book out there about Black women who were enslaved and had 'relationships' with their enslavers. It's a very important narrative that I thought was not done justice here.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.