My great-great-grandfather was born into slavery.
If you know anything about world history, you already know people were enslaved. The difference for me is that I have actual, legal documents specific to my family. If you look at the featured image, you’ll see a page from the division of estate for John A. Evans. You’ll see my great-great-grandfather, Dick, listed, under the negro property being inherited by E.W. Evans. He is listed with his wife Candis and child. All three people are valued at $2,025. My great-great uncles and aunt are also listed bringing my family’s value to about $4325 (it is unclear if others were also related). It is one thing to have vague information about the past and quite another thing to see a person’s worth displayed in a dollar amount.
Imagine finding and learning this bit of history about your own bloodline. Although I know not what it feels like to be a slave, deep in my DNA, the pain is there. It’s hard to imagine a world where a race of people can be treated like a piece of furniture, but here it is in black and white. I traced my family back to the family who owned them. Their last owner, John A. Evans, passed away before slaves were free and as outlined in his will, his sons inherited his land and property.
My great-grandfather was born after slavery but lived his whole life being treated as subhuman. My grandfather lived his whole life in segregation. My father was four when school segregation ended but he can still remember not being welcomed in places because of the color of his skin.
You may be wondering about the point of this post. I use my personal story to make a point about working through pain. The saying, ‘No pain, no gain,’ is normally used when speaking about physical exercise but it can also be used when referring to healing the world’s people. We all have irrational fears, unexplained skills, innate knowledge, etc. Our DNA knows the truth about what happened to our ancestors because it is passed down to us so that we don’t make the same mistakes of the past.
Did I enjoy learning about the family who owned my family? No, but I acknowledge that it happened and thankful that some progress has been made in the world. If your family owned another human being, should you feel shame? No because it was a different time and look how easy people today go along with what’s socially acceptable instead of what is right. I mean we still need to make laws to protect the rights of people instead of allowing people to live as they choose to live (and love).
Unfortunately too many people fail to see injustice in the world. It is my belief that once we work through the pain of historical events, we can connect other emotions to the past to help us ensure that the piece of learned history will not be repeated.
I accept what has happened to my ancestors (previous post). I don’t understand it but the events up to today has made me who I am. It is now up to those who still fear the past to face the pain and grow from it. I inherited my peace from my parents. My father will be 71 this year and I have never heard him speak a negative word about the past or oppressive people. My mother loved everyone and my dad approaches everything with an open mind and as something to learn.
Facing the past will free us to make a beautiful future together.