Historian and author Amrita Chakrabarti Myers will be touring (in-person, unless otherwise noted as virtual or hybrid) to discuss her new book, The Vice President’s Black Wife: The Untold Life of Julia Chinn, an innovative and complex recovery history, offering the first complete picture yet of Julia Chinn, wife and enslaved woman to US Vice President Richard Mentor Johnson. What makes Chinn’s life exceptional is the power that Johnson invested in her, the opportunities the couple’s relationship afforded her and her daughters, and their community’s tacit acceptance of the family—up to a point. When the family left their farm, they faced steep limits: pews at the rear of the church, burial in separate graveyards, exclusion from town dances, and more. Johnson’s relationship with Chinn ruined his political career and Myers compellingly demonstrates that it wasn’t interracial sex that led to his downfall but his refusal to keep it—and Julia Chinn—behind closed doors.
“The [fascinating] story of a remarkable woman who experienced freedom and slavery simultaneously . . . . Myers has conducted arduous research, and she ably introduces a little-known yet important figure in American history . . . . A valuable addition to antebellum history.” —Kirkus Reviews
UPCOMING 2023 EVENTS
Friday, October 6 at 6pm: Flyleaf Books (Chapel Hill, NC; in-conversation with Claude Clegg)
Tuesday, October 10 at 6:30pm: Morgenstern’s Books (Bloomington, IN; in-conversation with Maria Hamilton Abegunde)
Wednesday, October 11 at 6pm ET: Malaprops Bookstore (Virtual; in-conversation with Randal Maurice Jelks)
Saturday, October 14 at 11:30am: Boston Book Festival (Boston, MA; Panel: How to Write History Like a Fast-Paced Thriller)
Saturday, October 21 at 3pm: Kentucky Book Festival (Lexington, KY; in-conversation with Ricky L. Jones)
Sunday, October 29 at 5pm: Politics & Prose (Washington, DC; in-conversation with Nikki Taylor)
Thursday, November 9 at 6pm ET: The Filson Historical Society (Hybrid/Louisville, KY; ticketed program)
“Illuminating . . . . Myers painstakingly pieces together this long-hidden history. The result is a revealing exploration of the intersection of race, gender, power, and property in 18th-century America.”
“A brilliant and important work of historical recovery—deeply researched and elegantly written. In Myers’s skillful hands, the previously unknown story of Julia Chinn comes to life. This book powerfully illuminates the complexities of race, gender, and politics in American history.” —Keisha N. Blain, coeditor of Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619–2019
Amrita Chakrabarti Myers is the Ruth N. Halls Associate Professor of History and gender studies at Indiana University Bloomington. She is the author of Forging Freedom: Black Women and the Pursuit of Liberty in Antebellum Charleston.