illegally has roots in slave and Native American families being ripped apart. “ People was always dying from a broken heart.” Often, the children have no idea where their parents are or when they will see them again. first engage in dehumanizing the targeted group, whether it is Native Americans. Paradoxically, despite the likelihood of breaking up families, family formation former slaves took measures to formalize their family relations, to find family. Then a van pulled up and discharged a group of African visitors who were running an hour late, and the crowd broke into applause. Wayne, noted that her ancestors had been taken from Africa during the slave trade. . It helped her see more clearly her family's legacy of overcoming adversity, she said.
Armfield watched and smoked. Multiply that by The men made it across.
Retracing Slavery’s Trail of Tears
Next came wagons with the young children and those who could no longer walk. Last came the women and girls.
Armfield crossed them on flatboats. As owners in the Upper South liquidated their assets, traders assembled groups of slaves in pens, pictured here, and then shipped or marched them southwest. Maurie McInnes Collection Owners took to newspapers to advertise slaves for sale. Historic New Orleans Collection A wood engraving depicts a slave coffle passing the Capitol around Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library Eyre Crowe painted this scene after observing slave owners in Richmond marching recently purchased slaves to the train station to move south.
Chicago History Museum This building at Franklin and Wall streets in Richmond was used for many years as an auction site. Born 50 miles that way, Radford for 20 years. On the dark slope after 40, since you ask.
Daniel is pleasant, happy to talk about his hardscrabble days. He is white, a face etched by too much sun. Life looking up since the divorce.
African chiefs urged to apologise for slave trade | World news | The Guardian
It is an easy chat between strangers, until I bring up the slave days. He shakes his head. His face acquires a look that suggests the memory of slavery is like a vampire visiting from a shallow grave. Other coffles came from the direction of Richmond. One of them was led by a man named William Waller, who walked from Virginia to Louisiana in with 20 or more slaves. In the deep archive of the Virginia Historical Society I discovered an extraordinary batch of letters that Waller wrote about the experience of selling people he had known and lived with for much of his life.
He was an amateur slave trader, not a pro like Armfield, and his journey, though from another year, is even better documented. Waller was 58, not young but still fit. Thin and erect, a crease of a smile, vigorous dark eyes.
She was fancier than he.
The Wallers lived outside Amherst, Virginia, and owned some 25 black people and a plantation called Forest Grove. They were in debt. They had seen the money others were making by selling out and decided to do the same. Their plan was to leave a few slaves behind with Sarah as house servants and for William to march nearly all the rest to Natchez and New Orleans.
Waller and his gang reached the Valley Turnpike in October. But something happened early on, although it is not clear just what. The people who accompanied him included a boy of 8 or 9 called Pleasant; Mitchell, who was 10 or 11; a teenage boy named Samson; three teenage sisters, Sarah Ann, Louisa and Lucy; Henry, about 17; a man named Nelson and his wife; a man in his 20s called Foster; and a young mother named Sarah, with her daughter Indian, about age 2. The three sisters had been taken from their parents, as had Pleasant, Mitchell and Samson.
Most of the others were under Waller planned to sell all of them. Here the mountains thicken into the Appalachian South of deep hollows and secret hills. In the old days, there were few black people here, a lot of Quakers and the beginning of an antislavery movement. The Quakers have largely gone, and there are still many fewer black people than back in Virginia, miles east.
I take the old route to Knoxville, but then get onto the freeway, Interstate The path of I west roughly matches a turnpike that once ran miles across the Cumberland Plateau. At this point in the journey, other spurs, from Louisville and Lexington to the north, joined the main path of the Slave Trail.
The migration swelled to a widening stream. Armfield and his gang of had marched for a month and covered more than miles. When they reached Nashville, they would be halfway. He had grown up near Gallatin, 30 miles northeast of Nashville, and he went there during off months. He called it Fairvue. Columned, brick and symmetrical, it was just about the finest house in the state, people said, second only to the Hermitage, the estate of President Andrew Jackson. Fairvue was a working plantation, but it was also an announcement that the boy from Gallatin had returned to his humble roots in majesty.
In Gallatin, I drive out to look at the old Franklin estate. After the Civil War, it held on as a cotton plantation, and then became a horse farm. But in the s, a developer began building a golf course on the fields where the colts ran. The Club at Fairvue Plantation opened inand hundreds of houses sprang up on half-acre plots. Approaching the former Franklin house, I pass the golf course and clubhouse.
