• The Devil's Half Acre

  • The Untold Story of How One Woman Liberated the South's Most Notorious Slave Jail
  • By: Kristen Green
  • Narrated by: Deanna Anthony
  • Length: 10 hrs and 29 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (51 ratings)

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The Devil's Half Acre

By: Kristen Green
Narrated by: Deanna Anthony
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Publisher's Summary

The inspiring true story of an enslaved woman who liberated an infamous slave jail and transformed it into one of the nation’s first HBCUs. 

In The Devil’s Half AcreNew York Times best-selling author Kristen Green draws on years of research to tell the extraordinary and little-known story of young Mary Lumpkin, an enslaved woman who blazed a path of liberation for thousands. She was forced to have the children of a brutal slave trader and live on the premises of his slave jail, known as the “Devil’s Half Acre”. When she inherited the jail after the death of her slaveholder, she transformed it into “God’s Half Acre”, a school where Black men 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. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2022 Kristen Green (P)2022 Seal Press
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"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, number one New York Times best-selling 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 best-selling author of Dopesick)

The Devil's Half Acre tells an essential piece of history that deserves to be read by everyone.” (Nicole Ari Parker, actor, producer, and parent)

What listeners say about The Devil's Half Acre

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Preachy

Well researched. Weak thread associated with the title. Would have been stronger if the story would have been permitted to tell itself.

14 people found this helpful

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Greatful for this read.

Really loved this piece. I wish I'd known about Mary Lumpkin sooner and everyone that was placed in connection to what she'd endured as both an enslaved and freed Black woman. Very informative and well articulated. 👏

12 people found this helpful

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Great Read!

This was a great read! It was very informative, I learned so much. The author juxtapositions the lives of many women who faced similar obstacles during that time. It was a great way to bring her story to life, a story that we know so little about.

7 people found this helpful

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Condescending

Just tell the story, it doesnt require you to talk to the reader like they are ignorant. Waste of time. Trying to return now.

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Needs an edit

Although trying to tell a story that hasn’t been told the repetitiveness of her narrative, which I think she used to stress viewpoints that haven’t been spelled out in the past, detracted greatly. I do not think it is at all difficult for any woman to realize that a female slave being forced by her owner would feel anything different than any woman being forced by a man who holds power over her. The fact that Mary Lumpkin used whatever influence she had over Robert to educate and free her children was impressive but all the conjecture as to how she did it took away from her story. I realize this is always a problem when dealing with historical figures who did not have a voice but all the conjecture seemed as poor way to make her points.

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Interesting, but not the story billed

This book was billed as a story of an amazing woman who turned the jail where she had been held into a school. That is a complete misrepresentation. It is instead a history of Richmond slave traders and the slaves they bore children with, along with lots of general history about the slave trade, the sexual abuse of slaves, the Revolutionary War, and struggles of Black people up to this day. And the current efforts to turn the jail site into a museum. Some nuggets about Mary Lumpkin we're obtained and presented, but little about her is actually known. The author's favorite word was 'perhaps' because what Mary did and why are almost entirely educated guesses. And she didn't start the school - she rented the facility out to the school founders. Perhaps because she cared, perhaps she needed the money. No one knows.

Anyway, I learned some things. The author clearly put. lot of effort into her research. But the description of the book is deceptive. I thought maybe I'd misread it, but I went back and checked - it does not describe this book at all and leads you to believe you are purchasing a really cool story about an awesome lady. But this book is a history lesson that includes some info about Mary's life, and ends with a plug for the museum the author hopes will be built.

I got this book on a good sale, but if I'd paid full price I'd be pretty annoyed right now.

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Informative and compelling

This book was so very interesting. I never before imagined how it might have felt to be the mother of children forced upon me by my own enslaver. The author took us to that place. Our nation needs to know this history and needs to pay homage to those who built this land. It’s not about shame, guilt and blame. We need to honor, respect and remember the lives of all the enslaved ancestors who paid for our nation’s prosperity with their blood, trauma and work.

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A story I’d like to read, but poorly written

This book started with a half-hour prologue, which is excessively long. There was too much repetition and I agree with another reviewer that it was “preachy.” I plowed forward thinking that the actual story would get better. But, after an hour, I just couldn’t take it any more. This is just not good as an audiobook. It could’ve been written more like an historic novel. Maybe I’ll like the PDF version better. Clearly, it’s a story that needs to be told—just not like this. Sadly, if I could return it, I would.