Town founded by freed slaves celebrates 200 years

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-08-25 15:24Z by Steven

Town founded by freed slaves celebrates 200 years

USA Today
2016-07-09

Joey Garrison, Metro and Political Reporter
The Tennessean, Nashville, Tennessee

FREE HILL, Tenn. — Tucked away in the wooded hallows and ridges north of Celina, Tenn., in the Upper Cumberland region, freed slaves and later their descendants have lived here for two centuries.

The community is called Free Hill, or often Free Hills, and this unincorporated enclave in tiny, poor and otherwise mostly white Clay County is one of Tennessee’s last remaining black settlements that freed slaves established.

People in this county along the Tennessee-Kentucky border — about two hours northeast of Nashville — tell the story of a white slave owner named Virginia Hill of North Carolina who bought the property to free her slaves and give them a secluded place to live.

Historians aren’t certain about all the facts or years, and what might be part folklore, but documents prove that free blacks had settled at Free Hill before the Civil War

Establishing history

History is the lifeblood of Free Hill. Surnames like Page, Burris and Philpott on the gravestones of the Free Hill Cemetery are some of the same names that carry on today.

And the story of its founding explains the unlikely occurrence of an African-American community arising in an area that is officially in Appalachia.

Accounts of Free Hill residents vary. They almost all begin with a North Carolina slave owner named Virginia Hill, whom most say came to a forest near the Cumberland and Obey rivers sometime before 1840, purchased 2,000 acres and set her slaves free.

Some say the slaves took control of the land themselves. Others say the slaves that Virginia Hill brought were her four biracial children, and that she was seeking to avoid a scandal.

They took her surname Hill — a name that is documented as the earliest African-Americans in Free Hill — and named the community after her.

The story goes that Free Hill became known as a safe haven for runaway slaves leading up to the Civil War and for freed slaves after the war. The names Free Hill and Free Hills have interchangeable meanings: descendants of the Hill family or a hilly area where freed slaves lived…

Read the entire article here.

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Intimate Bonds: Family and Slavery in the French Atlantic

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery on 2016-08-16 01:01Z by Steven

Intimate Bonds: Family and Slavery in the French Atlantic

University of Pennsylvania Press
August 2016
304 pages
6 x 9
6 illus.
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8122-4840-1
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8122-9306-7

Jennifer L. Palmer, Assistant Professor of History
University of Georgia

Following the stories of families who built their lives and fortunes across the Atlantic Ocean, Intimate Bonds explores how households anchored the French empire and shaped the meanings of race, slavery, and gender in the early modern period. As race-based slavery became entrenched in French laws, all household members in the French Atlantic world —regardless of their status, gender, or race—negotiated increasingly stratified legal understandings of race and gender.

Through her focus on household relationships, Jennifer L. Palmer reveals how intimacy not only led to the seemingly immutable hierarchies of the plantation system but also caused these hierarchies to collapse even before the age of Atlantic revolutions. Placing families at the center of the French Atlantic world, Palmer uses the concept of intimacy to illustrate how race, gender, and the law intersected to form a new worldview. Through analysis of personal, mercantile, and legal relationships, Intimate Bonds demonstrates that even in an era of intensifying racial stratification, slave owners and slaves, whites and people of color, men and women all adapted creatively to growing barriers, thus challenging the emerging paradigm of the nuclear family. This engagingly written history reveals that personal choices and family strategies shaped larger cultural and legal shifts in the meanings of race, slavery, family, patriarchy, and colonialism itself.

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Born a Slave: Rediscovering Arthur Jackson’s African American Heritage

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2016-08-05 23:51Z by Steven

Born a Slave: Rediscovering Arthur Jackson’s African American Heritage

The Orderly Pack Rat
2015-04-25
328 pages
6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
Paperback ISBN: 978-0970430816

David W. Jackson

By the close of the Civil War in 1865 all American slaves became free citizens. Suddenly a new life dawned for them and their descendants.

Arthur Jackson, a slave born in 1856 in Kanawha County, Virginia, was nine-years-old when he and his family were emancipated in Franklin County, Misouri. He took the surname of his master, Richard Ludlow Jackson, Sr., within whose household he was born and lived intermittently until adulthood.

