Slave Descendants and the Slave Discussion

Tom Hughes

First Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2019
Location
Mississippi
No doubt a lot is going on in our nation currently dealing with America's past institution of slavery and re-visiting the issue once again.
As a student of history, I can read narratives, histories, etc. But I wanted more. I wanted to know more about "the other side".
So, I decided to begin a discussion involving local blacks about their slave descendants, and I was shocked.
Nobody seemed to know anything whatsoever about their descendants nor did they really seem to care other than wanting to change the landscape of reminders of slavery.
I knew that since most slaves couldn't read or write, oral histories became the chief way of communicating their histories and culture to their descendants.
Oral histories was the way Native American indian tribes carried down their traditions as well.
As slave generations passed into the 20th century and the last known slaves died out, so did their stories it seems.
Today, very few, if anyone in the black community, seems to care about their ancestry. This is such a shame.
Just as we research and try to learn more about our history of the Union and Confederate struggles of the civil war, you would think that the descendants of the main issue of the war (slavery) would know more than they do.
I did have a chance to interview a man whose freed family slave was still living in 1935. I have a photo of him with the slave descendant. He, along with other slave descendants were still living in the area on land given to them. But when people like that died, apparently their stories died with them. Unlike their white counterparts, they seemed to want to distance themselves from slavery or discussions of the topic. Probably because of the negative connotations associated with the subject.
I had an interesting encounter with an elderly black man back in the early 1990's in Mississippi. He was in his 80's at the time and grew up on a local plantation. He knew of many herbal remedies to illnesses and myths that you knew had been carried down through oral tradition. But he said none of his children cared about the old ways or his stories.
We could certainly learn from each other and add valuable content to the slave experience in our discussions if we only knew more.
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
If you ask random whites living in America today, you will find relatively few who know, or really care much about their ancestry. And, most all of them will get along just fine in life not knowing. WE might miss it. THEY don't.

African Americans are still being told, by some, that their ancestors were happy, loyal, "Black Confederates" who were reconciled to their servitude, and waited supinely to be liberated by "the Man." They are surrounded by constant reminders (including memorials), of "glorious" slavery days. Is there any wonder they have little interest in learning more?

As for oral tradition, that is largely a rural thing, strongly associated with place. Mobile populations, taken from their traditional environments, rarely retain it for long, unless someone has the will and ability to write it down ... after which, of course, it is no longer "oral tradition." A great many 3rd and 4th generation Americans know little beyond the name of the country from which their ancestors emigrated.
 
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Tom Hughes

First Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2019
Location
Mississippi
Another thing I discovered is that very few people (white or black) recognized historical monuments in my community as being anything other than a beautiful piece of art that graced the lawn of the courthouse. Now, of course, me talking to locals in my community is not a scientific survey by any means, but it is interesting. Not until the media got involved and relayed the message to people after 100+ years that these monuments had different meanings. These monuments then became "pawns" in this game of political correctness.
These are certainly interesting times in which we live.
The people that have interest in the civil war years in America, like us on this thread, should take time to learn, discuss, and recognize that the symbols that our forefathers erected at the expense of donors in most cases, needs be looked upon as an artifact of the past that is worthy of consideration to bridge understanding between everyone in the community - both good and bad.
 
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DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
Something I've wondered is with the popularity of DNA testing, like Ancestry and 23andme, is whether a slave descendant or slaveowner descendant has been surprised to find a close cousin of the opposite race.

I know Ancestry shows relatives, and common ancestors. It would be interesting for a black man and white man to discover they have a common gg-grandfather slave owner.
 

Tom Hughes

First Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2019
Location
Mississippi
Something I've wondered is with the popularity of DNA testing, like Ancestry and 23andme, is whether a slave descendant or slaveowner descendant has been surprised to find a close cousin of the opposite race.

I know Ancestry shows relatives, and common ancestors. It would be interesting for a black man and white man to discover they have a common gg-grandfather slave owner.
Yes, that would be interesting. Genetic testing has advanced a lot.
 
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