Did Thomas Jefferson own Slaves? #204

Image result for thomas jefferson images
Thomas JeffersonThird President of the United States

Series on Presidential Slavery

Thomas Jefferson was born at the family home in Shadwell in the Colony of Virginia. His father Peter Jefferson was a planter and surveyor.  Peter Jefferson moved his family to Tuckahoe Plantation in 1745 upon the death of William Randolph, the plantation’s owner the Jefferson’s returned to Shadwell, where Peter died in 1757; his estate was divided between his sons Thomas and Randolph. Thomas inherited approximately 5,000 acres of land, including Monticello. He assumed full authority over his property at age 21.

In 1768, Jefferson began constructing his primary residence Monticello (Italian for “Little Mountain”) on a hilltop overlooking his 5,000-acre plantation.  He spent most of his adult life designing Monticello as architect and was quoted as saying, “Architecture is my delight, and putting up, and pulling down, one of my favorite amusements.”  

Construction was done mostly by local masons and carpenters, assisted by Jefferson’s slaves.  He moved into the South Pavilion in 1770. Turning Monticello into a masterpiece it was his continuing project.

On January 1, 1772, Jefferson married his third cousin,  Martha Wayles Skelton, the 23-year-old widow of Bathurst Skelton, and she moved into the South Pavilion.  During their ten years of marriage, Martha bore six children.

Martha’s father John Wayles died in 1773 and the couple inherited 135 people of color who were legally enslaved, and 11,000 acres.   Martha later suffered from ill health, a few months after the birth of her last child, she died.  Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, owned more than 600 African-American slaves throughout his adult life.  

Jefferson consistently spoke out against the international slave trade, outlawed while he was President, while he advocated gradual emancipation and colonization of domestic slaves. He believed black people were inherently inferior to white people and thought it was best the two races remained segregated.

Jefferson was a lifelong advocate of ending the slave trade and as president led the effort to criminalize the international slave trade that passed Congress and he signed in 1807, shortly before Britain passed a similar law.  This type of individual is a “fence rider”; they have slaves while trying to free them?

Jefferson supported gradual emancipation, training, and colonization of African-American slaves, believing that releasing unprepared people with no place to go and no means to support themselves would only bring them misfortune. In 1784, Jefferson proposed federal legislation banning slavery in the New Territories of the North and South after 1800, which failed to pass Congress by one vote.  

Jefferson expressed the beliefs that slavery corrupted both masters and slaves alike, supported colonization of freed slaves, promoted the idea that African-Americans were inferior in intelligence, and that emancipating large numbers of slaves made slave uprisings more likely.

After the death of his wife Martha, Jefferson had a long-term relationship with her half-sister, Sally Heming’s, a slave at Monticello.  Jefferson allowed two of Sally Heming’s surviving four children to “escape”; the other two he freed through his will after his death.  The children were the only family to gain freedom from Monticello.

In 1824, Jefferson proposed a national plan to end slavery by the federal government purchasing African-American slave children for $12.50, raising and training them in occupations of freemen, and sending them to the country of Santo Domingo.   

In his will, Jefferson freed three older men who had been forced to work for him for decades.  In 1827, the remaining 130 people who had been kept as slaves at Monticello were sold to pay the debts of Jefferson’s estate.

Although Jefferson is regarded as a leading spokesman for democracy, some modern scholarships has been critical of him, finding a contradiction between his ownership and trading of many slaves that worked his plantations, and his famous declaration that “all men are created equal.”

Yet, Jefferson continues to ranked high among U.S. presidents.

EAJM

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Did John Adams own slaves? #203

Series on Presidential Slavery

John AdamsSecond President United States of America

He was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who served as the second President of the United States. He was a leader of the American Revolution and served as the first vice president of the United States.

Many of the Continental Congress and the Founding Fathers voiced their opinion on slavery including John Adams. He and especially his wife Abigail, were opposed to slavery, but it seems that his views on race were mostly in line with the times. 

Yet, he did not own slaves, his family was of modest wealth, and Adams was morally opposed to slavery and refused to employ slaves. His wife, Abigail Adams, went so far as to employ free blacks for labor as opposed to the two domestic slaves owned by her father. She also helped educate a young African American man in an evening school and their own family home while living in Philadelphia.

