This is pretty much what I wanted to say in response to you, @Dedej, I just couldn't find a way to put it into words. @Georgia Sixth said it way better than I could have. Anyways, you're amazing!Dedej, this is one of the best posts I have ever read on this forum, certainly one that has moved me like few others. I sincerely admire your struggle to be free of the stereotypes you held and of your own understandable emotional "cargo" in order to understand the people of the time. I cannot encourage you enough. You are a beautiful example of how to approach the past.
I've been struggling with this myself over the past many years, that effort to put myself in the shoes of others in other times. I'm coming from a different direction, that of a southern white. To put my feet in your shoes, I do think this would be much harder. As a black person, it would be extremely hard to look past or beyond or around slavery in any fashion, especially how the white supremacist views that supported the slave system in turn gave birth to the Jim Crow system. I salute you. You are made of better stuff than me.