A thicket of McMansions follows, in every ersatz style. People still come to show their money at Fairvue, like Franklin himself. I ring the doorbell at the house the Slave Trail built.
It has a double portico, with four Ionic columns on the first level and four on the second. No answer, despite several cars in the drive. More than one preservationist had told me that the current owners of Fairvue are hostile to anyone who shows curiosity about the slave dealer who built their lovely home.
The man may be gone, but generations later, some of his people are still around. I ask a Nashville museum director, Mark Brown, for help in finding a member of the family in the here and now.
Two phone calls later, one of the living Franklins answers. Thomson says he is 74, but he looks Short white hair, short white beard, khakis, cotton short-sleeve with flap pockets and epaulets. Shoes with crepe soles.
Retracing Slavery's Trail of Tears | History | Smithsonian
A reedy voice, gentle manners. Thomson is an antiques dealer, mostly retired, and an amateur historian, mostly active.
It hangs in the living room, above the sofa. The house bursts with 19th-century chairs, rugs, settees, tables and pictures.
Reading lights look like converted oil lamps. He takes a seat at his melodeon, a portable organ that dates from the s, and plays a few bars of period-appropriate music. It is plain that in this branch of the Franklin family, the past cannot be unremembered. Kenneth Thomson, at home in Gallatin, Tennessee, is an indirect descendant of slave trader Isaac Franklin.
But he had three brothers, and there are hundreds of their descendants living all around the country. Which means that Isaac Franklin was my great-great-great-great-uncle.
It was at the beginning of the s. When the brothers were growing up in Gallatin, James Franklin, eight years older than Isaac, took his sibling under his wing.
He showed young Isaac how it was done, apprenticed him. Now, I heard this more than 50 years ago from my great-grandfather, who was born inor two generations closer than me to the time in question. So it must be true. The family story is that after Uncle Isaac came back from service during the War ofwhich sort of interrupted his career path, if you call it that, he was all for the slave business.
I mean, just gung-ho. A painting of the mansion at Fairvue. A Bible from the family of John Armfield. He had six plantations and slaves. Most slave traders at that time were considered common and uncouth, with no social graces. Uncle Isaac was different.
He had the equivalent of an eighth-grade education. He was not ignorant. He could write a letter. But bad habits concerning sex were rampant among some of those men. You know they took advantage of the black women, and there were no repercussions there. Before he married, Isaac had companions, some willing, some unwilling. That was just part of life. And here, someone close to the memory of it says much the same. Inat age 50, he married a woman named Adelicia Hayes, age 22, the daughter of a Nashville attorney.
It would have been the easiest thing to do. An album identifies two members of another branch of Thomson's family. How does a person inside the family measure the inheritance of slave trading? Thomson takes a half-second. It was a part of life in those days.
Many things in the Old Testament are pretty barbaric, but they are part of our evolution. I mean, people who do not understand the old lifestyles—their standpoint on life, and their education, are what today we consider limited. That applies to Southern history, to slave history. They are great people. When I grew up, we were servanted. All the servants were black. We had a nurse, a woman who used to be called a mammy.
The fear of separation haunted adults who knew how likely it was to happen. Young children, innocently unaware of the possibilities, learned quickly of the pain that such separations could cost. Many owners encouraged marriage to protect their investment in their slaves. Paradoxically, despite the likelihood of breaking up families, family formation actually helped owners to keep slavery in place.
Owners debated among themselves the benefits of enslaved people forming families. Many of them reasoned that having families made it much less likely that a man or woman would run away, thus depriving the owner of valuable property. Some owners honored the choices enslaved people made about whom their partners would be; other owners assigned partners, forcing people into relationships they would not have chosen for themselves.
Abolitionists attacked slavery by pointing to the harm it inflicted upon families. Just as owners used the formation of family ties to their own advantage, abolitionists used the specter of separation to argue against the institution of slavery.
Frederick Douglass, who was enslaved in Maryland before he escaped to Massachusetts and became an abolitionist stridently working to end slavery, began the narrative of his life by examining "Eliza comes to tell Uncle Tom that he is sold and that she is running away to save her baby.