However, during the War of Independence, he was opposed in the use of black soldiers out of fear of losing Southern support for the Continental Army.  For John Adams, slave owner opinion seemed to nullify his approach to the subject during his political career.

Unfortunately, John Adams’ views on slavery were not so proactive. As a member of the Massachusetts State Legislature, Adams openly opposed legislation on the abolition of slavery in the state on the grounds that the issue was too conflict-ridden. He even wrote that legislation opposed to slavery should “sleep for a time” until it was less troublesome. Little did he know how many people would die settling the issue some decades into the future?

Yet, he was on the record as critical of the “privileged” Southern society whose power depended on human bondage. His slavery views became more obvious as he condemned the practice as “an evil of colossal magnitude” and worried about the effect slavery would have on the nation in the future. For him slaves were human beings and fully deserved the rights ordained by God that all men were granted.

EAJM

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President George Washington on Slavery…#202

First President – George Washington

Series #1 on Presidential Slavery

George Washington’s stand on slavery was what he believed in and politically supported.   He never publicly talked against slavery, or for it. 

Washington had a strong work ethic and demanded the same from both enslaved and hired workers. He provided his slaves with basic food, clothing and somewhere to live which was not always adequate, and with medical care. In return, he expected them to work diligently from sunrise to sunset over the six-day working week. Some three-quarters of his slaves labored in the fields, while the remainder worked at the main residence as domestic servants. They supplemented their diet by hunting, trapping, and growing vegetables in their free time, and bought extra rations, clothing and house wares with income from the sale of game and produce.

His slaves built their own community around marriage and family, though because Washington allocated slaves to farms according to the demands of the business without regard for their relationships, many husbands lived separately from their wives and children on other plantations. Washington used both reward and punishment to encourage and discipline his slaves, but was constantly disappointed when they failed to meet his standards. Slaves resisted enslavement by stealing food and clothing, pretending to be ill and running away.

Washington’s first doubts about slavery were entirely economic, prompted by his transition from tobacco to grain crops which left him with a surplus of slaves. As commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in 1775, he initially refused to accept African-Americans, free or slave, into the ranks, but reversed this position due to the demands of war.

Privately, Washington considered ending his ownership of slaves in the mid-1790s, but could not realize this because of his economic dependence on them, the refusal of his family to cooperate toward emancipation of the dower slaves(slaves fathered by owners), and his own principled aversion to selling slaves like cattle.

Some of George Washington’s slaves legally became free on Jan. 1, 1801. Martha did not choose to free these people.  George Washington’s Will provide for the emancipation of his slaves, he was the only slave-owning Founding Father to do so.

Because many of his slaves were married to Martha’s dower slaves, whom he could not legally free, Washington stipulated that, with the exception of his valet William Lee, who was freed immediately, his slaves be emancipated on the death of Martha. Martha Washington freed some of the slaves in 1801, a year before her own death, but her dower slaves were passed to her grandchildren and remained in bondage.

It is not surprising as civil war loomed on the horizon, that both North and South would claim Washington as their patron of democracy. Throughout the antebellum period he was beloved by Northerners and Southerners alike and by 1861 had come to symbolize all that was virtuous and heroic about the American Revolution.

Not opinion, fact!

EAJM

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The First African American March was 103 years ago…#201

After the Civil War, there was a system called Black codes, they limited the freedom of the African Americans.   Though the Union freed some 4 million slaves, the question of freed blacks’ status was still unresolved. In 1865, Lincoln proposed limiting the right to vote for African Americans that shocked many; however, his assassination days later changed the course of history.  His successor Andrew Johnson would be the one to preside over the beginning of Reconstruction.  Johnson’s Reconstruction policies were that the Confederate states were required to uphold the abolition of slavery.

The states and their ruling class that traditionally dominated were white planters and they were given a relatively free hand in rebuilding their own governments.  Former slaves fought to assert their independence and gain economic self-sufficiency during the earliest years of Reconstruction.  White landowners acted to control the labor force through a system similar to the one that had existed during slavery. They were still burdened by the color of their skin.

