GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was a Bi-racial socialite in Georgia who became known as one of the wealthiest African American women of the 19th century after inheriting a large estate from her white planter father.

GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was a Bi-racial socialite in Georgia who became known as one of the wealthiest African American women of the 19th century after inheriting a large estate from her white planter father.Born into slavery, she was the child of David Dickson, a white planter, and Julia Frances Lewis Dickson, one of his slaves, who was thirteen when her daughter was born. She was raised by Elizabeth Sholars Dickson, her white grandmother and mistress. She was educated and schooled in the social skills of her father’s class, and he helped her to enjoy a life of privilege away from the harsh realities of slavery before emancipation following the Civil War. In her late 20s, she also attended the normal school of Atlanta University, from 1876 to 1878. After her father’s death in 1885 and a successful ruling in a challenge to his will by his white relatives, she inherited his estate, which included 17,000 acres of land in Hancock and Washington counties in Georgia. She married twice: her first husband was white and their sons were mixed-race. Their wealth enabled them to marry well.Today in our History – June 11, 1893 – Amanda America Dickson (November 20, 1849 – June 11, 1893) died.Amanda America Dickson was born into slavery in Hancock County, Georgia. Her enslaved mother, Julia Frances Lewis Dickson, was just 13 when she was born. Her father, David Dickson, was a white planter who owned her mother; he was one of the eight wealthiest planters in the county. When he was 40 years old, David Dickson had raped 12-year-old Julia Dickson, and she became pregnant. After Amanda was weaned, she was taken from her enslaved mother and maternal grandmother, Rose Dickson, to be raised in the household of her white grandmother and owner, Elizabeth Sholars Dickson. As Amanda grew, her grandmother used her as a domestic servant.Throughout Amanda’s childhood, her father became wealthier and more famous, renowned for his innovative and successful farming techniques. David Dickson showed that farmers could profit from slave labor without having to resort to violence to keep them in submission. By 1861, he was known as the “Prince of Georgia Farmers,” having contributed perhaps more than any other farmer in Georgia at that time to the prosperity of the region.Amanda’s father showered her with love and affection. Her mother was a household slave, assigned as David’s housekeeper, and she was forced also to provide him with sex. Amanda benefited greatly from her father’s social status, enabling her to live a life of relative privilege as a slave child.Evidence suggests that David Dickson took charge of Amanda’s education. In her white grandmother’s household, she learned to read, write, and play the piano, unlike what was permitted for her enslaved relatives. Amanda also learned rules of social etiquette appropriate for the social standing of her father’s side of the family. She learned to dress in a modest, elegant fashion and how to present herself as a “lady”. Amanda also learned from her father how to conduct business transactions responsibly and how to maintain and protect her finances after marriage.In 1864, Amanda’s grandmother Elizabeth Sholars Dickson died. Amanda and her grandmother Elizabeth had shared a particularly close relationship, with Amanda spending much time in her grandmother’s room. Amanda was held as Elizabeth’s slave until her death. Beginning in 1801, Georgia had prohibited slaveholders from independently freeing their slaves. Therefore, Elizabeth and David Dickson had no means to manumit Amanda and keep her with them in Georgia until the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, was ratified on December 6, 1865. At the age of twenty-seven, Amanda chose to leave the security of her home at her father’s plantation in Hancock County, Georgia to attend the normal school of Atlanta University, where she studied teaching from 1876 to 1878.Amanda America Dickson spent the last eleven months of her life as the wife of Nathan Toomer, from Perry, Georgia whom she married on July 14, 1892. Her health was fragile throughout her second marriage, as she had several health problems which required the continual attention of her family physician, Thomas D. Coleman.By 1893, Amanda America’s health had greatly improved, but a disturbing family ordeal would be the catalyst for the further deterioration of her health and eventual death. Her younger son, twenty-three-year-old Charles Dickson, who was married to Kate Holsey, became infatuated with Mamie Toomer, one of his stepsisters who was only fourteen years old. On March 10, 1893, Nathan and Amanda brought Mamie to the St. Francis School and Convent in Baltimore, Maryland, an order of black nuns, in an attempt to protect her from Charles Dickson’s misguided affection. Charles Dickson conspired with his brother-in-law Dunbar Walton, his sister-in-law Carrie Walton Wilson, and a hired man, Louis E. Frank, to kidnap Mamie Toomer. Their plan was foiled, and ultimately, Dunbar Walton, Louis E. Frank, and their lawyer, E. J. Waring, were indicted by the grand jury of Baltimore, Maryland for conspiracy to kidnap Mamie Toomer. Charles Dickson escaped without any legal ramifications for his actions.In June 1893, with the kidnapping drama (involving Mamie Toomer, Charles Dickson, and Charles Dickson’s co-conspirators) behind them, Nathan and Amanda America purchased two first-class tickets from a sales representative of the Pullman Palace Car Company to transport them from Baltimore, Maryland back home to Augusta, Georgia. Because of racial discrimination, they were denied their first-class accommodations and direct, unimpeded travel to Augusta, Georgia. The delayed travel to Augusta and the conditions in the Pullman car, most notably the rising temperature, became intolerable for Amanda America. As a result, her health quickly deteriorated. Dr. F. D. Kendall, who examined her on the morning of June 9, 1893, noted that her heart and lungs appeared to be fine, but that she was obviously very nervous and anxious to return home. Dr. Kendall gave her anodyne, a pain-relieving medication.Nathan and a very ill Amanda America arrived back at their home in Augusta, Georgia between four and five in the afternoon on June 9, 1893. She was quickly tended to by Dr. Eugene Foster, in place of their family physician, Thomas D. Coleman, who was out of town. She was diagnosed with neurasthenia (general exhaustion of the nervous system) or Beard’s disease. Symptoms of neurasthenia, as described by nineteenth-century physicians, include “sick headache, noises in the ear, atonic voice, deficient mental control, bad dreams, insomnia, nervous dyspepsia (disturbed digestion), heaviness of the loin and limb, flushing and fidgetiness, palpitations, vague pains and flying neuralgia (pain along a nerve), spinal irritation, uterine irritability, impotence, hopelessness, claustrophobia, and dread of contamination.” Amanda America Dickson Toomer died on June 11, 1893, with “complications of diseases” being the cause of death listed on her death certificate.Amanda America Dickson Toomer’s funeral took place at the Trinity Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in Augusta, Georgia. Amanda America died without a will, which resulted in a legal battle after her death for control of her estate. Her mother, Julia Frances Lewis Dickson, and her second husband, Nathan Toomer, both petitioned in court to be designated the temporary administrator of her estate. Ultimately, Julia Dickson, Nathan Toomer, and Amanda America’s younger son, Charles Dickson, were able to settle the dispute over Amanda America’s estate amicably out of court.Nine months after her death, Nathan Toomer married Nina Pinchback, the daughter of P. B. S. Pinchback, the Reconstruction Era senator-elect from Louisiana. On December 26, 1894, they became parents to Jean Toomer, a Harlem Renaissance writer who wrote the novel Cane (1923). A House Divided (2000) is the television movie that depicts the life of Amanda America Dickson. It stars Jennifer Beals as Amanda America Dickson, Sam Waterston as David Dickson, LisaGay Hamilton as Julia Frances Lewis Dickson, and Shirley Douglas as Elizabeth Sholars Dickson. Research more about this great American Champion story and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!

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