Slave Labor on Virginia’s Blue Ridge Railroad
Between 1849 and 1859, Virginia raced to pierce the Blue Ridge Mountains by rail and reach the Ohio River. At least 300 enslaved people labored involuntarily toward that goal, along with 1,500 Irish immigrants. The state leased the labor of enslaved Virginians from local slaveholders, including four connected with nearby University of Virginia. Blue Ridge Tunnel and Blue Ridge Railroad historian Mary E. Lyons explored hundreds of primary documents to write the first nonfiction book about slave labor on a specific antebellum railroad. She shares hundreds of enslaved people’s names, traces where they toiled along the line and describes their backbreaking–and sometimes fatal–tasks.
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March 30, 2020
The History Press