Mississippi and South Carolina enacted the first Black codes. Mississippi’s law required blacks to have written evidence of employment for the coming year each January; if they left before the end of the contract, they would be forced to forfeit earlier wages and were subject to arrest. In South Carolina, a law prohibited blacks from holding any occupation other than farmer or servant unless they paid an annual tax of $10 to $100.

Under Johnson’s Reconstruction, nearly all the southern states would enact their own Black. While the codes granted certain freedoms to African Americans including the right to buy and own property, marry, make contracts their primary purpose was to restrict African American labor and activity.  Anyone who broke labor contracts were subject to arrest, beating and forced labor. 

After passing the Civil Rights Act (over Johnson’s veto), Republicans in Congress effectively took control of Reconstruction. The Reconstruction Act of 1867 required southern states to ratify the 14th Amendment which granted “equal protection” of the Constitution to former slaves and enact universal male voting before they could rejoin the Union.  Still limits, males only could vote!  

After the Civil War and the Reconstruction era, white supremacy was largely restored across the South in the 1870s, and the segregationist policies known as “Jim Crow” soon became the law of the land. In 1877, when the last federal soldiers left the South and Reconstruction ended, African Americans had seen little improvement in their economic and social status.     Discrimination would continue in America with the rise of Jim Crow laws, but would inspire the Civil Rights Movement to come.

The Great Migration was the relocation of more than 6 million African Americans from the South to the cities of the North, Midwest and West in 1916.  Driven from their homes by unsatisfactory economic opportunities and harsh segregationist laws, many African Americans headed north, where they took advantage of the need for industrial workers that arose during the First World War. During the Great Migration, African Americans began to build a new place for themselves in public life, actively confronting racial prejudice as well as economic, political and social challenges to create a Black urban culture.

The Ku Klux Klan had been officially dissolved in 1869, however, the KKK continued underground after that, and intimidation, and violence even lynching of black southerners were not uncommon practices in the Jim Crow South.  With war production kicking into high gear, recruiters persuade African Americans to come north, to the dismay of white Southerners.

On Saturday, July 28, 1917, a group of between 8,000 and 10,000 African American men, women and children began marching through the streets of Manhattan in what became one of the first civil rights protests in American history 103 years ago. 

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal provided more federal support to African Americans than at any time since Reconstruction. Even so, New Deal legislation and policies continued to allow considerable discrimination. During the mid-thirties, the NAACP launched a legal campaign against inequalities in public education. By 1936, the majority of black voters had abandoned their historic allegiance to the Republican Party and joined with labor unions, farmers, progressives, and ethnic minorities in assuring President Roosevelt’s landslide re-election. The election played a significant role in shifting the balance of power in the Democratic Party from its Southern block of white conservatives towards this new coalition.

In addition, the fight continues today…

EAJM

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America is in a quandary…#182

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America 1950

America is in a quandary! I was born and raised in the South, moving from the country to the town of Decatur, Alabama when I was twelve-years-old. I move to Wisconsin in 1966, America was still in turmoil.

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My thoughts recently have been on the 1950’s growing up as a teenager in Decatur, going to Decatur High School. My mind focusing on those seventy years ago is still clear, and the atrocities that are going on today, the times are being recreated.

Of course today’s mayhem dates back to March 3, 1991. Rodney King faced police brutality. This skyrocket police brutality, a scandal that most Americans condemned, police forces grew and evolved. In the 1950s, the police were looked on both favorably and unfavorably by various segments of the population.

Police brutality as a societal issue dates all the way back to the Industrial Revolution in the 1870s when law enforcement would physically harm workers that went on strike. The consequences of police brutality on the public are much less than the actual victim. However, damages to the public are harder to fix since the population is too large to talk to one-on-one.

Throughout the years, police brutality can be associated with racial profiling. Differences in race, religion, politics, sometimes exist between police and American citizens. Some police officers may view them as generally deserving punishment.

However, there are “GOOD” police officers in America and these police officers enjoyed wide support. It did in 1950 and it does today in 2020. In America in 1950, there was good faith in all levels of government. Nevertheless, we were pummeled with Vietnam, Watergate and other events helped erode their trust. Generally, citizens in the suburbs and middle- or upper-class white citizens in the cities regarded the police favorably.