Eventually Arthur met Ida May Anderson, a white woman, and they raised a family together. Their six children passed for white and Arthur’s African American heritage became a family secret and was eventually forgotten. During the following century, five generations of Arthur and Ida’s descendants lived as white Americans.

Thirty years of genealogical research by one of their great-great-grandsons, the author, revealed the secret that Arthur was born a slave, that he and Ida were a biracial couple, and that their children were of mixed racial heritage.

Born a Slave: Rediscovering Arthur Jackson’s African American Heritage explores this man’s birth, childhood, life as a freedman, his ancestry, and his master’s family. It also calls all Americans—regardless of apparent race or ethnicity—to abandon preconceptions and explore their every ancestor objectively and with an open mind… especially if they may have been a slaveholder, or if they were born a slave.

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Putting The Past Behind Them: Slave Descendant Unites With Plantation Owner

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2016-08-05 23:30Z by Steven

Putting The Past Behind Them: Slave Descendant Unites With Plantation Owner

Growing Wisconsin
2016-07-13

Lynne Hayes

The dinner was historic on many levels. On one side of the table sat Nkrumah Steward, 44, the ancestor of a slave. On the other side of the table sat Robert Adams, the ancestor of the man who owned that slave.

This was a meeting of two men who shared a complicated past, one that forever ties them together by blood and circumstance.

If it weren’t for Steward’s fascination with genealogy and his desire to complete a family tree, the two men might never have met.

Digging Into His Past

Over the last 20 years, Nkrumah Steward, of Canton, Michigan, an IT Technician for Coca-Cola, has questioned relatives, plowed through archival papers, and hunted down details through online genealogy sites to piece together his family tree.

He was fortunate to have known his great-grandfather, James Henry, who he knew was the first to be born a free man on his mother, Linda’s, side. Steward had always been curious as to why James Henry looked so “white.”

Through his research, Steward came to learn why. Not only was he descended from slaves, but the line began with a union between his 4th great grandmother, Sarah, a house slave, and, Joel Robert Adams, the slave owner of a South Carolina plantation known as Wavering Place.

Steward’s maternal family tree branched out like this: Sarah and her master, Joel Robert Adams, had Louisa in 1835; Louisa had Octavia. Octavia’s son, James Henry, was the first to be born free. James Henry later fathered Steward’s grandfather, J.D.; and J.D. fathered Steward’s mother, Linda.

Though he was born free, James Henry’s mixed blood made life complicated. He was allowed only to attend a black college; but when he moved from South Carolina to Detroit, Michigan, he “passed” for white and was able to get jobs he would never have had as a black man…

Read the entire article here.

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Free State of Jones Capsizes Lost Cause Myths

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-29 00:30Z by Steven

Free State of Jones Capsizes Lost Cause Myths

Process: A Blog For American History
2016-07-12

Matthew E. Stanley, Assistant Professor of History
Albany State University, Albany, Georgia

Reconstruction is perhaps the least understood period in American history, a distinction that has been both perpetuated by and reflected in popular culture since the late nineteenth century. Films in particular have gone from presenting the era through the Dunning lens of rank white supremacy (The Birth of a Nation, Gone with the Wind, Tennessee Johnson) to skipping straight to white reunion (Abraham Lincoln, Ken Burns’s The Civil War) to addressing its social achievements and betrayals through either subtle foreshadowing (Lincoln, Glory) or highbrowed metaphor (The Hateful Eight). Director Gary Ross’s Free State of Jones, however, which depicts the origins and aftermath of Newton Knight’s bigender and biracial anti-Confederate insurgency in Jones County, Mississippi, might be the first to properly and historically situate Reconstruction in full relation to the war itself, serving as a vigorous repudiation of Lost Cause mythology.

