Did you read my Part 1 post yesterday? If not, read it before diving into this one, so you don’t get confused and lost.

If you read yesterday’s post, let’s get back to my time travel to the early 1800s. And let me answer you before you ask. Yes, I’m also trying to track the other black folks that were listed as the enslaved property of my 5x great grandparents.

I do know that some Black slaveholders would buy enslaved people to free them from white owners, and provide them safety and security. But I also know that some Black folks owned other Black folks and saw it as pure economics. I haven’t located enough of the records to ascertain which “folk” my great grandfather was. When he passed in 1832, he left his wife almost 700 acres of land, hundreds of cattle, hogs, horses, and three enslaved people (two men and a woman).

In 1840, the census shows my grandmother and everyone (over 30 children and adults) residing with her on her property as Free Colored Persons. In 1850 it shows her owning three slaves. I assume these are the same three listed in my grandfather’s estate. I’m going to find out those details. I can guarantee you, once I do find that information I will be sure to update you.

Some people shy away from that period of time. I run towards it and in a positive way. It’s history; their story, my story, and I’m not ashamed of it or angered by it—well, let me clarify that last point. I am extremely angry, disgusted, and dismayed by what I’ve learned about the enslavement and treatment of Africans and African Americans, from the moment we were snatched up as property and dehumanized, to how the US (and other countries) have chosen to not reconcile the wrongs and heal the wounds inflicted upon us, then and since.

Let’s be crystal clear about that.

But, I will not allow my feelings of hurt and disappointment change my heart. What was, has, and still being done to us (and dismissed through rational-lies) hurts my heart. Yes, for those of you who are quick to yell “What about what Blacks have done to each other” as though Black people are naive, dumb, incapable of distinguishing and properly addressing our grievances— yes, my heart hurts for the pain that Black people cause each other. And let me double back real quick, the defense of “We did but y’all did some of it too” is plain ignorant and cowardly. It’s an attempt to reduce responsibility and accountability. Guess what? That too hurts my heart.

I’m also hurt by the pain that religious people, Christians and the like, have caused, pimping God(s) in the process. No one’s God(s) would want people to be mistreated as we have witnessed before and since the 1600s. There’s not one god you’re praying to that condones the nonsense of this world. Let’s get in agreement with that.

All of the damaging energy that humankind uses against its own (and other species) is disturbing to my heart. But it will not control it. I will not allow myself to become the very energy that chose and chooses evil. I loathe that energy but I will not hate the people who choose that energy. That energy wants me to hate, to become that which I hate. I rebuke that. My heart and mind must work together, to be controlled by me, not the world.

Now that we’re clear about that, let’s get back to the story….

My grandparents both died before they could hear the battle cries of war and later, freedom. My grandfather passed away in 1832, when Andrew Jackson was President, and Harriet Tubman was still enslaved in Maryland. She didn’t escape (the first time) until 1849. Frederick Douglass escaped to the North in September 1838 (changing his last name from Bailey to Douglass) and hadn’t written his first book until 1845. So these two legends rose up after my grandfather had long passed.

When my grandmother passed away in 1858, James Buchanan was President, it was the year Harriet Tubman met John Brown, and one year later helped him with his raid on Harper’s Ferry. Two years later Abraham Lincoln would become President. The civil war was from 1861 to 1865, with the emancipation proclamation issued in 1863. My grandparents children and grandchildren grew up and lived through those periods. But none of them experienced it as the property of someone else. That had to weigh heavily on them.

One day I will share with you my take on ole’ Jim Bowie, the American hero, who fought alongside Davey Crockett and others. I will share how I’ve traced my Scottish Bowie’s (his part of our family) to North Carolina, up to Maryland (where the first Bowie’s arrived) and then all the way back to the town in Scotland where the patriarch, John Bowie Sr. lived before coming to the colonies around 1705. I will also share how I’m connecting to my Scottish roots. I know my history, my ethnic DNA doesn’t lie. I’ve got Scotland in my bones. Just as I have Ireland, England, Wales, Germany, and other European nations woven inside of me.

But I won’t share today.

Today is about me smiling, visualizing that huge chunk of a moment when the shackles of slavery were removed off a branch of my super huge family tree.

