The Devil's Half Acre
Confederate statues are being brought down across the country, and America is reckoning with its history. In The Devil’s Half Acre, New York Times bestselling author Kristen Green draws on years of research to tell the extraordinary story of young Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman who blazed a path of liberation for thousands.
Born in 1832, Mary Lumpkin was forced to have the children of a brutal slave trader and live at his Richmond, Virginia slave jail, known by enslaved people as the “Devil’s Half Acre.” In this destitute setting, she not only freed herself and her children—she managed to create something monumental. When Mary Lumpkin inherited the jail after his death, she transformed it into “God’s Half Acre,” a school where Black students could fulfill their dreams. It still exists today as Virginia Union University, one of America’s first Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
A sweeping narrative of a life in the margins of the American slave trade, The Devil’s Half Acre brings Mary Lumpkin into the light. This is the story of the resilience of a woman on the path to freedom, her historic contributions, and her enduring legacy.
Praise for The Devil’s Half Acre
"Rescued from the horror of slavery and the neglect of history, Mary Lumpkin’s life story in The Devil’s Half Acre is one of tenacity, endurance, courage, and achievement."
—Margot Lee Shetterly, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of Hidden Figures
“A remarkable achievement. With precision and care, Green has reconstructed Mary Lumpkin’s life — and so many others —from a historical record that has sought to erase the contributions of Black women at every turn.”
—Beth Macy, New York Times-bestselling author of Dopesick
“The courage to forge her own path in the face of almost unimaginable difficulty makes Mary Lumpkin’s story so admirable. The Devil’s Half Acre tells an essential piece of history that deserves to be read by everyone.”
—Nicole Ari Parker, actress and producer, And Just Like That...
"This is the kind of reparative history we need. Truly healing work. My own Ancestors endured this terrible place that was almost forgotten. Its story must be told, and here we have a brilliant beginning."
—Michael W. Twitty, James Beard Award-winning author of The Cooking Gene
“Harrowing and necessary. In bringing the story of Mary Lumpkin back into the light, Green has provided a powerful service for future generations.”
—Anna Malaika Tubbs, author of The Three Mothers
“If we the people of the United States truly believe in forming a more perfect union, the unadulterated reality of systemic racism must be told. The Devil’s Half Acre is an excellent book for readers looking to understand what life was like for enslaved African Americans like Mary Lumpkin, and to understand the impact that white supremacy has had on America as a whole.”
—Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, former president of Spelman College and author of Racism in American Public Life
About Kristen Green
Kristen Green is a reporter and the author of the New York Times bestseller Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County, which received the Library of Virginia Literary Award for Nonfiction and the People’s Choice Award. She has worked as a journalist for two decades for newspapers including the Boston Globe, the San Diego Union-Tribune, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She holds a master’s in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School and lives in Richmond, Virginia.
Get in touch to schedule book club talks and to learn more.
Publicist: Ivan Lett, Seal Press ivan.lett at hbgusa dot com
Literary Agent: Chad Luibl, Janklow & Nesbit cluibl at janklow dot com
Film Agent: Kristina Moore, UTA kristina.moore at united talent dot com
Speaking Inquiries: kristengreenauthor at gmail dot com