Forsaken: The Digital Bibliography

In his debut novel, Forsaken, Ross Howell Jr. tells the story of an uneducated African American servant, Virginia Christian, who was tried for killing her white employer in 1912.She died in the electric chair one day after her 17th birthday, the only female juvenile executed in Virginia since 1908. Howell researched the case using a variety of documents and images related to Christian's execution found in the Library of Virginia's collections. Forsaken: The Digital Bibliography spotlights the court records and newspaper stories used in each chapter of the novel: the coroner’s inquest for Ida V. Belote; Virginia Christian’s trial, appeal, and clemency records; and newspaper coverage of these events from the Newport News Times-Herald and Daily Press. As noted at the beginning of the novel, Forsaken is a work of fiction, but many of the characters were real people. Forsaken: The Digital Bibliography includes brief biographical sketches and documents related to these individuals. Also included is additional background material on other historic events referenced in the text, such as Nat Turner’s Rebellion and the “Allen Gang.” The epilogue focuses on what happened to the real-life main characters: Charles Mears, Harriet and Sadie Belote, Charles Pace, and others.

While by no means comprehensive (and very much a work in progress), Forsaken: The Digital Bibliography is intended to serve as a primary source companion piece to the novel.

Further Reading

Moten, Derryn. “A Gruesome Warning to Black Girls: The August 16, 1912, Execution of Virginia Christian.” Thesis (PhD), University of Iowa, 1997. The Library of Virginia has a copy on microfilm (Film 1497) that is available for in-library use only.

Vaughan, Charles. Grant Me to Live: The Execution of Virginia Christian. Pittsburgh: Dorrance Publishing Co., 2010.