I wonder what my 5x grandparents’ prayers were like leading up to and immediately after those days; I wonder how they prayed knowing themselves to be free but knowing others near and far were still being bought, sold, and traded. I wonder their thoughts about these other people never being able to see the lands they came from or that their parents and grandparents came from. I wonder if my grandparents ever thought about the reality that they would never know their native language, culture, and customs—and neither would millions of other enslaved and free Black people.

Imagine reconciling that in your mind. I wonder what their dreams showed them. I wonder if they imagined me, their future, far-removed from their time, and what they hoped for my generation. I benefit today from all that they sacrificed, lost, and labored. I hope they are proud of my journey and the ways I honor them and their legacy.

Okay, so you read my answer. I gave you two days worth of immersed historical dreaming, fact-sharing, and truth-speaking. Now’s your turn. If you could witness a time in history when would it be? Share the details in the comments section below.

~Natasha

Copyright © Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

Ooh this is something that I’ve pondered before, and most of us remember this exercise from elementary school. So, I will take a spin with it again. The first thing that comes to mind happens to be my 5x great grandparents on my mom’s side, and more specifically, her father’s family line (on his maternal side). My 5x great grandfather is listed in historical documents as an FMC, Free Man of Color. He was born when George Washington was President and Abraham Lincoln wasn’t even alive yet.

The family he was born and raised into were the Bowie’s—of the infamous James “Jim” Bowie (Alamo legend) that everyone swears has a story about his Bowie knife that his brother designed and had made for him. I’m still researching the particulars but somehow, my great grandfather was a free man, owning his own plantation (yep, and slaves) and even conducting business with Jim and his siblings, as well as other white men.

If I could be a fly on a wall…

But it’s not just that moment in time, it’s also the moment where my 5X great grandfather made it possible that his wife, who had been purchased by the Bowie’s (after being bought and sold 5 times by other owners), was freed. Yes, in 1818 he bought her from the Bowie’s and in 1830 he has his own plantation where they raise their 8 children. I saw the court document where all of their children were free. They never knew a day, enslaved, like their parents and grandparents. This was before the emancipation proclamation. This was before the Civil War.

That had to be empowering yet terrifying.

If I could stand in that moment and watch the weight of years being lifted off of my 5x great grandmother, hearing that for the first time since being born, she was no longer someone’s property, that no more would she be bought and sold, raped, and possibly bred like cattle. If I could witness the drafting and signing of the documents making it possible for our branch of the Bowie tree to be freed from one of the ugliest histories this country and the world has ever seen and experienced, oh how my eyes would fill with tears of joy, and I too would breathe a sigh of relief.

I’m still researching my grandfather’s FMC status and at what point he was freed by either the Bowie’s or through the British overhaul when they outlawed slavery in all of their territories, forcing slaveholders in the Caribbean to declare each enslaved person, their country of origin, and the name of the mother (of the enslaved person) if known.

There is an enslaved person with my grandfather’s name, same age and approximate date of birth, listed on an 1817 British registry. Which means he had been in the colonies (specifically, Louisiana) and then at some point taken to the Caribbean, and then later by decree legally freed and returned to Louisiana.

This could be his storyline. I’m still digging. If he and the man on the British registry are one in the same, that too is another event that I would relish witnessing. Seeing his face when the reality of his new life settled in his mind. When he returned to Louisiana and walked on the plantation as a FMC, wowsers, the shift it would’ve caused.

I’m still very much curious about this tight knit relationship with the white Bowie’s, I mean, I know they share the same blood (either Jim’s dad or uncle was the father of my grandfather), but I mean, jeesh, there was a closeness so intimate that even free, my grandfather is listed as a resident on his father (or uncle’s) land for 13 years (as a free man), and he even transacted business deals with them, even sued one of the Bowie brothers, and used his residence for a hearing when the state of Louisiana was looking at removing one of the Bowie brothers from public office. One the Bowie’s even owed him money, and had a debt repayment document notarized in 1824 (6 years before my grandfather even owned his own land). Clearly, he was acknowledged as kin, but how do you reconcile the years they had him enslaved?

My grandfather had influence and wealth…in the early 1800s! A black man. In the south. The sitting President was James Monroe, the last President from the Founding Fathers. By then, my grandfather had lived through 6 Presidencies.

I’m in awe. Let’s explore more tomorrow!

