Amrita Chakrabarti Myers presents THE VICE PRESIDENT'S BLACK WIFE with Claude Clegg

A graphic presenting Amrita Chakrabarti Myers' book talk and signing at Flyleaf Books on October 6, 2023. The signing will start at 5:30pm, and the talk at 6pm.

Friday, October 6, 2023 - Signing Line at 5:30 pm, Talk begins at 6:00 pm

Scroll down to order your book, and please indicate in the comments if you’d like 1-2 seats held for you at the event!

Flyleaf will offer seating for up to 70 in-person guests, with priority access given to folks who purchase the book.

Award-winning historian Amrita Chakrabarti Myers has recovered the riveting, troubling, and complicated story of Julia Ann Chinn (ca. 1796–1833), the enslaved wife of Richard Mentor Johnson, owner of Blue Spring Farm, veteran of the War of 1812, and US vice president under Martin Van Buren. Johnson never freed Chinn, but during his frequent absences from his estate, he delegated to her the management of his property, including Choctaw Academy, a boarding school for Indigenous men and boys on the grounds of the estate. This meant that Chinn, although enslaved herself, oversaw Blue Spring's slave labor force and had substantial control over economic, social, financial, and personal affairs within the couple's world. Chinn's relationship with Johnson was unlikely to have been consensual since she was never manumitted.

What makes Chinn's life exceptional is the power that Johnson invested in her, the opportunities the couple's relationship afforded her and her daughters, and their community's tacit acceptance of the family—up to a point. When the family left their farm, they faced steep limits: pews at the rear of the church, burial in separate graveyards, exclusion from town dances, and more. Johnson's relationship with Chinn ruined his political career and Myers compellingly demonstrates that it wasn't interracial sex that led to his downfall but his refusal to keep it—and Julia Chinn—behind closed doors.

Amrita Chakrabarti Myers is the Ruth N. Halls Associate Professor of history and gender studies at Indiana University Bloomington.

Claude Clegg is currently the chair of the Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies (AAAD) at UNC-Chapel Hill. He also holds the Lyle V. Jones Distinguished Professorship in AAAD and the UNC Department of History. Professor Clegg’s research and teaching focus on African American history, US and southern history, presidential history, and the history of American social movements. He is the author of The Black President: Hope and Fury in the Age of Obama.


Event date: 
Friday, October 6, 2023 - 5:30pm
Event address: 
752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
The Vice President's Black Wife: The Untold Life of Julia Chinn By Amrita Chakrabarti Myers Cover Image
ISBN: 9781469675237
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University of North Carolina Press - October 10th, 2023

The Black President: Hope and Fury in the Age of Obama By Claude A. Clegg Cover Image
ISBN: 9781421441887
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Johns Hopkins University Press - October 12th, 2021