Shed Dungee

Shed Dungee (1831–1900)

Shed Dungee represented Buckingham and Cumberland counties for two terms in the House of Delegates (1879–1882). Born enslaved, Dungee worked as a cobbler and later became a licensed preacher. He took his seat in 1879, thirty-two years after he reportedly accompanied his master for a term in the General Assembly. Dungee introduced an unsuccessful bill to end the restriction on interracial marriage, on the grounds that outlawing such intermarriage violated the U.S. Constitution. Despite pressure from President Rutherford B. Hayes to support the Funders, he sided with Readjusters in the debate over how to deal with Virginia's crippling pre-war debt. After winning reelection in 1881 he did not seek office in 1883, though he remained active in the Readjuster and Republican parties during the 1890s. Dungee died in Cumberland County in 1900. MORE...

 

Dungee was born into slavery on December 25, 1831, probably on the Cumberland County plantation of William M. Thornton. His parents were Shed Dungee and Harriet Dungee. He may have been given the name Shederick or Shadrach while enslaved, and his surname appears in some records as Dungy. He may have been related to Jesse Dungey, a free boot- and shoemaker who lived in King William County and served in the House of Delegates from 1871 to 1873.

Family tradition recalled that Dungee had married a woman named Elizabeth during the 1850s and that she and two of their four daughters were later sold to Mississippi, but state records indicate that a Shederick Dungee, described as a shoemaker, and Lizzy Dungee had a son born in Cumberland County in April 1865. During slavery or after gaining his freedom at the end of the American Civil War (1861–1865), Dungee trained as a cobbler and practiced his trade in Cumberland. On January 7, 1869, he married Mary Agnes Coleman, sister of Reuben Turner Coleman, a prominent entrepreneur. They had one daughter and three sons, one of whom died in childhood. During the 1890s they also raised a boy and a girl who may have been relatives.

Dungee may have learned to read and write during slavery, but more likely he attended a school for freedmen. He was later licensed as a preacher and he helped establish the Slate River Colored Baptist Association in 1877. During the 1870s he also served as a trustee of the Baptist Aid Society in Buckingham County. Dungee's earliest known involvement in politics came in November 1879 when he won election to represent Buckingham and Cumberland counties in the House of Delegates. Characterized in Richmond newspapers as a Debt Payer, a Readjuster, and a Republican, he received 1,424 votes, while his Conservative and Readjuster opponents garnered 784 and 683 votes, respectively. After his victory, Dungee met with President Rutherford B. Hayes and explained the needs of African Americans in his district. Hayes unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to support the Funders, those who advocated full repayment of the state's pre-war debt, in the upcoming assembly.

In December, thirty-two years after reportedly accompanying his owner to Richmond for a term in the General Assembly, Dungee took his own seat in the assembly. He served on the Committees on Public Property and on Officers and Offices at the Capitol. During his first term Dungee introduced several bills, including one that called for an end to the restriction on interracial marriage. He argued that outlawing such intermarriage was unconstitutional, but in March 1880 the House voted overwhelmingly to dismiss his resolution. That month Dungee voted with the majority to readjust payment of Virginia's massive public debt, which had crippled funding for state services, including education, but the governor vetoed the bill. After returning home, Dungee wrote William Mahone, a former Confederate general and leader of the Readjusters, that his black and white constituents supported his efforts in the assembly.

Dungee attended a convention of African Americans that met in Petersburg in March 1881 to pledge support for the Readjusters. Unanimously chosen to run for reelection at his district's convention on October 7, 1881, Dungee campaigned as a Readjuster and distanced himself from his earlier support for interracial marriage. He defeated the Democratic candidate with 1,874 votes out of 3,295 cast. He sat on the Committees on Public Property, on Retrenchment and Economy, and on Roads and Internal Navigation. Again he voted for a bill to reduce the principal of the public debt by 40 percent and to refinance the remainder at 3 percent interest, a measure the Readjuster governor approved.

