Received in today’s’ email, this image of James W. Colvin. I recently blogged about James, the ancestor who defied the odds and married outside his race in antebellum Virginia. Then lo and behold, one of his descendants, (I’m guessing she and I are second or third cousins,) contacted me, saying she’d read my blog and thought I’d appreciate a picture of James. Imagine the luck!
James’ union with Alethea Preston was either an act of defiance or extreme foolhardiness; there are those researchers who claim his rogue union cost him his family and he was cast out of the Colvin clan. Difficult to say without substantiation. What is known is that when his father, Richard Colvin, Sr. died in 1825 he left some 1,500 acres and numerous slaves to be partitioned off amongst the heirs and James’ mother, Lydia. James didn’t marry one of his two slave girls; he married what is likely the mulatto daughter of a WASP farmer like himself — William Preston.
James, though certainly bold, was hardly unique. There were many such marriages throughout the south, but few scholars have dealt with the subject at length except to examine the socio-economic impact, which is to say how these couple fit into the social fabric, which is to say not comfortably. I’m working my way through numerous journal articles and another half-dozen books covering the broad topic of miscegenation in the antebellum south (Whew!) in the hope of wrapping my brain around this topic enough to produce a readable article in the not-too-distant future.