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J. G. Clinkscales (John George), 1855-1942
On the Old Plantation: Reminiscences of His Childhood
Spartanburg, S.C.: Band & White Publishers, 1916.


John George Clinkscales was born in 1855 in Abbeville, South Carolina, and grew up on his father's plantation. He graduated from Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1876 and taught in county schools for several years before accepting a position at Williamston Female College in Anderson County, South Carolina in 1881. Cinkscales was elected superintendent of education in Anderson and served in that capacity for four years before returning to teaching. In 1914, Clinkscales campaigned for governor, running on a platform advocating compulsory education. Although he did not win, his strong showing led the legislature to pass the first compulsory education law in South Carolina. Clinkscales wrote two books: a novel, How Zach Came to College (1907), and his memoir, On the Old Plantation (1916). Both were widely read in the South.

In his book, On the Old Plantation, Clinkscales records his memories of life on his father's plantation. He hoped that his book would serve as a counterargument to Harriet Beecher Stowe's negative depiction of slavery in Uncle Tom's Cabin. To that end, he began his memoir with a story of his father's foreman, "Unc' Essick" that portrays his father's benevolence towards his slaves. He also included stories about the character of particular slaves, written in dialect. Clinkscales recounts his childhood pranks, adventures, and school experiences, which combine to present his happy memories of antebellum South Carolina.

Work Consulted: The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography vol 52, New York : J.T. White, 1970.

Harris Henderson

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