Friday, February 10, 2012

"I Don't Know Where They Carried Him To"

The Christian Recorder, 1896

All excerpts in this post, are from the same issue of  the January 2,1896 edition of The Christian Recorder a publication of the AME Church. (I was able to access the old copies of this publication through Accessible Archives). Many former slaves used this publication in search of loved ones who were lost to sales and whims of slave holders many decades earlier.  The genealogical value of these letters speak for themselves. The continued pains of slavery are felt in the longing of these former slaves for their parents, husbands, children and siblings. I am sharing a few of them here.

In this first letter, Eliza Holmes of Fayette County Texas is hoping that someone will connect her to her son, but she explains, "I don't know where they carried him to."

Wanted Ad from The Christian Recorder,  
January 2, 1896, Volume XLIII p. 7

In the 1890s letters such as these appeared in African American newspapers throughout the country. These letters represent the true horrors of what happened to people, and true heartbreak of separation. Many such letters were written decades after freedom, and yet loved ones were still be sought--so strongly missed, and clearly leaving holes in the hearts of former slaves.

Some were themselves sold away, and circumstance never allowed them to find their way home. Emma Washington of Meridian Mississippi, was still looking for her mother who was enslaved in Warrenton Springs Virginia. The family data is so rich, although with the passing of time, chances of their being reunited were slim.

Wanted Ad from The Christian Recorder,  
January 2, 1896, Volume XLIII p. 7

So many of these announcements provide rich genealogical data in addition to reflecting the heartbreak of separation. In Pleasant Beal's letter, one can see how often slaves were exchanged, and moved about so frequently. Mr. Beal knew his parents--the Slaters and after three decades still sought their whereabouts and their fate.

In other situations there were men who left. Some left to fight, others left simply to serve in any way they could. They were often counted simply as contrabands, or refugee slaves, but they were still brave men, whoyseized the chance for freedom, and followed the Union soldiers:

Because these poignant letters were written three decades after the war chance of families being reunited were slim. However, the amazing genealogical data and the illustration of a strong sense of family is immediately noticed by the reader.

As overjoyed as so many were to finally be free---the heartache continued for thousands of former slaves throughout the nation. Time was perhaps the only healing balm that soothed so many of their souls. They deserved so much and got so little. I pray that they will never be forgotten

May all of those who suffered be finally at peace. 


Kristin said...

Amen. I pray they are at peace too.

Where could I find the papers to search?

Angela Y. Walton-Raji said...

Hello Kristin,

I was able to access the papers at They have a good collection of African American Newspapers!