This post first appeared here in January, 2007...
The image here is Amanda America Dickson….the daughter of a slave and David Dickson, who was a well known Georgia agricultural reformer. For most of her childhood Amanda Dickson lived in the home of her paternal grandmother and owner, Elizabeth Sholars Dickson, where she learned to read, write, and play the piano in stark contrast to other African American young girls at the time. It is said her father loved her very much and doted on her. She was known as “Miss Mandy” to the household.
In 1865 or 1866 Amanda Dickson married her paternal cousin, Charles Eubanks. They had two sons together, Julian Henry and Charles Green, before she returned to her father’s home in 1870 and took back the Dickson name.
In 1885 David Dickson died leaving the bulk of his estate to his daughter. The main part of the estate consisted of 17,000 acres of land in Hancock and Washington counties. This made Ms. Dickson the wealthiest African American woman of the 19th century. She took some of the cash from the estate and bought herself a house at 452 Telfair Street in Augusta, Georgia. This rankled many of the elite who lived along Augusta’s nicest street at the time.
Many of her white relatives contested the will and a Superior Court ruled in her favor in 1885. The decision was contested and finally the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision in 1887. The Georgia Supreme Court opinion said “….rights of each race are controlled and governed by the same enactments or principals of law.” Basically it meant that illegitimate children of mixed race unions have the same rights as white illegitimate children.
Ms. Dickson went on to marry Nathan Toomer of Perry, Georgia in 1892. An 1870 census has Toomer listed as the wealthiest freedman in Houston County. As a child Nathan Toomer had been bought by Colonel Henry Toomer of Houston County. Nathan served as his master’s personal assistant and learned how to live in White society. Nathan and Amanda Dickson remained married until her death in 1893.
Note: Nathan later married Nina Pinchback whose father was the African America Lt. Governor of Louisiana during Reconstruction. Their son, Jean Toomer, became a celebrated author during the Harlem Renaissance.