Consulted by and employing source material from historians including Eric Foner, David Blight, and Victoria Bynum, Free State of Jones presents a wartime regional counternarrrative that becomes a postwar national standard narrative. In other words, the events depicted both are and are not historically representative. Led by farmer-turned-renegade Knight, ably portrayed by a suitably angular Matthew McConaughey, white members of the “Knight Company” are deserters and poor farmers who have rejected the Confederate “Twenty Negro Law” and regressive property confiscation; its black constituents are self-emancipated slaves and intrepid spies with even greater interest in overthrowing the callous Southern plantocracy. Through a series of competently shot skirmishes and ambushes, this militant underclass slowly drives Confederate forces from a large swath of southeast Mississippi. Persecuted by the Confederacy and ignored by the Union, Knight’s militia declares a “Free State of Jones” committed to principles of social and economic egalitarianism. His white wife and child having absconded, Knight falls for a mixed race slave, Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and together they create a biracial community that still exists…

Read the entire article here.

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A Mixed-Race, Mixed-Marriage

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-26 15:40Z by Steven

A Mixed-Race, Mixed-Marriage

Cumbo Family Website: Exploring Cumbo Family Roots and Branches across Generations
2016-05-06

Andre Kearns
Washington, D.C.

My great-great grandparents Edward Biggs and Florence Cumbo were both listed as Colored on their 1890 marriage license.

So why am I classifying their union as a mixed marriage?

It is because Edward Biggs was born to an enslaved family and Florence Cumbo was born to a free family of color.

Both were born mixed race people but due to different circumstances. Based on a family photo, Edward Biggs appears white. Based on research he was likely a quarter black, a product of successive generations of offspring between white men and enslaved women. Edward Bigg’s father, based on his death certificate was a man named Kader Biggs, one of the larger slave owners in Bertie County, North Carolina. His mother Sarah Peele was a bi racial woman born into slavery around 1848 in Bertie…

Read the entire article here.

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The Real Rebels: A Review of Free State of Jones with Reflections on Lost Causes

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-24 02:03Z by Steven

The Real Rebels: A Review of Free State of Jones with Reflections on Lost Causes

The Labor And Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA)
2016-07-12

Mark Lause, Professor of History
University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio

I can feel a certain sympathy for people who get hoodwinked into fighting for a Lost Cause that could never be worthy of the blood and treasure spent on its behalf. After all, as a child of the Cold War, my own closest brush with toting a gun to war came during Vietnam. In that conflict, the government, both political parties, the military, the media, the universities, the corporations, and the entire power structure insisted that the triumph of a Vietnamese effort to control of their own country would start toppling dominoes that would end in Anytown, U.S.A. By the end, most Americans actually doubted this. In hindsight, there’s no real issue as to whether the power structure of the people were correct, though some feel obligated to pretend otherwise.

Responses to the Free State of Jones by Gary Ross, and starring Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Mahershala Ali demonstrate that such denials of experience can last a long time. The movie offers a fictionalized version of the revolt of poor Southerners against the Confederacy in Jones County, Mississippi. Newton Knight worked on medical duties at the front until his disgust with the war inspired his desertion and return home. “Captain” Knight held that title for his role as the leader of guerilla forces that successfully made parts of southern Mississippi a no-go zone for Confederate tax gatherers and conscript officers. It is based on Victoria E. Bynum’s superb historical account The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002), and aims to be much more truthful than Hollywood’s first attempt at the subject in 1948, Tap Roots.

Free State of Jones directly confronts the issues of class and race that Tap Roots downplayed or avoided. This fact, in part, explains the mixed reviews.

A movie is not a documentary, of course. The page dedicated to Free State of Jones at “History vs. Hollywood” provides a useful corrective, and I would urge everybody who liked the movie to read Bynum’s book…

Read the entire article here.

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‘Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings’ reimagines difficult history

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-24 00:23Z by Steven

‘Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings’ reimagines difficult history

The Chicago Tribune
2016-07-23

Meredith Maran

“Until the lions have their own historians,” says an African proverb, “the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” The proverb offers one answer to a question that has long plagued writers, activists and historians. Who gets to tell the stories of those who have been denied the right to tell their own?

Given that heterosexual white men still get the, um, lion’s share of book contracts, should straight people write books about the gay rights movement? Should men write about the struggle for women’s equality? And — as with Harriet Beecher Stowe’sUncle Tom’s Cabin,” Mark Twain’sAdventures of Huckleberry Finn,” William Styron’s Pulitzer-winning “Confessions of Nat Turner” and now Stephen O’Connor’s Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings” —should a white person write a book whose central dilemma is slavery?

