Where the Past Is Present and the Arts Are Alive

From Slavery to Freedom: Bacchus White

“Former Slave in ‘Kitchen’ at Kenmore,” ca. 1935

Gift of Mary Washington College

Bacchus White, born around 1852, is pictured sitting in the modern kitchen at Kenmore Plantation, the historic home of Fielding Lewis and Betty Washington Lewis. Uncle Bacchus, as he was known, was a former slave in Spotsylvania County and later an employee of Kenmore, where he often demonstrated colonial-era cooking methods. His owner was Judge Francis Brooke, who owned a large estate in Spotsylvania County called St. Julien. In this image, taken around 1935, he is roughly 83 years old. In 1939, Sue Gordon interviewed him for the WPA Virginia Writers’ Project. Gordon wrote, “‘Uncle Bacchus’ is quite a character and nothing pleases him more than to talk about old times, and what ‘his folks’ did.” In the interview, he recalled his years as a slave. He remembered singing songs as he and fellow slaves threshed the wheat, as well as the seven mile walk he and his father regularly took to sell bushels of corn in Fredericksburg.  Uncle Bacchus remains a key link to Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania during slavery and to the Emancipation period after.

Resources for Bacchus White:

Purdue, Jr., Charles L., Thomas E. Barden, and Robert K. Phillips, eds. Weevils in the Wheat: Interviews with Virginia Ex-Slaves. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1976.

General Fredericksburg African American History:

Fitzgerald, Ruth Coder. A Different Story: A Black History of Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania, Virginia. Fredericksburg, VA: Unicorn, 1979.

The Free Lance-Star – Apr 22, 1940