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December 21, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Reconstruction in Buckingham County: Caesar Perkins, Part III

On September 30. 1910, The Farmville Herald ran a lengthy obituary for Caesar Perkins, which reflected the tone of the times and its still divisive politics. In 1910, many Virginians continued to dwell on the “dark days” of Reconstruction. It is not known who provided the details of Rev. Perkins’ life, though, surely it was someone who knew him well, including his original training as a brick mason. His obituary did not stand alone in the newspaper but was included with news from Buckingham County on page seven.

The body of Caesar Perkins was buried at his old home place here on the twenty-fourth. Perkins at one time was one of the most prominent negroes in the State, and he was for a time a potent factor in shaping affairs in Buckingham. In the dark days of Virginia’s history, when the Republicans ruled and when the negroes held the balance of power, Caesar Perkins had a great influence with his race, and he was not slow to claim his share of the loaves and fishes from his white fellow Republicans, and he usually had the claims allowed too. However, Perkins was more conservative in his views than many who ruled at that time, and with all he was intelligent to a degree. He was a member of the legislature of Virginia and also served as a member of the Board of Supervisors of this county. By trade Perkins was a brick mason and a very good workman. As a public speaker he ranked far above any negro of this county and in the days of Republican ascendency, he was listened to by the whites as well as the negroes. There were not many Republicans, white or colored, that could get the best of him in debate. As a slave Perkins was owned by Mr. Wm. H. Perkins, of this county, and he often spoke of Mr. Perkins as “my master,” and he seemed to have the highest regard for the people whom he had served as a slave.

While the unknown author of this obituary focused on Rev. Perkins’ political contribution to Buckingham County, he completely overlooked his state-wide dedication to African-American churches and schools. In any case, it is good to know that Rev. Perkins was a forceful public speaker and debater.

Special thanks to the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Chronicle for making The Farmville Herald available online.

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