2015 National Council on Public History

Who was Vicey Skipwith (ca.1856-1930) of Mecklenburg County, Virginia? Skipwith was the first once enslaved African American woman to buy the property that now situates the Parker Sydnor historic log cabin site. Given the facts, fiction and truths, what kind of autobiographical voice is there for the larger text that would establish the narrative provenance of Vicey Skipwith during slavery and after the Civil War as she moved into the meaning of freedom?

Through oral history stories combined with resources of literature, history, vernacular architecture, archaeology, material culture, public records, and U.S. Census databases, I’m able to craft and fit together some pieces of the puzzle about Vicey Skipwith and her significance in Mecklenburg County and in the larger historical context of women and property ownership.


Vicey Skipwith was a technician of nonliterate skills. Greater truths emanate from gender roles, emancipation, the rights of citizenship, and land ownership—all of which fill in the spaces of memory-telling stories that are not located in conventional archives and libraries.