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Guest Larry L. Rowe

Interested in Book Review! Virginia Slavery and King Salt in Booker T. Washington's Boyhood Home

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Guest Larry L. Rowe

Book Title: Virginia Slavery and King Salt in Booker T. Washington's Boyhood Home

Author: Larry Linwell Rowe

Published August 2019

ISBN: 978-1-7339297-1-4                     


Book Highlight Summary:


                     The History We Were Never Told of the
                         Evil of Virginia Slavery, and about 
                         Booker T. Washington’s Boyhood Heroes
                    Who Started the American Black Middle Class 


          Larry L. Rowe, an attorney and state legislator in the hometown of Booker T. Washington, has written a bold, and at times raw, history of slavery and how eastern Virginia slavers kept a death grip on the new republic’s morality, politics, and economy in each of the three constitutional epochs: 1776 Revolution, 1787 Constitutional Convention, and 1861 Civil War. It details slavery in Virginia and throughout the South and as it was exploited by Kanawha industrialists to produce salt before the terms “industry,” “factories,” and “Industrial Revolution” were used.

His work is in two books divided by the Civil War. Book One is now available, Virginia Slavery and King Salt in Booker T. Washington’s Boyhood Home. That book tells the story of the Ruffner family, the booming salt industry they created as “Salt Kings,” and the Virginia slavery they adapted for forced labor on the frontier. 

          Book Two will be available next year, titled, Booker T. Washington’s Boyhood American Dream: The Climb of the Black Middle Class Up from Slavery. It tells the uplifting story of young Booker’s family as they were leaders to build a black middle class in Malden. They encouraged the Ruffners to become champions for the civil rights of people they had held in slavery. The Ruffner family started the salt and coal industries in western Virginia. After the war, they had little Booker live and work in their home while his mother, Jane Ferguson, served as their cook. The first Ferguson family home in Malden was in the former Ruffner slave quarters. 

          Young Booker’s formative years were in Old Malden, from 1865 at age 9 through 1881 when he was 25 and moved to South Alabama to start Tuskegee Institute. From his boyhood heroes he developed values, vision, and a plan to build a black middle class in the South by expanding the American Dream to all people without exceptions for any group. His freed boyhood heroes established their own church secretly in slavery in 1852, nine years before the Civil War. During the war, they proudly formed the African Zion Baptist Church, as the new state’s first black Baptist church, while still in slavery. They had the small church establish the new state’s second school for blacks. From his boyhood heroes, he developed a gospel for the “American Dream” that he demanded be shared by all people, before that term was used to identify unique opportunities for many people for success in America--but which was denied to African Americans for another century.

          Young Booker’s parents were leaders in their community. They courageously integrated Malden by buying a home in town four years after they were slaves, challenging a KKK order to keep blacks out of the town.  A race riot broke out six weeks after their purchase, over the right of freed people to seek protections in the court system. At age 13, he saw the riot and his family--like Rosa Parks many years later on a Montgomery bus--just “stay put,” ever ready to prove they would be good neighbors to all people. A casualty of the riot was Lewis Ruffner who, while standing with his former slaves with a revolver in his hand, was hit in the head with a brick. He never walked again without two canes.

          Book One sets the scene for Booker’s heroes, working in slavery in a pioneer industrial town in the wilderness of western Virginia, where the well-to-do pioneer Ruffner family made the first successful settlement, serving as government officials, town planners, patrons of the first school academy and first Presbyterian churches, all after they had created a new major salt industry on the western frontier by inventing percussion drilling to pierce over 50 feet of bedrock for the first deep well in the western world.

          Book Two will detail the lives of young Booker and his heroes who were pioneers in their own right, in the social wilderness of race relations after the Civil War–a difficult time when blacks and whites did not know what words or social graces they should use to address and interact with their new neighbors who were former slaves or slavers. Young Booker saw violent racism overcome in Malden, with the leadership of his mother and stepfather, Jane and Washington Ferguson and their pastor, Lewis Rice, and first teacher, William Davis.  Their early home purchase in town started the black middle class community in the first generation after slavery.  Their community is one of the first black middle class communities in the South, known for one of their sons who became a national leader as the quintessential, mythological, self-determined, “true American,” who at age 9 had named himself “Booker T. Washington.”     

          In a southern story-telling style, Larry L. Rowe presents in detail the history of the state from its early settlers, and the booming salt industry in the Kanawha Valley
through the War of 1812 and the important forty-eight antebellum years that were scarred by the forced mass migration of hundreds of thousands of enslaved Virginians sold away from their families to Deep South cotton plantations. The Cotton Boom required about one million Upper South slaves to be sent south led by eastern Virginian slavers who made young people they held in slavery commodities to be sold like livestock. To protect their booming slave markets in the Deep South states, eastern Virginians pushed the state into the Confederacy, turning a short protest of seven small agricultural states into a four year death march killing over 600,000 American soldiers which in today’s population would be as many as seven million men. Virginia, as one of the largest, richest, most populated, and influential states in the Union led the key states of North Carolina, Arkansas and Tennessee into the Confederacy. This history is untold. It is a history of Virginia shared with West Virginia. It is a history that should be told.


Virginia Slavery and King Salt in Booker T. Washington’s Boyhood Home is now available at LARRYLROWE.COM 


Author Contact:

Larry L. Rowe






Book Cover

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