However, the 1950s also saw great conflict. Communities strongly resented the police in the 1950s. In the South, citizens resented police for their physical brutality and abuse of power. They also mistrusted the police as a protective institution. In the 1950s, In Decatur, Alabama, my “home town”, police forces were mostly white and male.  In certain ways, the police were regarded as more powerful in the 1950s and 1960’s.

I am not proud to be a Southerner in those days; I was a “kid” and many things I did not understand. The things that I did understand were mind blowing. I grew to know that my mother was a racist, so was my older sister though behind a mask of lies. My daddy was never a racist and knew discrimination first hand, as have I, he always spoke the truth. They are no longer with us, and I still grieve for them, loving them as they were, was my only way to survive. However, I am proud that I was raised by my daddy and bought up in the Native American traditions of my daddy’s people.

What is going on today in America…I am ashamed of the entire country, I pray that it finds its way back.

However, other than the first hand knowledge about government control and family…all of this is just my opinion!

EAJM

 

 

Betraying Native Americans…#179

 

4.MAKA-Earth Family
Acrylic Artwork by Elizabeth Ann Johnson-Murphree

 

It appears that the Trump administration has revoked a tribe’s reservation status, in a grab power for land. This news is not new, but worthy a post. The administration has used discretionary powers to attempt to take lands away from Native Americans. I believe the decision is cruel and unnecessary, and many tribes are dealing with the Virus within their sovereign lands.

One major thing that comes to mind is the one-billion-resort casino. I can very easily see our President attempting to buy it from the government. These people are being blindsided. The federal court decided to remove the special land designations bestowed in 2015 under President Barack Obama.

The very bad news is that Native Americans own no land. Reservations are Federal lands, and the Federal government legally owns the land. American Indians living on Indian reservations cannot take mortgages out on their homes, because banks know that American Indians don’t own the land; the Federal government does.

The American tribes lost their lands due to being out matched by better armed Europeans who had black powder guns and cannons, steel armor and swords, which made them very hard to take down with the weapons the natives were used for fighting. The Americans stole the land from the Native Americans, just as the Native Americans stole the land from those before them.

The decision is the latest concerning sign that the Trump administration is willing to use its discretionary powers to attempt to take lands away from tribes. Joe Biden has posted a protest about the move. All year these power grabs have been going on, from East to West coast.

A Judge has blocks Trump from giving Virus relief for Native American communities to corporations. The Trump plan “betrays” congressional intent and tribal nations.” They were eligible for $8 billion in funding allocated by Congress; the Tribes believe that there will be other attempts to direct these funds away.

Have we forgotten the Native Americans?

However, that is just my opinion!

 

EAJM

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Quarantined with My Thoughts…#171

Adam-and-Eve_0
The first people (Adam and Eve) were from Africa, then why do we portray them as white?

I am not religious, I do not believe in organized religion, yet I am spiritual in every way. I believe in live and let live to one’s own individual beliefs. When being “shut-in” it does make one give thoughts to many subjects, today; I decided to start in the beginning.
The age of Earth has been debated, changed and debated again, but it is said that it is about 4.54 billion years old give or take a few years. I make these statements on no authority, no formal scientific education, i.e., just my love of research and my opinion. Coincidentally, this number is supposed to be the same age as the rest of the planets in the Solar System, as well as the Sun. This does give thought to a plan of creation, does it not?
There are changes continually, Earth’s ever-changing crust, as well as the rocks in Earth’s neighbors, such as the moon and visiting meteorites. The oldest rocks on Earth found to date are in Canada, which are 4.03 billion years old. However, rocks older than 3.5 billion years can be found on all continents. Greenland and Swaziland, Africa are 3.4 billion to 3.5 billion years. Samples in Australia, Quebec, run 3.4 billion to 3.6 billion years old, and the Universe itself is said to be over 13 billion years old. Just a few scientific facts!
This brings me to the Biblical age of Earth. The Bible never declares an age for the Earth, but evidence derived from the text fits most comfortably with a date approximately 6,000. Nevertheless, dinosaurs have been found with stomach contents preserved. Such preservation, by the way, indicates they were buried so rapidly that the normal decay process could not affect them. I do not know whether dinosaurs ate humans–they just have never found one that had a human as its last meal. However, there are records and artwork depicting dragons, which look a lot like what we call dinosaurs.
The spiritual side of me believes in a God, the Great Mystery and that he did create earth, it may have taken billions of years, as I do not believe the six-day theory. I also believe that much of the Bible was written to control the masses; there needed to be rule, ancient politicians so to speak, even if much of it was scare tactics. The Flood, possible, a destructive global event that reshaped the earth’s surface. I have to believe this is possible, look at how one pandemic can be destructive in today’s world. Science shows us that all males and females shared a single ancestor in Africa roughly 125,000 to 156,000 years ago.
Many of these things I can believe, but I do have a burning question…What is God’s purpose for the earth and for humankind?
It’s just my opinion!
EAJM

