Blacksburg Library to host author of book about Smithfield | Books

Join the Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library as Virginia Tech Associate Professor of History Daniel Thorp discusses his new book, “In the True Blue’s Wake: Slavery and Freedom Among the Families of Smithfield Plantation,” at the Blacksburg Library on Wednesday, April 13, at 6 p.m.

In 1759, William Preston purchased 16 enslaved Africans brought to Maryland aboard the True Blue, an English slave ship. Over the next century, the Prestons enslaved more than 200 individuals and used their labor to establish and operate Smithfield, the family’s Virginia seat, and the plantations into which it was later divided.

“In the True Blue’s Wake” tells the story of the men and women who were enslaved at Smithfield Plantation between its establishment in 1774 and the abolition of slavery there in 1865: who they were and how they and their families endured the experience of slavery. It then follows those families after their emancipation as they moved throughout the United States, and explores how they and their descendants used their families’ new freedom to advance in the world.

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Thorp was born in North Carolina but grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC He earned both a masters and doctorate from the Johns Hopkins University. Thorp began his teaching career as a visiting instructor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1981 and then spent three years at East Carolina University. He returned to Virginia Tech in 1986, and has taught there ever since, earning university awards both for teaching and undergraduate advising. He has also taught at Sunderland University, in England, and spent six months as a Fulbright Scholar in Wellington, New Zealand.

Thorp’s research has spanned a range of topics in American history – from 17th century Maine to 20th century Virginia to comparative US-New Zealand history. He is the author of almost two dozen articles or book chapters and four books: “The Moravian Community in Colonial North Carolina”; “Lewis & Clark: An American Journey”; “Facing Freedom: An African American Community in Virginia from Reconstruction to Jim Crow”; and “In the True Blue’s Wake.” He is currently working on a number of projects that he hopes will result in further publications.

Books will be available for purchase and signing at the event. For more information about the program, please call Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library at 382-6969, ext. 215, or email

– Submitted by Kerri Copus


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