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Invisible History: Growing Up Colored in Cape Charles, Virginia by A Memoir by Tom Godwin, As Told To Metty Vargas Pellicer

Invisible History: Growing Up Colored in Cape Charles, Virginia

by A Memoir by Tom Godwin, As Told To Metty Vargas Pellicer

180 pages
A personal recollection of growing up Black in Cape Charles, Virginia that is surprising in its details of family and community life and how robust was the parallel universe that evolved in response to the segregation of the Jim Crow era. This one man's account hopefully will contribute to move the races towards equality and social justice.

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Category: Memoir
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About the Book
The book is a memoir about growing up Black in Cape Charles, Virginia on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. It details the origin of the town as a railroad terminus and connecting to ferry barges across the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk, through its golden age in the Jim Crow South and its decline with the ascendancy of automobiles and the building of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Its rise again as a tourist destination in the past decade and how the fortunes of the town is chronicled, without acknowledgment of the role of the Black community, which was a robust and thriving parallel community, that evolved in response to the segregation of the Jim Crow South. Now the town is rising again as a tourist destination and replacing the Black section with White weekend second home owners, and the Black presence has considerably diminished. Without a recording of its history, its entire memory will be gone, as if it was never there at all.

The memoir details the life of one Black man who is the grandson of a slave but became the first elected Black member of the Town Council and the first Black member elected to the Northampton County Board of Supervisors. It addresses Black and White relations and the experience of being Black and how one navigates the Jim Crow racist era. By reading this account of a Black man's life one may develop a better understanding of why we are experiencing still racial injustice and inequality, after legal barriers had been abolished by the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Its target audience would be all who are interested, both Blacks and Whites, in learning how they still carry the legacy of slavery in their hearts and how it informs their behavior at present and how by acknowledging their racist beliefs, they can choose to correct them, with actions that help realize the dream of true equality of the races and fulfill the lofty promise of the Revolution: its declaration of the self- evident truth, that all men are created equal, with unalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.


The promise of our future is built on the foundation of our past. This carefully crafted memoir by Tom Godwin is a portrait of what it means to build a foundation. It is an honest portrait of Cape Charles, a small town in Virginia known as the ‘Jewel of the Eastern Shore.’ Written by Metty Vargas Pellicer, it specifically traces the African American community’s important contributions to the success of the town, a part of history that has been overlooked by earlier writers. It lays bare the joys, the accomplishments and the obstacles faced by African Americans as they built businesses, homes, schools, roads and lives that intertwined with their white neighbors. It should be read by students of social history. It should be read by the residents of the town and the state of Virginia. All of our futures are strengthened by acknowledging our shared foundations. It is a wonderful addition not only to the history of Cape Charles but also to the thinking of those concerned with the on-going disparities between the races.
- Mary Barrow, award-winning author of “Small Moments: A Child's Memories of the Civil Rights Movement"
“A most engaging memoir, at once intimate and universal. The book presents in his own words the vivid, moving life story of a sensitive, intelligent, and gregarious man through a period of great change for black Americans. Tom's long life and detailed knowledge of his own family history enables the account to extend from slavery times into segregation, the civil rights era, and the present day. Son of an economically successful family, Tom's description of life in a small segregated southern town is authentic and not without humor. Through his words one comes as close as would be possible to experience and deal with the daily insults, inequities and unfairness of life for a black person in a climate of unquestioned white supremacy, but within a town which also contained a vibrant and confident black community. The account is enriched by the author's framing Tom's core personal material in local and national historical context and adding observations from her own Filipino life experience. The book is a captivating read.”
- Marion Naar, Past President: Cape Charles Historical Society, Museum and Welcome Center
"It is an important contribution to the understanding of the black experience in Cape Charles and on the Eastern Shore. The narrative is always powerful and is especially moving where Mr. Godwin speaks of his family and his faith.”
- Miles Barnes, noted Shore historian and Librarian of the Eastern Shore Public Library


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About the Author
A Memoir by Tom Godwin, As Told To Metty Vargas Pellicer Metty Vargas Pellicer is a grandmother and a retired psychiatrist, who immigrated to the USA in 1967. She has published 2 books, Hello, From Somewhere: Stories of the Roads I Traveled and a memoir, From Miman, With Love: A Grandmother’s Memoir. She lived in Atlanta GA for 37 years where she practiced Psychiatry and retired in Cape Charles in 2017. English is a second language and she speaks two Filipino dialects, Tagalog and Bicol, and is gaining proficiency in Spanish. She loves to travel and particularly interested in the history of the place. In writing Tom’s memoir, she became fascinated by the history of the Eastern Shore and Cape Charles in particular. She is completing a historical fiction novel, set in 19th century Philippines, Imperfect Pearl. She gets her writing guidance and support from a small group of writers meeting informally; Expressions: Eastern Shore Writers’s Group.



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