From My People: 400 Years of African American Folklore
© 2002 Daryl Cumber Dance, W.W. Norton and Co.
Ruthville Post Office
This is my account of a legend known by everyone in my family regarding the naming of local post office, the only one found by the United States Commission of Civil Rights (which studied the Southern counties in the Black Belt between 1959 and 1961) to have a Negro postmistress. It is very likely that Ruthville Post Office had held that distinction for many years – in fact, it had Black postmasters and postmistresses for most of the twentieth century.
Ruth Brown Hucles is the subject of many legends, the best known of which regards Will’s (William H. C. Brown) unrequited love for her.
When Ruth was growing up in Charles City County, Virginia, the closest post office to our community was at Providence Forge (about six miles away), and the children (such as my Grandmother Sallie and her friends) had to walk that long distance to pick up their families’ mail. Will, being a lawyer, petitioned the U. S. government for a post office in the community, indicating that it was to be named Ruth Will (after Ruth, the prettiest woman in the county, and himself). When it was named, it was Ruthville – whether a clerical error, a misunderstanding, or a governmental change is not clear. From that time the community and the post office have been known as Ruthville, and its postmaster or postmistress has for most of those years been a descendant of Abraham and a niece or nephew of Ruth. According to legend Will was so devastated when Ruth married someone else that he never married, and when he died he left all of his money to Wilberforce University.
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About the Author:
Daryl Cumber Dance, a graduate of Virginia State College and the University of Virginia, is Professor of English at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia. She has also taught at Virginia State College, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of California at Santa Barbara. She is the author of Shuckin'' and Jivin'': Folklore from Contemporary Black Americans (Indiana, 1978), Folklore from Contemporary Jamaicans (Tennessee, 1985), Long Gone: The Mecklenburg Six and the Theme of Escape in Black Folklore (Tennessee, 1987), New World Adams: Conversations with Contemporary West Indian Writers (Peepal Tree, 1992), and The Lineage of Abraham: The Biography of a Free Black Family in Charles City, Virginia (1998). She edited Fifty Caribbean Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical and Critical Sourcebook (Greenwood, 1986), Honey, Hush! An Anthology of African American Women's Humor (Norton, 1998), and From My People: 400 Years of African American Folklore: An Anthology (Norton, 2002).
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