On May 21, 2021, a historic Georgian icon was unveiled in downtown Augusta to commemorate the former home of Black millionaire Amanda America Dickson. Amanda was described as one of the richest Black women in the 19th century. She has spent the last seven years of her existence at the 448 Telfair Street at her home.
“The whole project is to commemorate Amanda’s life, and I think we did it,” said John Hocke, who helped renovate the house. Till date, little is known about Dickson in Hancock County. Amanda America Dickson was born on November 20, 1849, on the Dickson Plantation near Sparta in Georgia (Hancock County), to the famous 40-year-old planter David Dickson and the 12-year-old enslaved girl, Julia Francis Lewis. As a legal slave, Amanda Dickson was owned by her white grandmother. Amanda grew up in her father’s house, where she learned to read and write. Despite being a slave, she was later highly favored by her father, which allowed her to live comfortably at home until she was 17 years old when she and her white cousin, Charles Eubank married in the year, 1866.
Unfortunately, their marriage did not achieve what it wanted to achieve but a divorce, the marriage between them lasted not for long though, they had two children. In the year, 1870, Amanda left her marriage and returned to the Dickson Plantation with the children. There, she and her children legally used Dickson’s last name. Two years later, Eubanks died. Between 1876 and 1878, Amanda once again left his father’s plantation to study at the University of Atlanta Teachers College. Her father died or passed away in 1885, leaving her with most of his property. Reportedly by the Associated Press, he gave Dickson 15,000 acres of land and approximately $500,000. According to Dr. Kent Anderson Leslie, Amanda’s biographer, it is worth more than $3 million today. This sparked a two-year legal dispute with Amanda’s white relatives.
A legal illegitimate mixed-race daughter inherited such enormous wealth, which infuriated her white relatives. Approximately, 79 of her white relatives filed a lawsuit to prevent her from inheriting the properties. The Hancock County Superior Court reportedly ruled in 1885 that Amanda had won the case. The white relatives later appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court’s decision in 1887. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that Amanda was “legally entitled to inheritance rights.”
Under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the amendment stipulates that blacks and whites have the same property rights, including descendants of black and white citizens, one account wrote.
Following the Georgia Supreme Court decision, Amanda Dickson became the largest landlord in Hancock County, Georgia, and the richest black woman in the South after the Civil War. But, even before the ruling was made, she had moved from the family plantation to Augusta, Georgia, where she bought a large brick house on Telfair Street, the city’s most prominent neighborhood.
At that time, this street was primarily the home of wealthy, white businessmen. She received strong support from famous local blacks and became a popular member and sponsor to Trinity Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. On July 14, 1892, Amanda Dickson married Nathan Toomer, a biracial lawyer, but less than a year later, he died of an alleged illness, “Neurasthenia” after falling ill on a train moving from Baltimore back to Augusta.
Then, the 44-year-old reportedly became the richest African-American woman in Georgia. She died on 11th June, 1893. She was “dressed in a wedding dress and buried in a metal coffin lined with pink terry cloth.” She was buried in Georgia, Cedarwood Cemetery in Richmond County region of Georgia.
Reportedly by Edgefield Advertiser, despite “possessing such wealth”, Amanda America Dickson “had a quiet, relaxed and unassuming life.”
Although the 448 Telfair street property may not be the most iconic building in Augusta, its former residents were arguably the most interesting in Augusta. “She is a very unique woman and I am very happy to leave her history in this building and become a symbol of Augusta,” Hocke said as Dickson’s home was being restored abroad in December. ”Really, Augusta would love to know this story, I guess.”