~Natasha

Copyright © Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

Reflecting over the days and years, looking to the research on abuse, the history of slavery and captor-captive relationships, and the enduring and devastating trauma. I want to share my thoughts…

I believe that trauma can cause some people to celebrate when their abuser hands them trinkets and tokens of “reconciliation”. They don’t realize that these “gifts” are merely distractions and attempts to downplay and normalize the sustained abuse, while never admitting it and never ceasing.

The abuser uses these moments as part of their research and development efforts. They track the points along the way where you bend to their ways based only on their promises of a better life, freedom, etc. They note your highs and lows. They test your thresholds. They look to see at which points you showed strength and resolve, and the times when they thought they had almost broken you.

Can they make you grovel, beg, try to negotiate, compromise, sacrifice your dignity and humanness, rely upon them more than your own Creator?

A checklist.

The abused convince themselves that the abuser “Is trying” and “It’s a step towards progress”, “It’s better than before”, “I should be appreciative for these gifts”, and “I deserve these gifts after all that I’ve endured and continue to endure”. You’re conditioned to see these moments as a reprieve from savagery. Maybe even as a sign of better days to come.

But deep down your spirit and soul cry out, knowing that the abuser has not and will not stop. The abuser will only repeat this cycle as it breaks you down, round after round, until you finally begin to see yourself as the problem—until you believe the abuser is your savior, who you should be role modeling. The goal is for you to see yourself as inferior to the abuser. As powerless and dependent upon your abuser.

You begin to repeat what the abuser whispers to you: If only you were more pliable, forgiving, and accommodating. If only you would assimilate into the system the abuser has crafted with great wickedness and precision. If only you stopped resisting and protesting. If only you would give in and let your reality be created, managed, and ruled by your abuser.

“You’re not oppressed, that’s just your weak mind talking”. That is what your abuser says. “Your life is better than it’s ever been” so says your abuser. “If you were oppressed you wouldn’t have….” and “You’re an ingrate. Look at what I’ve given you all of these years. This is how you thank me!”

Those are the words of your abuser, your oppressor, your slave master.

We are hostages who keep clinging to the desperate hope that our captor will one day do right by us. Many of us have been convinced that our captor is our friend, who has given us privileges we could not gain without them. We have assimilated out of desperation for the pain to cease. Sadly, it doesn’t. So we blame other captives for causing the added pain through their delay in surrendering.

A lot of us don’t realize we’re tumbling through decades and centuries of generational Stockholm Syndrome.

~Natasha L. Foreman

IG/FB/Twitter: @natashalforeman

Copyright 2021. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved. NatashaForeman.com

Almost thirty years ago I first learned about the Freedmen’s Bureau and the Freedman’s Savings Bank (officially known as the Freedman’s Saving and Trust Company).

While in college I was able to do further research on the legacy of freed Black slaves in America, and the one thing that stood in the way of their financial inclusion and the future of economic development in Black America more than one hundred years later— that one thing was FEAR.

The southern white “establishment” was fearful of what inclusion and development of freed Black slaves would mean for them (the former slave owners), and whether or not the tables would be turned on them— if the human “property” they enslaved for more than 100 years finally decided to “get even”.

The Freedmen’s Bureau and the Freedman’s Bank struggled and failed in 1874 (after 9 years) for many reasons, but what triggered their fall was the fear of seeing freed slaves rebuild their lives and join the competitive landscape of the country that they built through their own blood, sweat, and tears.

How could the enslaved now have the right and financial capability to own land and property, live by, and exist at the same level or above the same people who had enslaved them? How could they be as or more educated than the people that outlawed slaves from being taught to read and write? I’m sure for many white southerners, this was tantamount to blasphemy.

Today, the U.S. Treasury Department is celebrating and honoring the renaming of the U.S. Treasury Annex, back to its original name, the Freedmen’s Bank.

Yes, what most of us did not know is that although the bank failed and shut down, the building in Washington D.C. (the relocated national headquarters) was never destroyed. No one struck a match to it or bulldozed it. It’s been here hundreds of years later staring at all of us. Isn’t that ironic? Fear is only capable of doing so much. It is not all-powerful. It can’t hide for long. It can only destroy so much, but mostly it destroys itself.

You have to know the history to understand the relevance today…

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