I have been checking out the records of Danbury, Ct. researching a maternal branch of my tree. I found a couple juicy stories, one of which I have posted on this blog.
Earlier this morning, while looking at the same branch, I started down a rabbit hole regarding the Spanish American War and a volunteer army heading down to Cuba. The newspaper articles are too long to transcribe here, but maybe one day I will recount the story.
Back to the Danbury records.
Twice I have seen the birth records of a person before whose name comes the descriptor 'negro'. Here is the record that got me to write today.
I modified this image from something I found on Ancestry - Ancestry.com. Connecticut Town Birth Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.Original data:White, Lorraine Cook, ed. The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records. Vol. 1-55. Baltimore, MD, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994-2002.
And here is the image of the 1790* census with Thomas P. White being the only person on the page who listed an enslaved person. Do we assume that enslaved person is Jenny? And if so, where is her son Benhadaa?
I have started a tree on Ancestry with Benhadaa as the home person and I hope to find more information about him and his mother. I am pretty sure I know how the father fits into my tree, but there are a couple Thomas P.'s, so I need to do more checking. I haven't got the answer yet because I wanted to write this discovery before I finished the research.
Searching the entire Danbury census, I found there were 23 enslaved people in Danbury at the time. And, interestingly, there is a column heading: "All Other Free Persons" and in that column there are 20 people enumerated.
In two cases these free people are living with white families. And we assume this because the families made up of "all other free people" use the descriptor 'negro' after the name is listed. (Here we see an obvious incidence of white privilege.... one is assumed to be white unless you are called out as otherwise....)
In Danbury of 1790
- 2 slaves and 1 Free non-white person is living with John Trobridge
- 1 Free non-white person is living with Samuel H. Phillips
- 5 free people living with a family headed by Cato negro
- 5 free people living with a family headed by Limri negro
- 2 free people living with a family headed by Jubi negro
- 2 free people living with a family headed by Cato negro
Of course I can't be sure I am not making an assumption that the 2 people who are living with white families are not indigenous people. I do, assume, that it is probably pretty safe to assume that they are of either mixed English-African heritage or African heritage.
But of course by this time the American Revolution has been fought and won.
I heard on the radio the other day about a man named Venture Smith. (Here is the wikipedia entry about him.) He was a man who was captured in Guinea, West Africa as a child and bought his freedom and that of his family. He recounted his own autobiography. In the radio story I heard someone suggest wouldn't the world be a much better place if America had ended slavery during the time of the American Revolution rather than allowing the practice to continue another 100 years. More information about Mr. Smith can be found here.
NPR did a story on Thomas Jefferson and his stance on slavery. Essentially the author of a book on Jefferson and Sally Hemings - Annette Gordon-Reed - indicated that Jefferson knew slavery would rip the country apart, but did not take on the task of dismantling it. The podcast is worth the listen. Professor Gordon-Reed is a professor at Harvard Law School.
I said that I had to take my head out of the sand because I can no longer deny that my family owned enslaved people. (In the past I have had to acknowledge that my family benefited from the labor of enslaved people.) Right here is the evidence. And I only recently learned that Abraham Lincoln did not free the enslaved people of the north, only from those states that fought against the north.
As I drafted this post I learned that Prince, a "negro" son born to Ebenzer Russell White died at age 17, so I suspect there are no descendants of his that I can find. But that is two White brothers who conceived sons (raped might be more accurate) with enslaved women.
* image copied from here: Year: 1790; Census Place: Danbury, Fairfield, Connecticut; Series: M637; Roll: 1; Page: 45; Image: 418; Family History Library Film: 0568141