Margaret Walker’s novel “Jubilee” is the story of Vyry Brown, a biracial slave and the unacknowledged daughter of the master of Dutton plantation in Georgia, who comes of age during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Walker based the novel on the life of her grandmother, Margaret Duggans Ware Brown.
One of the first novels to examine the lives of slaves during the Civil War from a black female perspective, “Jubliee” tells the life and times of Vyry Brown, a slave born on the Shady Oaks plantation. The first section of the novel is set in the antebellum South, where, even though she is the owner John Dutton’s daughter, Vyry is made a slave as a toddler and sent to work in the kitchens.
Married to freeman Randall Ware with children of her own by the outbreak of the Civil War, Vryr is still living as a slave at Red Oaks when Union troops arrive to tell the slaves that President Lincoln has granted their freedom. Vyry takes her second husband, Innis Brown, while the two are raising food for the plantation at the start of Reconstruction. When Brown returns to resume his work as a blacksmith, he’s driven out by the Ku Klux Klan. Likewise, Vyry and Brown are driven out twice by the KKK before Vyry begins her work as a midwife. Later, when one of Vyry’s sons goes north to train as a teacher to work in black schools, Vyry finally chooses between Ware and Brown, staying with Brown.