My Daughter's Ancestors: A tale of Two Cities

My Daughter's Ancestors: A tale of Two Cities


African Americans: Free Yankees and Emanicapated Dandies

Manumissions and Emancipation

  • Cassopolis, Michigan and Marshall, Texas

It is a belief that all African Americans had the same experience in Colonial and Antibellum/Civil War America. That is not the case.My daughter's family tree is a duality of freedom and slavery; Gentleman and Masters; crusaders and free labor.One side of her family came to this country as indentured slaves in the 17th century. White females from England, Wales, Ireland, you get the point.

For generations, starting in 1660, these indentured females' "mixed raced children", became a population of  free blacks or manumitted persons of color living in Colonial North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and other areas of the "13 Colonies". The other side of her family came thru the middle passage, by way of Barbados and the ports of Virginia's slave market.Unlike the free blacks in New England(Cripus Attacks and Prince Hall), these free blacks in the "Southern Colonies" were farmers, landowners, and followers of the Quaker movement. By the 1830s these free blacks were living in "Quaker and/or Methodist communities of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and even parts of Canada.  Religious followers of both communities, many became active with the underground railroad(a secret movement to assist runaway slaves during the early and mid 19th century) and proponants of the Abolistionist movement.

In contrast, in the 1830s Texas there were another group of blacks. These blacks had never known the freedoms of the manumitted blacks supporting the Abolistionist movement from the North, these Texans were slaves.By the 1840s the issue of freedom and slavery of blacks in America was at an all time high. My daughter's ancestors living in Cass. County Michigan were supporting the underground railroad, smuggling blacks to freedom and financing a state, Michigan, through it's defacto policy to rally freedom for all men crossing into it's borders. Whereas, Texas had recently became a state, one of the first de jure(by law) decision was to abolish the right of freedom in it's boundaries to any black. If you were a free man of color in Texas, it would be difficult to "prove" in a court-of-law you were not the property of a white Texan, with or without manumission papers.

On the eve of the late 1850s Northern States as well as Southern States eyed closely as Abraham Lincoln and Steven Douglass debated their cause for the White House. It was not politics as usual, the next president would determine the stability of a Nation; one free-driven-Industrial, the other, slave-driven-agriculture. There was also the issue of new territory and slave rights in those territories. Who would win could determine the rights of capital gain, freedom & rights for 14% of the population, as well as landowner's rights in new territories.Abolistionist cheered Abraham Lincoln's victorious win along his journey to Washington D. C. as our 16th President. Little did he know, President Buchanan had left the preverbal, "barn doors wide open" to the White House as he fled the pressures of  Congress. Before Lincoln could get to Washington, a secession loomed in Virginia and a Battle of aggression shouted from the shores of the Carolinas.A call to arms marked the 1860's.

Headlines announcing WAR BETWEEN THE STATES, had family, friends; statemen and immigrants choosing sides. The call to arms also included members of the free blacks of Cass County, Michigan. Just as their fathers and uncles fought in the War of 1812, and their grandfathers(and great-grandfathers)fought during the Revolutionary war, they too became soldiers in this, historically advertised, "war to free the slaves". Whereas the slaves in Harrison County, Texas(City of Marshall) found themselves at the center of the Confederate Army on the Mississippi; for it was now the Capital of Texas and the back bone of the "Rebel" push, after New Orleans had been captured by the "Yanks".

On September 1, 1862, President Lincoln signed and issued the Emancipation Proclaimation. This document declared that on January 1st, 1863 all Southern States  whom seceded from the United States were to free all persons being held in bondage within it's boundaries(it, however, did not include those States and Territories, with slaves, that did not chose to secede from the Union).

In Cassopolis, Michigan many gathered and cheered the President's move, whereas in the South the news of the Emancipation Proclaimation would trinkle down to the slaves like thick maple syrup during a Canadian blizzard.

On June 19, 1865 slaves in Texas learned of the Emancipation Proclaimation, almost three odd years after the news of the order of September 1,1862. Celebrations rang out. From that day on blacks in Texas would celebrate JUNETEETH DAY in honor of the news  reaching Texas.

Each year my daughter experience two celebrations, one on June 19th and another on September 1; each celebrating the Emanicipation of slavery in the United States, however long it took her ancestors to get the news.

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