Site icon Piper Huguley

Margaret Walker’s ancestor — Randall Ware–another inspiration for Virgil Smithson


Virgil Smithson – blacksmith, mayor, preacher man. Kind of like Randall Ware but without the jerky qualities.

For those who want a Mother’s Day post, feel free to take a look back at the one I wrote last year. It’s appropriate, especially since this is my first Mother’s Day without my mother being alive.

Get that Specialty! Celebrating Special Food on Mother’s Day

Knowing, my mother though, she wouldn’t want me to dwell on being sad, but instead, she would want me to blog about a hot guy. So, per her wishes, I’m going to blog some more about the inspirations behind my fictitious smoking-hot preacher guy (these are the words of others, not myself) Virgil Smithson.

I’ve been an avid reader and admirer of Margaret Walker’s opus magnum, Jubilee, since I was a teenager. At that point, I didn’t know that it took Walker nearly thirty years to write it and I didn’t know that her hero (well one of them) was based on a real person. Randall Ware is the first love of the heroine, Vyry. They are Walker’s great-grandparents. Randall Ware, as Walker explains in her landmark essay “How I Wrote Jubilee.” was born a free man. When he first meets Vyry, he promises her freedom if he would marry with her. His hard-core arrogant approach that is a bit forward. Okay maybe stalkerish. But when I was a teenager, I thought it was romantic. As Walker, makes it clear, it’s all about Randall. Well, in any case, free Randall Ware is about as close as you could get to Prince Charming for an enslaved woman like Vyry. He’s free and literate and owns his own business. He’s a great guy right?

However, as Jubilee continues, Walker doesn’t not take it easy on her ancestor. He’s selfish and tries to convince Vyry to leave her children behind and run away with him when he is unable to purchase her through an intermediary. He endures great hardship and Walker allows her readers to see that even though he’s a free man, he’s still trapped by society’s expectations of him as a black man. Even those hardships don’t work to humble him. Humble and Randall do not go together.

When Jubilee ends and Vyry makes her choice, (not Prince Charming Randall), I always wondered what happened to him. What would a fellow like that do in Reconstruction Era Georgia? In “How I Wrote Jubilee,” Walker talks about Ware’s climb into the political ring, but what then? She doesn’t address her ancestor in any other place in the book. I think more scholarly work should be done on Randall Ware, but my fictive imaginings permitted some of these characteristics to evolve into Virgil. Without the jerky personality. So there he is. Let’s face it, Prince Charmings don’t really stay single long. Prince Charmings have to meet the woman who bring them down a peg or two out of fairy land into the real world. That’s what Amanda is for.

Virgil and Amanda are still in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest until next month. If you haven’t downloaded your copy of the excerpt yet, you can go onto (if you have an account) and type in my name or the title, The Preacher’s Promise (with the apostrophe) to find it or click on the link below. You need a Kindle e-reader to do it.


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