In February 1882 Dungee voted to establish the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (later Virginia State University), near Petersburg. During the extra session that met in March 1882, he joined the majority in voting to abolish the whipping post as a form of punishment. Dungee did not seek reelection in 1883, although he continued to correspond with Mahone and to campaign for local Readjuster and Republican candidates during the rest of that decade. In 1896 Dungee served as one of the county's alternate delegates to the Republican State Convention.

In 1893 Dungee and one of his sons received a license to sell alcohol and keep a bar at Cumberland Court House. Two years later Reuben Turner Coleman sold to Mary Coleman Dungee the thirty-acre farm where Shed Dungee and his family raised corn, oats, and tobacco.

Shed Dungee died on March 30, 1900. He was buried in the cemetery at Mount Olive Baptist Church, in Cumberland County, where a gravestone erected after his wife's death in 1918 was inscribed with his dates of birth and death.

Time Line

  • December 25, 1831 - Shed Dungee is born enslaved, probably on the Cumberland County plantation of William M. Thornton.
  • 1847 - Shed Dungee, an enslaved boy, reportedly accompanies his owner, William M. Thornton, to Richmond, where Thornton has been elected to the General Assembly. Dungee himself will be elected to the House of Delegates in 1879.
  • April 1865 - Elizabeth "Lizzy" Dungee, possibly the wife of Shed Dungee, gives birth to a son in Cumberland County.
  • January 7, 1869 - Shed Dungee and Mary Agnes Coleman marry. They will have one daughter and three sons.
  • 1870s - Shed Dungee serves as a trustee of the Baptist Aid Society in Buckingham County.
  • 1877 - Shed Dungee helps to establish the Slate River Colored Baptist Association.
  • November 1879 - Shed Dungee wins election to the House of Delegates, representing Buckingham and Cumberland counties. He is variously described as a Readjuster and a Republican.
  • March 1880 - The House of Delegates votes overwhelmingly to dismiss a resolution by Shed Dungee to legalize interracial marriage.
  • March 14, 1881 - Shed Dungee attends a convention of African American Republicans in Petersburg that pledges support to the Readjuster Party.
  • October 7, 1881 - Shed Dungee is unanimously nominated to run for reelection to the House of Delegates from Buckingham and Cumberland counties.
  • November 8, 1881 - Shed Dungee, a Readjuster, wins reelection to the House of Delegates, representing Buckingham and Cumberland counties.
  • February 1882 - Shed Dungee votes to establish the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (later Virginia State University).
  • 1883 - Shed Dungee does not seek reelection to the House of Delegates.
  • 1893 - Shed Dungee and one of his sons receive a license to sell alcohol and keep a bar at Cumberland Court House.
  • 1895 - Reuben Turner Coleman sells to Mary Coleman Dungee the thirty-acre farm where Shed Dungee and his family raise corn, oats, and tobacco.
  • 1896 - Shed Dungee serves as one of Cumberland County's alternate delegates to the Republican State Convention.
  • March 30, 1900 - Shed Dungee dies. He is buried in the cemetery at Mount Olive Baptist Church, in Cumberland County.
  • 1918 - Mary Coleman Dungee, widow of Shed Dungee, dies. She is buried at Mount Olive Baptist Church, in Cumberland County.

References

Further Reading
Jackson, Luther Porter. Negro Office-Holders in Virginia, 1865–1895. Norfolk, Virginia: Guide Quality Press, 1945.
Moore, James Tice. "Black Militancy in Readjuster Virginia, 1879–1883" in Journal of Southern History 41, no. 2 (May 1975): 167–186.
Moore, James Tice. Two Paths to the New South: The Virginia Debt Controversy, 1870–1883. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1974.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Julienne, M. E., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Shed Dungee (1831–1900). (2015, July 24). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Dungee_Shed_1831-1900.

  • MLA Citation:

    Julienne, Marianne E. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Shed Dungee (1831–1900)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 24 Jul. 2015. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: July 21, 2015 | Last modified: July 24, 2015