A probate court proceeding that would find itself all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court would make a Black woman born on one of Georgia’s largest plantations as a slave the wealthiest African-American woman of the 19th Century.

An incredible accomplishment for a once enslaved girl born on the Dickson Plantation, in Hancock County, Georgia, to a 13-year-old Black house slave and a 40-year-old white slaveholder. Amanda America Dickson’s birth was the result of her father raping her mother. 

Born on November 21, 1849, baby Amanda’s parents couldn’t be more dissimilar — her father, the renowned white agricultural plantation owner, and writer, David Dickson; her mother, Julia Frances Lewis Dickson, was an enslaved child-servant to Dickson’s mother Elizabeth Sholars-Dickson. 

David, who was originally from Virginia, moved to Georgia with his father after the American Revolutionary War. Later in his life, David was the wealthiest planter in Hancock County, GA.

Growing up as the daughter of an enslaved mother with a slaveholder father, Amanda would learn to play the piano, read and write. Although this was nowhere nearly normal treatment extended to an enslaved child—Amanda was cared for in part by her “grandmother” and owner Elizabeth, who felt these skills were necessary for a young lady to survive in the Antebellum South.  

Amanda would leave Hancock County and the Dickson Plantation behind to attend the Normal School of Atlanta University — one of the institutions that merged in 1988 to form what is known today as Clark Atlanta University. It is highly likely that during her attendance at The Normal School at Atlanta University from 1876 to 1878, Amanda was trained to become an educator. 

A few years before completing Atlanta University, Amanda married her first husband, a white cousin named Charles Eubanks, with whom she had two sons. She would marry again in 1892, to mixed-race socialite Nathan Toomer, seven years after the passing of her father David Dickerson. 

The passing of her father David in 1885 became a pivotal point in Amanda’s life. 

In his will, David Dickson stated that the administration of his estate was to be left to the sound judgment and unlimited discretion of Amanda Dickson without interference from any quarter, including any husband she might have. 

After fighting her estranged extended white family members in both the superior court of Hancock County and the Georgia Supreme Court, Amanda was finally awarded her father’s estate, which included 17,000 acres of land in Hancock and Washington counties, valued at $309,000. 

Both courts ruled in her favor stating, “that the ‘rights of each race are controlled and governed by the same enactments or principles of law’—in other words, whatever rights and privileges belonged to a bastard white child belonged to a mixed-race child as well.” 

As a result of the court proceedings, Amanda America Dickson-Toomer became the wealthiest African American woman of the 19th Century. 

Nonetheless, she feared for the safety of her family and moved to Augusta, GA,  where she purchased a seven-bedroom estate in a multiracial neighborhood. She beautifully adorned the space with Brussels carpets, oil paintings, a walnut dining set, and plenty of books.

According to one of her biographers, Kent Anderson Leslie, Amanda quickly emerged as a member of the elite black community in Augusta, Georgia, and she was held in high esteem by those who came to know her because of her wealth, elegance, and intelligence.

Following Amanda’s death on June 11, 1893, she was remembered by her mother Julia Dickson, her husband Nathan Toomer, and Amanda America’s younger son, Charles Dickson. They were able to settle the dispute over Amanda America’s estate amicably out of court.

Today, Dickerson-Toomer’s Augusta home is owned by Hock Development Co., the development company purchased this property in 2014 without prior knowledge of its former owner. 

Locals, native to Augusta’s history shared the story of their first Black millionaire, now knowing the sacred grounds of this property. Hock Development Co. is embarking on a major exterior restoration that includes a historic plaque dedicated to wealthy heiress Amanda America Dickson. 

“She was a very unique woman, and it’s nice to have her history here at this building to be a symbol in Augusta,” Hock Development Vice President John Hock said. “I think it’s a story Augusta and the world would like to know.”

Black heiress Amanda America Dickson-Toomer purchased this seven-bedroom estate in 1886, following the death of her father David. (Creative Commons)
Black heiress Amanda America Dickson-Toomer purchased this seven-bedroom estate in 1886, following the death of her father David. (Creative Commons)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *