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Invisible Founders: How Two Centuries of African American Families Transformed a Plantation into a College

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Invisible Founders

How Two Centuries of African American Families Transformed a Plantation into a College

Lynn Rainville

232 pages, 22 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-231-1 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (June 2019)

eISBN 978-1-78920-232-8 eBook

Hb   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


Literal and metaphorical excavations at Sweet Briar College reveal how African American labor enabled the transformation of Sweet Briar Plantation into a private women’s college in 1906. This volume tells the story of the invisible founders of a college founded by and for white women. Despite being built and maintained by African American families, the college did not integrate its student body for sixty years after it opened. In the process, Invisible Founders challenges our ideas of what a college “founder” is, restoring African American narratives to their deserved and central place in the story of a single institution — one that serves as a microcosm of the American South.

Lynn Rainville is the Dean of Sweet Briar College. For over two decades she has studied the lives of exceptional, yet overlooked, Americans. This work has been supported by numerous grants and she has written five books (on Mesopotamian houses, African American cemeteries, Sweet Briar College, and Virginia’s role in World War I). She directs the Tusculum Institute for local history and historic preservation at Sweet Briar College.

Subject: Archaeology General History
Area: North America


List of Illustrations

Chapter 1. Invisible Workers
Chapter 2. Family Origins, 1685–1810
Chapter 3. Virginian Slavery, 1811–1830
Chapter 4. Survival Strategies, 1831–1857
Chapter 5. Families Divided, 1858–1865
Chapter 6. Freedom Communities, 1866–1883
Chapter 7. Mourning the Dead, 1884–1900
Chapter 8. Forgotten Founders, 1901–2001
Chapter 9. Commemorating Founders


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