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Author Will Share True Tale of Race, Sex, and Trade on America’s Colonial Frontier

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    Turk McCleskey.
    Photo by Fran Fevrier.

Location: Hodson Hall Commons

October 21, 2015
Turk McCleskey, a historian who teaches at Virginia Military Institute, is the author of The Road to Black Ned’s Forge. He speaks October 21 at 5:30 p.m. in Hynson Lounge.

CHESTERTOWN, MD—The Road to Black Ned’s Forge: A Story of Race, Sex, and Trade on the Colonial American Frontier recounts the remarkable true story of Edward Tarr, an enslaved ironworker who purchased his freedom in 1752, married a white woman, and became the first free black landowner west of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The book’s author, Turk McCleskey, will talk about his research and the significance of Forge’s life story when he visits Washington College on Wednesday, October 21.  Free and open to the public, the event begins at 5:30 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall.  A book signing will follow. 

The Road to Black Ned’s Forge unlocks a new, more nuanced understanding of the close-knit nature of communities and race relations on the early frontier. As a free man, Edward Tarr established a successful blacksmith shop and helped found a Presbyterian congregation.  Tarr’s neighbors accepted his interracial marriage, though some protested when a second white woman joined the household. Tarr’s story took a perilous turn when his last master’s son abruptly entered his life in an  attempt to re-enslave him. His fate suddenly hinged on his neighbors; they were all that stood between him and a return to slavery. 

A professor of history at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) since 1994, McCleskey has received the VMI Foundation’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, the Faculty Mentor Award, and the VMI Achievement Medal. His research and publications focus on the 18th century colonial American frontier. 

McCleskey’s Oct. 21 talk is sponsored by Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, the Department of History, and the American Studies Program.  More information can be found at starrcenter.washcoll.edu. 


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