In April of 1865 a seventeen year old house servant and his brother stood holding their Master’s horse outside of a courthouse in central Virginia, when a bearded man dressed in blue and a bearded man dressed in gray emerged from a doorway. Within seconds their world as they knew it shattered when they were told by their Master, quietly returning to his horse that they were free.
In April of 1865, a light skinned biracial boy was having tea with his Mistress in the parlor. He was her husband’s child, but being childless herself she took to the boy even though he was born out of her husband’s infidelity to her and his abuse of an enslaved girl. Dressed in fine clothes and accustomed to the ways of the big house, his fate was as uncertain as hers as slavery came to an end.
In April of 1865, a white man in his 30’s, a former Captain in the Confederate forces pondered his fate and his small family plantation in Alabama having spent several months imprisoned in Vicksburg, Mississippi. In Alabama awaited a little biracial girl, barely a to.ddler, with steel grey eyes like his. She ate wild greens and potlicker and buttermilk mashed up for her in a gourd. Hundreds of miles away in Texas lived her brother, barely a few years older than she, with the same skin color and steel grey eyes–and she would never know of him her entire life.
In April of 1865, Washington and Adaline were making ready for the spring cotton crop when they were told they were free. That night they and their fledgling family and others got together to feast on a shoat and whatever else they could pull together after the South was starved into defeat. In two generations, in the lifetime of Washington, his son William would come to own 100 acres of prime cotton land which he passed down to his descendants. On that land, 144 years later, his great-great-great-great grandson made a promise to Washington and William to tell their story.
They lived in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. Some of their ancestors came from England, Scotland, Ireland and continental Europe. Most of them made the horrific journey across the Atlantic in the Middle Passage from West and Central Africa. Some were already here and belonged to the Tutelo-Saponi and the Muskogee nations. They were part of around several hundred people or so who lived and died in the world of colonial and antebellum plantation culture. They all had to eat, and they were all my ancestors.