mom

What is it to Grow Old…#160

Watching the body lose its shape, the eyes no

longer sparkle, becoming smaller.  Strength

disappears, limbs grow stiff, and every

function less accurate and every fiber of

one’s being frail and overwrought with life.

 

Life is not what in our youth we dreamed

it would be! The aging was not to be mellow

and soft as the sunsets glow, these golden

days’ decline with a hurried speed.

 

To see the world from a pinnacle with creative

eyes, a heart deeply moved. Yet we mourn to

feel and see the past, the years that are gone

forever.

 

Being old is to spend long days not once

believing that we were ever young. Confined

in the cold prison of living day to day with

weary pain.  It is to suffer, being only half

of what we use to be; feeble are many who

are hidden away. Remembrance gone, no

emotion, no life.

 

This is the last stage of life, frozen within

ourselves, soon to be an empty ghost; whom

do we blame?

 

 

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Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 3 – #151

Generations of Secrets and Lies
by
Elizabeth Ann Johnson-Murphree
Part 3
Story told by Great Grandmother-Mary Jane Overton – “Ma”
    “My grandparents and those of my mother had been friends since their childhood years; they shared the same nightly fire on the trail that seems to have no end. They spoke often among themselves about what was happening in the strange land they were being taken too”. Ma swore many times that she would never be the captive of any white man.
Around many fires were Indian tribes from all of the Five Civilized Tribes, the greatest numbers being the Cherokee. Proud spirits of once great tribes were now faltering under degrading conditions. Soon, they had arrived in Arkansas; Sipsee would hear her mother speak about what was going to happen to them. Many people were contracting diseases that had no cure and the weather was becoming frigid, clothing worn was inadequate for the time of year and many elders’, young children and babies had already died.
The younger men talked of escaping. It was Hawk’s decision to be among those who would attempt return to their homeland in Alabama. The warriors, the men, their wives and children would escape. Hawk set with his family and the family of Sipsee around the fire on what would be their last night. He revealed to his family that he would leave after everyone had bedded down for the night, his mother feared for his life, yet his father understood of what his young son had to do.
“Being dead had to be better than living like animals herded into circles with soldiers guarding them”. Hawk said leaning close toward the families.

 

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In secret, he had sought out Sipsee and questioned her about her feelings for him. It was too late for courting rituals, or for Sipsee to be prepared by her mother to become a part of Hawks soul. The giving of gifts and of the special blessings of the elders would not take place.
Earlier when Fosee found Sipsee her thoughts was the same as his; he spoke to Sipsee’s father immediately. He wanted Sipsee to return to the homelands with him; both families agreed they should be together. Without ceremony, Sipsee and Hawk’s father blessed the merging of hearts. During the night when the fires were low, when the soldier were sleeping except for a few guards, a small band of men, women and children in the darkness of a moonless sky slipped away. They would never know if their families had paid for their freedom with their own lives.
A few families stayed together, many others ventured off to find their own place, maybe a new land. Hawk and Sipsee were among those going into Alabama. They hid among the tall bushes they passed along their way through the woods, always staying away from the open fields if possible. Finally, they made their home deep within the forest on the eastern edge of Alabama; living among a few Indians who was not forced to leave because of their decisions to live white gave them privilege to stay. Hawk and other warriors decided they must conform to some ways to remain free but in their hearts, the hate for the white people grew stronger.

