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From Slave Ship to Harvard:Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family

From Slave Ship to Harvard:Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family

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From Slave Ship to Harvard is the true story of an African American family in Maryland over six generations. The author has reconstructed a unique narrative of black struggle and achievement from paintings, photographs, books, diaries, court records, legal documents, and oral histories. From Slave Ship to Harvard traces the family from the colonial period and the American Revolution through the Civil War to Harvard and finally today. Yarrow Mamout, the first of the family in America, was an educated Muslim from Guinea. He was brought to Maryland on the slave ship Elijah and gained his freedom forty-four years later. By then, Yarrow had become so well known in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., that he attracted the attention of the eminent American portrait painter Charles Willson Peale, who captured Yarrow's visage in the painting that appears on the cover of this book. The author here reveals that Yarrow's immediate relatives-his sister, niece, wife, and son-were notable in their own right. His son married into the neighboring Turner family, and the farm community in western Maryland called Yarrowsburg was named for Yarrow Mamout's daughter-in-law, Mary "Polly" Turner Yarrow. The Turner line ultimately produced Robert Turner Ford, who graduated from Harvard University in 1927. Just as Peale painted the portrait of Yarrow, James H. Johnston's new book puts a face on slavery and paints the history of race in Maryland. It is a different picture from what most of us imagine. Relationships between blacks and whites were far more complex, and the races more dependent on each other. Fortunately, as this one family's experience shows, individuals of both races repeatedly stepped forward to lessen divisions and to move America toward the diverse society of today.
From Slave Ship to Harvard is the true story of an African American family in Maryland over six generations. The author has reconstructed a unique narrative of black struggle and achievement from paintings, photographs, books, diaries, court records, legal documents, and oral histories. From Slave Ship to Harvard traces the family from the colonial period and the American Revolution through the Civil War to Harvard and finally today. Yarrow Mamout, the first of the family in America, was an educated Muslim from Guinea. He was brought to Maryland on the slave ship Elijah and gained his freedom forty-four years later. By then, Yarrow had become so well known in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., that he attracted the attention of the eminent American portrait painter Charles Willson Peale, who captured Yarrow's visage in the painting that appears on the cover of this book. The author here reveals that Yarrow's immediate relatives-his sister, niece, wife, and son-were notable in their own right. His son married into the neighboring Turner family, and the farm community in western Maryland called Yarrowsburg was named for Yarrow Mamout's daughter-in-law, Mary "Polly" Turner Yarrow. The Turner line ultimately produced Robert Turner Ford, who graduated from Harvard University in 1927. Just as Peale painted the portrait of Yarrow, James H. Johnston's new book puts a face on slavery and paints the history of race in Maryland. It is a different picture from what most of us imagine. Relationships between blacks and whites were far more complex, and the races more dependent on each other. Fortunately, as this one family's experience shows, individuals of both races repeatedly stepped forward to lessen divisions and to move America toward the diverse society of today.

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Publish date: May 14, 2012
Added to Scribd: May 11, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reservedISBN:9780823239504
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Publishers Weekly reviewed this
In 1752, a 16-year-old literate Muslim was transported from Africa into North American enslavement; in 1923, his great-great-grandson entered Harvard. From the dusty bins of history (wills, estate inventories, ledgers, deeds, census records), and, befitting the lawyer he is, "circumstantial evidence" and the serendipitous discovery of living descendants, Johnston brings fresh dimension to Yarrow Mamout, known primarily as the subject of Charles Willson Peale's 1819 painting. Manumitted in 1796, having already secured the freedom of his son, acquired property, and purchased bank stock, Yarrow died in 1823 in Washington, D.C. The network of extended families and the world of small towns, along with memories rife with variations, make for a thorny thicket of intertwined histories as the lives of his owner Bealls, the painter Peale, and Yarrow's family converge and diverge. Johnston helpfully provides both a family tree and an epilogue locating the historical places (some obliterated by development) in contemporary sites. Yarrow enters art history through Peale's portrait; Johnston's book gives him a tangible, if sometimes speculative, life and legacy. Together, they portray an illuminating, thought-provoking, relatively unusual moment in early American history. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

2012-02-13, Publishers Weekly
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