I have been working on the freedom stories of my list of formerly enslaved men and women from the Cleage plantations and it’s amazing. I start to write about 1 person and find some information that takes me deeper into the life of their community that time and life during slave times. I found several who fought with 1st United States Colored Heavy Artillery. The widows and orphans petitions for pensions are especially helpful as names I know appear as witnesses and testify to living on down the row on the plantation or being present at births.
As I continue to work, I wanted to share this recording made in the 1940s of people who lived during slavery talking about their lives. Their voices are so clear and present, not at all like the garbled transcriptions I come across where the people sound like they barely know the English language and there is nothing of the beauty of their voices.
While googling for information, I came across a book on that mentioned how slaves came to Athens and McMinn County in a section called “The Black Community.” I quote below.
“When Nash arrived, there were black persons in their 80s and 90s who had been among the first to come to the county. Blacks had originally come into the county either with the settlers, or as a result of being purchased at “slave sales” up until the time of the Civil War. By the 1800s, few—if any—slaves came to this immediate area directly from Africa. Virginia had come to be known as the “slave breeding ground,” and most major cities in that state had periodic sales in which the slaves were sold at auction. The slave owners usually attended the auctions together, and marched the slaves back to their new homes in groups. East Tennessee was a major route south toward Atlanta. If someone became ill or could not make the full trip, he would be sold, traded,or given away along the route. In this way, less affluent people might acquire one or two slaves across several years. “Slaves” in this situation simply meant an additional hand to work beside the slave owners in their fields and mills. The huge sprawl of cotton fields, with hundreds of field hands and their overseers spread out across a vast acreage, was unknown in McMinn County. At the height of slavery, there were only a small number of persons in the county owning more than half a dozen slaves.” McMinn County by C. Stephen Byrum pages 78 & 79