Signing of book about Miami Valley freed slaves set


TROY – Gregory May, author of a newly published book that provides an account of nearly 400 formerly enslaved people who settled in Miami County, will be in town for a talk and book signing on Saturday, Nov 4, at 10 a.m. at 22 E. Franklin St.

The venue, “The 1833,” is a former church building built between 1833 and 1835 with a rich African-American history and association with the Underground Railroad. Threatened with demolition a few years ago, it was recently remodeled to serve as a wedding, reception, and event venue.

In “A Madman’s Will,” May chronicles the journey of the people enslaved by John Randolph, a Virginia plantation owner and congressman whose conflicting wills led to a 13-year court battle over whether his slaves should be freed. Representing one of the largest manumissions in American history, the newly freed African Americans moved in 1846 to Ohio, where they faced a hostile reception and were driven out of Mercer County. Most ultimately settled in Miami and Shelby counties, where many of their descendants still live. They had to register in 1846 under Ohio’s Black laws at the old Miami County courthouse, which has been at the center of a bitter court battle over its potential demolition for the past few years.

The book, described as “enlightening” and “suspenseful by the Wall Street Journal, can be pre-ordered through Oct. 25 at Jay and Mary’s Book Center in Troy by calling 937-335-1167. Books should be picked up in advance and brought to the book signing.

This event is presented by the Troy Historic Preservation Alliance, a grassroots 501(c)(3) that advocates for preserving, restoring, and repurposing Troy’s historic places.

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