Born into slavery in Virginia, James Smith grew up knowing great cruelty as well as unexpected kindnesses. Always longing for freedom, as a young man he was able to make a daring escape.

Of the plight of African-Americans post-emancipation, Smith observed objectively: “But, say you, the day of trial is over, the stream of sympathy may be dried up because of the nominal freedom that has been vouchsafed. I say to you nay my whole race is yet in peril, and God only knows the end.”

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