Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Indomitable George Washington Fields: From Slave to Attorney

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Indomitable George Washington Fields: From Slave to Attorney

Article excerpt

The Indomitable George Washington Fields: From Slave to Attorney. By Kevin M. Clermont. ([Ithaca, N.Y.]: Kevin M. Clermont, 2013. Pp. [iv], 169. Paper, $32.99, ISBN 978-1-4903-3562-9.) The subject of this concise and admiring edited autobiography is remarkable not merely for being the first African-descended graduate of Cornell Law School. George Washington Fields left an impressive legacy that includes his autobiography, Come On, Children': The Autobiography of George Washington Fields, Born a Slave in Hanover County, Virginia." Born enslaved in eastern Virginia in 1854, Fields grew up amid slavery's humiliations, violence, and family separations. Yet the child nicknamed "Cock Robin" was resilient and resourceful (p. 56). When the Union army first arrived at Hanover Courthouse in 1861, Fields's world was transformed. In 1863 he escaped to the Union army with his mother, siblings, and others, joining a flood of fugitives from slavery. Freedom was full of hardships, violence, and exploitation in and around Hampton, Virginia. But Fields strove for education and worked a variety of jobs. After graduating from Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1878, he headed north, working as a waiter, manservant, and butler. …

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