The Friends of Preston Library hosted its Fall Program on Tuesday, 27 October at 3:00 p.m. in the Turman Room, Preston Library. Our guest speaker was Col. Turk McCleskey, who gave a talk based upon his recently published book, The Road to Black Ned’s Forge: A Story of Race, Sex, and Trade on the Colonial American Frontier.
Turk McCleskey provided context and background of historical and social relationships in his talk on Ned Tarr, an enslaved Pennsylvania ironworker who purchased his freedom in 1752 and moved to Virginia on the upper James River. One main point of his presentation was that social relationships were more varied and less rigid in the 18th century than what the became in the 19th. Turk’s remarkable account of this true story was enjoyed by all. It provided fresh insight and greater understanding about complexities in social and race relations in early America.
Col. McCleskey is a professor of history at VMI. His well-received book tells a fascinating and unlikely story of frontier life.
“With keen insight and thorough research Turk McCleskey vividly recovers the frontier world of Black Ned. Bold, proud, and clever, Black Ned lived at a crossroads in time and place. On Virginia’s colonial frontier, a forceful black man could prosper as a blacksmith, defend his freedom in court, and marry a white woman. But that defiance eventually provoked resentments that, during the next generation, would close loopholes in the system of racial slavery, gaps that Ned had exploited so resourcefully. McCleskey has worked wonders in recovering and telling Ned’s powerful story.”—Alan Taylor, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, University of Virginia.