Further, he lived with his grandmother, while his mother lived and worked miles away, walking to see him late at night. In his narrative, aimed at an abolitionist audience, Douglass suggested that slaveowners purposefully separated children from their parents in order to blunt the development of affection between them. Abolitionists such as Douglass and Stowe argued that slavery was immoral on many grounds, and the destruction of families was one of them.
Following the Civil War, when slavery finally ended in America after nearly two hundred and fifty years, former slaves took measures to formalize their family relationsto find family members, and to put their families back together. During slavery, many people formed new families after separation, but many of them also held on to memories of the loved ones they had lost through sale. Starting inhundreds of people placed advertisements in newspapers searching for family members. Parents returned to the places from which they had been sold to take their children from former owners who wanted to hold on to them to put them to work.
And, thousands of African American men and women formalized marriages now that it was possible to do so. Some married the person with whom they had lived during slavery, while others legalized new relationships. Guiding Student Discussion I find that the most exhilarating and meaningful discussions occur when students have an opportunity to engage with primary sources.
Working with documents helps students to develop analytical and investigative skills and can give them a sense of how historians come to their understandings of the past. Interacting directly with documents can also help students to retain information and ideas. I offer a few primary sources here that should stimulate discussion and help students to imagine what life may have been like in the past. Legislation As English colonists began the process of putting slavery into place, they paid careful attention to family arrangements among enslaved people.
Legislators in Virginia and Massachusetts passed laws in the s making clear that the rules would be different for slaves and that family would not offer protection from slavery.
Students will likely find the language of this statute a bit confusing, but will also enjoy deciphering it. Depending on the age and maturity of your students and the strictures of your school district, you may want to cut the last section regarding fornication. You can have an interesting discussion here about the role of the state or colony in this case in determining who would be a slave and who would be free.
Ask students why they think slaveowners, many of whom were represented in colonial legislatures, would have wanted this provision. How did it help them? What concerns were they attempting to satisfy here? What would be the status of a child born to an enslaved mother and white, slaveowning father?
What impact might this have had on black men who were being denied the right to determine the status of their children even though they lived in a patriarchal society in which men were generally dominant? Note for students that because whites were not enslaved in America, the children of a white mother and enslaved father was automatically free, but in some colonies and later states, legislation punished white women and their mixed-race children by apprenticing the children until adulthood and extending the period of service for the white woman if she was an indentured servant.
What were the implications of such punishment? What message did legislatures send about the ideal racial makeup of families? Conflicts over whether parents or owners had control over enslaved children. The following paragraph is from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, written by Harriet Jacobs, a former slave, in My father, by his nature, as well as by the habit of transacting business as a skilful mechanic, had more of the feelings of a freeman than is common among slaves.
My brother was a spirited boy; and being brought up under such influences, he early detested the name of master and mistress. One day, when his father and his mistress had happened to call him at the same time, he hesitated between the two; being perplexed to know which had the strongest claim upon his obedience.
He finally concluded to go to his mistress. He was now to learn his first lesson of obedience to a master. You might begin the discussion by encouraging students to describe the scene in their own words. This exercise will require them to focus closely on the details of the episode.
As a child Jacobs lived in Edenton, North Carolina, in the eastern, highly agricultural part of the state. Ask students to think about what the setting might have been. Why did he have to think about it?
What lessons had he already learned about power as it related to him, an enslaved child? Why did he make decision that he ultimately did? This incident illuminates tensions in the roles that enslaved people had to play in their lives.
He appealed to his son to recognize that their relationship made the father as important, and possibly as powerful, as their owner. Ask student to explore these tensions. What do his words tell us about his feelings? What claims was he making despite his status as a slave. Did he put his son at risk by demanding obedience?
Note for the students that although many enslaved children grew up apart from their fathers, some had fathers in their homes. This is one example. How do students imagine that other enslaved parents might have handled similar dilemmas regarding obedience and loyalty?
Running away to find family members. This ad is from the New Orleans Picayune, April 11, This advertisement for a teenaged boy who ran away is compelling on many levels. In this context, however, the last lines of the ad are most relevant: Encourage students to do a close reading and analysis of the ad.
How do they suppose Isaac Pipkin knew what clothing Jacob had on when he left? Is it likely that an enslaved boy owned a black bearskin coat? What about the pistols?