Amanda America Dickson (1849-1893)
Amanda America Dickson, the daughter of a slave and her owner, became one of the wealthiest black women in nineteenth-century America.
In 1865 or 1866 Dickson married her white first cousin, Charles Eubanks, a recently returned Civil War (1861-65) veteran. The union produced two sons: Julian Henry (1866-1937), who married Eva Walton, the daughter of Isabella and George Walton of Augusta; and Charles Green (1870-ca. 1900), who married Kate Holsey, the daughter of Harriet and Bishop Lucius Holsey of Augusta. Dickson left Eubanks in 1870 and with her sons returned to her father's plantation. At that time she and her children took the last name of Dickson.
From 1876 to 1878 she left the plantation to attend the Normal School of Atlanta University. In the winter of 1885 David Dickson died, leaving the bulk of his estate to Amanda Dickson
Before the supreme court decision, Dickson purchased a large house at 452 Telfair Street, in the wealthiest section of the then-integrated city of Augusta. By the time the courts settled the Dickson will case, she had firmly ensconced herself in this new home and decorated it with Brussels carpets, oil paintings, a walnut dining room table and chairs, and books. While white Georgians were establishing segregation as the ruling social order in the public sphere, members of the Dickson family went about their private lives.
In 1892 Dickson married Nathan Toomer of Perry. Toomer was born in 1839 in Chatham County, North Carolina, the slave of Richard Pilkinson. As a child Toomer was purchased by John Toomer, who moved to Houston County, Georgia, in the 1850s. Upon John Toomer's death in 1859, his brother Colonel Henry Toomer purchased Nathan's mother, Kit, and seven of her children from the estate. As Henry Toomer's personal assistant, Nathan Toomer learned the manner of the white upper class. Toomer and Dickson's marriage lasted until her death on June 11, 1893, of neurasthenia, or nervous exhaustion. Shortly thereafter Nathan Toomer married Nina Pinchback. The son of this marriage was Jean Toomer, the author of the novel Cane (1923).
Amanda America Dickson's life reflected the power of family and class to erode the boundaries of race in the nineteenth-century South.
Jonathan Bryant, "Race, Class, and Law in Bourbon Georgia: The Case of David Dickson's Will," Georgia Historical Quarterly 71 (summer 1987): 226-42.
Kent Anderson Leslie, "Amanda America Dickson: A Wealthy Lady of Color in Nineteenth-Century Georgia," in Georgia Women: Their Lives and Times, vol. 1., ed. Ann Short Chirhart and Betty Wood (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2009).
Kent Anderson Leslie, Woman of Color, Daughter of Privilege: Amanda America Dickson, 1849-1893 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995).
Kent Anderson Leslie and Willard B. Gatewood Jr., "'This Father of Mine . . . a Sort of Mystery': Jean Toomer's Georgia Heritage," Georgia Historical Quarterly 77 (winter 1993): 789-809.
A House Divided. 16 mm, 101 min. Showtime Networks Inc., New York, 1999, film.
Kent Anderson Leslie, Decatur
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