Invisible in Plain Sight

Self-Determination Strategies of Free Blacks in the Old Northwest

by Jill E. Rowe (Author)
©2017 Monographs XII, 120 Pages


The Land Act of 1820 made it possible for settlers to begin to populate the West and added to the confiscation of land from Native Americans. Former landowners – a mix of Native American, African and European ancestry – migrated to the northern frontier and founded at least thirty well-defined free black communities between 1820 and 1850 in the Old Northwest, becoming an important safe haven and beacon of freedom.
Its notoriety and size grew as slaves often migrated to these locations after they were granted emancipation in the wills of slave owners who purchased land in the area for them to settle on. The newly free people found sanctuary as these communities were also rumored to shelter runaway slaves in their role as active participants in the Underground Railroad Movement.
However, the prosperity of blacks living in these villages angered some of the local whites – many of whom were migrating at the same time and were connected to local law officials and politicians. Archival documents reveal continued acts of terrorism perpetuated against blacks which heightened the importance of the strength of the communities they founded – specifically schools, churches, businesses, and intergenerational family structures – in providing a unified front that allowed them to bond and thrive in an environment that was not always conducive to their survival.
Invisible in Plain Sight: Self-Determination Strategies of Free Blacks in the Old Northwest provides a rare detailed examination of an often overlooked piece of the American tapestry. It is perfect reading for history classes in high school and college, as well as for history enthusiasts looking for something new.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Figures
  • Map
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1. Introduction
  • Notes
  • Chapter 2. The Virginia Confederacy of Indians
  • Notes
  • Chapter 3. Immigration of European Indentured Servants
  • Notes
  • Chapter 4. Immigration of African Indentured Servants
  • Notes
  • Chapter 5. Alliances between Indigenous People and African Indentured Servants
  • Notes
  • Chapter 6. Alliances between European Indentured Servants and African Indentured Servants
  • Note
  • Chapter 7. From African Indentured Servants to Enslaved People
  • Notes
  • Chapter 8. Race as a Social Construct—Structural Constraints on Race Mixing
  • Notes
  • Chapter 9. African American Legal Status and the American Revolution
  • Notes
  • Chapter 10. Registers of Free Blacks
  • Notes
  • Chapter 11. Western Expansion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 12. The Relationship between Western Expansion and Free Blacks
  • Notes
  • Chapter 13. Migrations to Ohio
  • Notes
  • Chapter 14. The Goings Clan—the Genealogy
  • Notes
  • Chapter 15. The Migration of the Goings Clan to Northwestern Ohio
  • Notes
  • Chapter 16. The Village of Rumley
  • Notes
  • Chapter 17. The Village of Carthagena
  • August Wattles and the Emlen Institute
  • Manumission Schemes—John Randolph of Virginia
  • Notes
  • Chapter 18. The Village of Wren
  • Notes
  • Chapter 19. The Village of Middle Creek
  • Notes
  • Chapter 20. Education in the Black Settlements
  • Notes
  • Chapter 21. The Importance of the Church in the Black Settlements
  • Notes
  • Chapter 22. Life in the Black Settlements after the Civil War
  • Notes
  • Chapter 23. Benevolence Societies in the Black Settlements
  • Notes
  • Chapter 24. Social Life in the Black Settlements
  • Notes
  • Chapter 25. Living Conditions in the Black Settlements
  • Notes
  • Chapter 26. Health and Wellness in the Black Settlements
  • Notes
  • Chapter 27. Health-Seeking Traditions in the Black Settlements
  • Faith Healing
  • Midwifery
  • Mental Health
  • Notes
  • Chapter 28. Conclusions: Invisible in Plain Sight: Self-Determination Strategies
  • Notes
  • Series index

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Figure 1. Incorrect historical plaque regarding the founding of historical Rumley (courtesy of author)

Figure 2. Joel Weslin Goings’s (son of Luke Goings) gravestone in historic Rumley (courtesy of author)

Figure 3. Doctor Craig (D.C.) Goings (son of Joel W. Goings) and Rebecca Fox Goings (courtesy of author)

Figure 4. Rebecca Fox-Goings, Joseph Goings (son of D.C. Goings) and family (courtesy of author)

Figure 5. Joseph Goings (son of D.C. Goings) and wife Sarah Bagley Goings and family (courtesy of author)

Figure 6. Charles Williams and Louella Goings Williams (daughter of D.C. Goings) (courtesy of author)

Figure 7. Daughters of Charles Williams and Louella Goings Williams (courtesy of author)

Figure 8. Sons of Charles Williams and Louella Goings Williams (courtesy of author)

Figure 9. Four generations of Goings women (courtesy of author) ← ix | x →


Map 1. Locations of 4 Black Settlements in relation to Indian Reservations, Virginia Military District, Greenville Treaty Line & Great Black Swamp: (a) Indian Reservations; (b) Virginia Military District; (c) Greenville Treaty Line; (d) Great Black Swamp; (e) Rumley, Carthagena, Wren and Middle Creek. (Map created by Jason Glatz, Map Coordinator, University Libraries, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI)62

| xi →


I would like to acknowledge my many friends and family for their untiring dedication, time and guidance over the many years it took for me to complete this monograph. I thank the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for awarding me a fellowship in African American History and Culture which allowed me access to the archival resources in the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library in Williamsburg, Virginia. I thank my many students who have taken my classes over the years. Their continued enthusiasm encouraged me not to lose sight of the wisdom of the African proverb that cautions, “until the lions have their historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” I hope this history will encourage them to continue to write about the many contributions African Americans have made to this country.

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XII, 120
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (November)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2017. XII, 120 pp.

Biographical notes

Jill E. Rowe (Author)

Jill E. Rowe is Assistant Professor at Western Michigan University. She earned her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology at Michigan State University and her M.P.H. in health education and behavior at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Some of her recent publications are included in The Encyclopedia of African American History, Health Education and Behavior, Journal of Black Studies, and Social Service Review.


Title: Invisible in Plain Sight
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