How I See It……………..by Dorothy Wells
I have been researching my family history for several years and have had success on the Internet genealogy sites. Left
with old pictures and obituaries by my mother and the names of the states my ancestors lived in, I began to piece together the lives of my family. I have always been curious about that period in our country’s history when my people
were enslaved. Having done extensive reading and watching documentaries on the subject I feel that I have a better understanding of the events of that time but my feelings are conflicted.
I understand the economics of the free labor that slavery provided and in a way I even understand the mindset of the antebellum south especially the wealthy, to hold on to that lifestyle. What I have never been able to grasp is the lack of
humanity. I can’t fathom how a man could sell his own children sired by a slave woman or how his wife could blame that same slave for her husband’s misdeeds when she knew full well that the slave had no voice in her life. I don’t understand how families could so callously have been separated, parent sold off from children or children from their home to a place foreign to them where they knew no one.
Slavery has existed since the beginning of time and has affected many groups at one time or another. yet that period in the history of our country is very personal to me. I try to imagine what life was like for my ancestors. I know from the census records that many children died, some families loosing one a year for several years. In my own family twin girls were born in 1879 and lived to be two months and four months old ,the only girls born to the mother.
I believe that slavery took a terrible toll on African-American families ,the affects still being felt all these centuries later. Women were often forced to be head of the household leaving no masculine role model. The history of my people in this country has been dramatic. We have made strides ahead but not without sacrifices. I am proud to be an American but just as proud of the strength and endurance of those who came before me.
(This essay comes from one of Charley Kempthorne’s “Life Story Instute” workshop in Junction City and was a part of the UUFM service on January 15th)