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They built log cabins and were soon moving freely among the white settlers without consequence. Sipsee learn the English language from a nearby settler who hired her to clean and wash their clothes. Hawk learn the language from Sipsee but refused to speak it unless necessary to talk to a white person. Sipsee knew that times were changing and had the foresight to know it would become a white man’s world. Hawk did not approve of many things she would say, he would only look at her and try to keep his own dreams of the future alive within his spirit.

 

 

Author’s Note:
This facts of this story has two aspects, one is the presumed facts written from the annals of history; and second by the verbal history confident from the memory of Mary Jane Overton, proud Chickasaw.

Author’s Note: To be continued in Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 4

©2020.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

 

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Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 1…#149

Author’s Note:
This facts of this story has two aspects, one is the presumed facts written from the annals of history; and second by the confident oral history from the memory of Mary Jane Overton, a proud Chickasaw.
The Indian Removal Act of 1830 marks a dark time in American history regarding the new country’s relationship with the Native American population. It first called for the “voluntary” relocation to lands west, then the “forcible removal of all Indians”. The outcome would be that they would reside in the eastern United States to the state of Oklahoma.
May 1838 was set as the voluntary removal date, but many Cherokees remained and did not voluntarily move; many of them resided in my home state of Alabama. Eight years later, Major General Winfield Scott was ordered to round-up and remove the remaining Indians. This forcible removal came to be called the “Trail of Tears”. During those eight years, 46,000 Native Americans were forced to leave their homes in southeastern states.
Many sites in Alabama factored into the removal on the Trail of Tears. Five known routes crossed north Alabama taking many from their homeland on foot, by boat and train through towns like Guntersville, Tuscumbia, my home town of Decatur, Huntsville and Waterloo.
The Trail of Tears is roughly 2,300 miles long and passes through nine states over land and water. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Many people were either murdered or relocated with very few hiding in remote locations like Bucks Pocket, Little River Canyon, the mountains, and around the Tennessee River.
Many died from exposure, disease, and starvation on their route to Oklahoma. On this forced march were my great-great grandparents. It is estimated that 4,000 Chickasaw, including any of their black slaves as well as lower class white citizens were in this movement. The Trail of Tears is one of the worst tragedies in American History.

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The Native American culture is known for its rich oral tradition – instead of using a written language to document their history, these indigenous people simply relied on their verbal language to share their history, customs, rituals, and legends through vivid narratives.
This oral accounting told to me beginning at the age of about six-years-old until my great grandmother died when I was a teenager.

Generations of Secrets and Lies
Part 1
Mary Jane Overton – “Ma”

     “Fosee, my father belonged to the Mississippi Over-Towne Tribe. In his youth, the        Tribe tried to continue their peaceful life without contact with the white man’s world.   Fosee knew that he was a descendant of many generations of Warriors. Born in a round Birch bark roofed dwelling that stood on the edge of the Chickasaw Tribes town. His parents gave their only child the name Fosee, which meant Bird. His younger days were spent hunting small animals and playing Chukka Ball in the open yard centered in the middle of his peoples circled dwellings”. Ma said in her firm no nonsense tone.
Fosse’s father a name that Ma could not remember held a place of prominence in the tribe. It was said that he was a powerful Warrior and skilled hunter, his wife; Fosse’s mother, again no known name, was said to be the most beautiful woman in the Tribe, her beauty came from Cherokee ancestors, and she was of mixed blood, Chickasaw and Cherokee. Her beauty and gentle nature were the reasons Fosse’s father had chosen her to be his wife.
“My father told me that his father remembered all of the grandparents. However, it was on his father’s side, the grandfather he remembered the most and with clarity. He remembered his elegant clothes made of the softened skins of deer. The colorful decorations sewn upon the breast of his shirts by his grandmother were elegant and of the best beads. His grandfathers white hair flowed about his shoulders and his skin engraved with the scars of many wars from his younger days”. Ma stopped for a moment staring at something no one else could see.
This grandfather Fosse’s favorite looked like nobility. It was said that he would listen intently to the stories this grandfather told around the cooking fires and see the softness in his eyes when he detailed of the loss of family and friends in battles. Within a few short years, after the birth of Fosee all four of his close grandparents had succumb to a disease brought into the town by a white man.

 

Author’s Note: To be continued in Generations of Secrets and Lies – Part 2