Researching the slave quarters and personal accounts from former slaves will help paint the picture of what life was like in the slave cabin and during slavery. More will gain an appreciation for the type of strength that African American ancestors exhibited to endure the circumstances in which they lived for generations. The question is “Why does it need to be a painful process?”
What value is there in avoiding an honest look at history? Are there examples of a people who suffered wrongful persecutions in history and yet look back without hurt or malice gaining strength for the here and now based upon the heritage of being able to overcome great trials? Is there any risk in allowing partial truths to be told?
What effect would it have on a people to look back and make peace with the past? Would finding forgiveness without condition invoke any Divine power? Can any human being completely rectify a wrong without Divine intervention? Has there ever been any other people who have suffered in American history and had to move forward being a blessing in the lives of all around them without former issues being officially resolved or restitution made?
Another group’s account of persecution
Consider a community that has for years performed many acts of service throughout the world. This same community is making a great impact in the genealogical community. Who would believe that in 1838, Governor Boggs of Missoui would believe a false report about election day violence and would sign an order to kill all Latter-Day Saints who did not immediately leave the state:
“Reports of the battle that reached Governor Boggs were greatly exaggerated. The governor was told that members of the Church had killed or imprisoned all of Captain Bogart’s militia members. All over northern Missouri mobs were attacking Latter-day Saint settlements, setting fire to houses and crops, stealing cattle, and taking prisoners, but the governor believed that the Saints were causing the problems. General Atchison urged Governor Boggs to come and see for himself what was happening, but instead the governor believed the false reports he had heard and ordered his troops to fight against the Saints. He wrote, “The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state” (History of the Church, 3:175; emphasis in original).”
Later in Nauvoo, Illinois, tensions rose again. In 1846, the first Latter-Day Saints journeyed 1,300 miles to safety in the Great Salt Lake Valley. In all, least 70,000 journeyed across the plains. See The Pioneer Story: The Mormon Pioneer Trail.
The great challenge is for African Americans to harness the great strength of their ancestors, list the great principles that were exhibited in slavery and carried up to this day, and teach the rising generation with the same resolve as did the former slaves teach their children during Reconstruction without erecting the beam of malice or anger in the eye of future generations.
When you find or hear an account, look for the principles worth sharing. In the following excerpt from page 39 of Slavery in South Carolina and the ex-slaves: or, The Port Royal mission, by Austa Malinda French. A former slave women who was a cook, recounts having to work until the second cock crowed. She would then pile her bedding upon the kitchen table and sleep until it was almost daybreak. Blackened sand served as her floor, a stark contrast to the mansion were she took the meals she prepared. What qualities of this former slave woman are you able to discern?
“The showy mansion, the miserable slave “quarters,” scarcely a place but has somewhere the tell-tale of poverty; or if not of that, certainly of most contemptible avarice or inefficiency. For instance, one mansion, with costly empannelled parlors, has back-floors slanting, back-stairs tottering, and “quarters” floorless, the deep white sand having become black and nauseous. Yet in this hideous place, every iota for the splendid table was cooked. The poor Colored woman, a saint of God, said, ” I used to had to work till after de secon’ crowing, den I would jes throw my bed on ‘at kitchen table and sleep till mos’ light, catis’ I have to do task fo’ I get breakfast.” To one who has seen the pile of black rags, the poor slave calls his bed, and can imagine it, upon the only kitchen table, comment is unnecessary.”
It may be discovered that perhaps she was the only occupant of the house, or that there was no male occupant who could provide a wood floor. It seems she worked far past sunset. Perhaps she was tasked with helping to prepare each meal.
What effect might this story have on the youth of today who lack few amenities?
“You can really set a straight path for yourself when you know how hard your family has tried to make a good future for you. When I do my family history, I gain more respect for my family and myself. I see the difference my ancestors made for the next generation. I feel I have a duty not to let them down nor make them feel like the great things they did for me were a waste, ” said Adrianne McClure of Columbia in the book, “African Son.”