My great-great grandparents, on both sides of my family, were born slaves. They were property to be sold and traded like livestock. Surprisingly, I have been able to trace the ancestry on my mother’s side all the way back to the 1830’s to a Julianne Bourgeios in Waveland, Mississippi. My great grandfather, John Henry Lewis was born just after the Civil War. I can find no records of who his parents are, nor of his wife, Fannie Mae Wright.
As slaves, my ancestors living in the deep South before the Civil War were subjected to cruelty and brutal conditions that we can now scarcely imagine. It seems my mother’s side of the family was fairly well treated... there was a strong French component to her blood line. Records were better kept for slaves who worked closer to their master’s families because house servants tended to be treated with something approaching kindness. I don’t believe the same could be said of my father’s grandparents. I believe they fit the more classic picture of generations of people bought and sold into slavery, with all the attendant horror of those times.
Slaves were punished by whipping, shackling, hanging, beating, burning, mutilation, branding, and imprisonment. Punishment was most often meted in response to disobedience or perceived infractions, but sometimes abuse was carried out simply to re-assert the dominance of the master or overseer over the slave. Treatment was usually harsher on large plantations, which were often managed by overseers and owned by absentee slaveholders; in contrast with small slave-owning families, where the closer relationship between the owners and slaves sometimes resulted in a more humane environment, such as what seems to have happened in my mother’s family. I would urge everyone in this country to see the film “12 Years a Slave”. It depicts the brutality of the era far better than I can say here.
To help regulate the relationship between slave and owner, including legal support for keeping the slave as property, slave codes were established. These codes gave slave-owners absolute power over the enslaved Africans. While each state had its own slave code, many concepts were shared throughout the slave states. Even though slave codes had many common features, such as not teaching slaves to read or write, each state had specific codes or variations that suited the laws in that region.
About this blog.
This blog is a place where many of the confluences of my life can be shared. I am, at the core, a creative person. I approach everything from that basis... whether composing symphonies, playing the cello, being a serial entrepreneur, writing sermons and essays, flying airplanes, or creating software apps. I am deeply passionate about creativity, issues of social justice, and spiritual enrichment. These are fundamental to everything I do. Welcome to my journey!