“Anyone has the right to write about any subject available to be written about,” historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. has said. But the white person who writes a 624-page novel about the 37-year love affair between a white slave owner — who happens to be the third president of the United States and author of the phrase “All men are created equal” — and a mixed-race slave — whom he happens to own and who happens to give birth to six of his children — had better have the politics, the courage and, most importantly, the storytelling skills to get it right.

Fortunately, O’Connor manifests an abundance of these qualities in “Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings,” his debut novel. Ambitious doesn’t begin to describe the scope of the project O’Connor undertook. And successful doesn’t begin to describe the wildly imaginative techniques he used to realize his authorial goal, which is clearly to humanize — equalize, you might say — the two members of this passionate, conflicted couple: the lionized, hypocritical Jefferson, who railed against slavery while owning slaves, and the powerful yet complicit Hemings, who loved and loathed her owner…

Read the entire review here.

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Dido Belle: Britain’s first black aristocrat

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2016-07-23 23:58Z by Steven

Dido Belle: Britain’s first black aristocrat

The Telegraph
2016-07-06

Nisha Lilia Diu

Amma Asante’s award-winning film Belle arrives on Netflix today. In this feature, first published in June 2014, Nisha Lilia Diu reveals the true story that inspired it

The amazing thing about Dido Elizabeth Belle is not that she was mixed-race. Who knows how many white men’s children were born to black slave women in the 18th century? It’s not even that her father was a wealthy English aristocrat – there were plenty of titled captains tearing around the Caribbean at that time, capturing French and Dutch schooners during the Seven Years’ War and making off with their sugar, coffee and other (often human) cargo. The extraordinary thing about Dido Belle is that her father, a 24-year-old Navy officer called John Lindsay, took her home to England and asked his extended family to raise her. And they did. They did it in some style, too.

Belle grew up in Kenwood House in north London. It was the palatial weekend retreat of Lindsay’s uncle, the first Earl of Mansfield, set in landscaped gardens with a view of St Paul’s Cathedral six miles away. Mansfield was Lord Chief Justice, and he made a number of landmark rulings on slavery that were among Britain’s first steps towards abolition. Did Belle’s presence in his home have anything to do with it? Plenty of his contemporaries thought so, and they didn’t admire him for it.

“Dido was very, very privileged,” says William Murray, a descendant of the earl and the son of the heir apparent. “She was in the top 5 per cent, perhaps the top 1 per cent, in terms of how she lived, her allowance, her dress, her education.” But Belle’s position was far from clear-cut…

Read the entire article here.

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I Named My Mixed-Race Daughter for a Slave-Trading Town

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-23 17:55Z by Steven

I Named My Mixed-Race Daughter for a Slave-Trading Town

The New York Times
2016-07-16

Susan Fales-Hill


An oil painting of Susan Fales-Hill’s great-great-great-grandfather hangs in her apartment in Manhattan. He turned out to be not as upstanding as she once thought. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

FOR nearly 20 years, my great-great-great-grandfather’s portrait has watched over me from my red dining room wall. With his high collar, ruffled cravat and black waistcoat, Samuel Fales, 1775-1848, is the very image of the upstanding 19th-century New England gentleman. An eminent merchant and alderman of Boston, he was the founder of the family’s shipping business. I’ve known his face and taken comfort in his smile since I was a child attending Sunday lunch at my grandmother’s in the 1960s.

Samuel Fales seemed utterly unperturbed by the changes the 20th century had wrought, among them his great-great-grandson’s unorthodox choice of bride: my mother, a black Haitian-American actress, and my brother and me, his mixed-race descendants. His portrait has stood as an emblem of our family’s pride in its history. “You have relatives on both sides of your family who fought in the American Revolution,” my mother would frequently remind me.

To honor my forebears, my husband and I named our only child Bristol, after the town in Rhode Island where some of the Faleses first settled in the 17th century. A year ago, I learned through new historical research that Bristol had in fact served as a main hub of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This gave me great pause. Had I done my daughter a dreadful disservice? Upon reflection, I decided that naming a multicultural African-American after a slave port was in fact redemptive, the ultimate act of reclamation.

It never occurred to me that my family might have participated in the port’s inhumane commerce…

Read the entire article here.

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