MY FAMILY TREE

I am going to diverge from what I normally write in this section of my website; because, during the past few weeks my conscience, literally my entire being, has been turned upside down.

Some months ago, I began researching my ancestry.  I was surprised to discover that some of my ancestors actually came over on the Mayflower in 1620, and others on subsequent voyages in the years immediately following.  Some of my ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War, and in the Civil War - some for the Union and some for the Confederacy.  Some of my ancestors came over as indentured Servants (someone here paid for their passage over, then they worked as unpaid servants for that person until they paid off the price of their passage).  There were even some that came to this country from Canada when the French Huguenots were expelled from Canada.

But then, a few weeks ago, I started working on my wife's side of the family.  Her father's kin are from the Montana area.  But most of her mother's side of the family is from the Clarksville area in Arkansas.  They trace back to Tennessee, North Carolina and Maryland.  In the process of tracking her ancestors, I used census figures from the 1700's and 1800's.  To my dismay, I discovered that on those census reports were listed not only the names of the residents (mother, father, with their names and ages; and children with their ages); but in addition to that were the number of slaves they owned.  I found six or eight families in my wife's line that were slave owners, owning anywhere from four to fifteen slaves.  The slaves were not named - only the number they owned.

That was a jaw-dropping experience for me.  Suddenly slavery was not just something I knew about from history; but here it was in our own family.  The census report simply stated, "Number of negro slaves owned."  They were property, not people.  Then I recalled, from history, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as "The Dread Scott Decision."  The Court ruled that "negros" were not people, and therefore were not covered by any of the guarantees of the Constitution.  How could anyone even dream up such a ruling?s

There were two major sources of authority on which people based their support for slavery, and the slave trade.  The first was the Bible.  They claimed that Noah sinned (Genesis 9:20-29), and, as a result cursed his son Ham; the result of which was that his descendants were turned black, and prophesied to be servants forever.

Before answering that stupid interpretation, let me ask you a question: What color were Adam and Eve?  Most people would say that there is no way of knowing.  But there is!  We know exactly what color they were.  They were brown!  They had to be mid-shade brown in order to produce all of the shades of brown skin in the world today.  All of the shades of brown?  That's right.  If you take a piece of white paper and put it alongside the face of the fairest skinned Caucasian you can find, they will not be white.  They are a very, very light shade of brown.  Take a black piece of paper and put it alongside the face of the darkest skinned person you can find, and their skin will not be black; but a very dark shade of brown.

With that being said, let me go back to "The Curse of Ham."  If you read what happened in Genesis chapter 9, you will quickly discover that it was not Ham that was cursed, but Ham's son Canaan.  The Canaanites migrated to the land of Canaan - known today as Israel.  And if you follow the story through the Old Testament, you will discover that most of the Canaanites were killed in battle with the Israelites when they came out of Egypt and took control of the Holy Land.  The ones that were not killed, became their servants.  Even up to the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, some 400 years before the time of Christ, a remnant of the Canaanites were still among the Jews, and serving them.  There are no Canaanites today.  They are extinct.  "The Curse of Ham" has been fulfilled.  It is no more!  But I still hear some people bring it up from time to time.

The second authority which people used to support slavery was "The Theory of Evolution."  The Theory of Evolution taught that there were five distinct races of humans on the earth; and that the white race was by far the most developed and intelligent.  Even though The Theory of Evolution has never been proved, its purpose was to show that the Bible account of creation was not true.  Over the years, however, it bcame the basis for slavery, and for discrimination against the Jews, and various other ethnic groups.  Evolution even taught that the blood of each of the five groups of humans was distinct, and could not be mingled.  That, despite the Bible teaching that God, "hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth" (Acts 17:16).

Even at the time of the Scopes Trial in 1925, where the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the teaching of evolution in public schools; evolution was still teaching that there were five distinct races of humans, and that the white race had risen to the highest level on the evolutionary scale.  And, by-the-way, that continued to be the teaching of evolution up to the time of the Second World War.  That's not all that long ago!

As my mind drifted over what I had discovered in our background, I wondered what kind of slave owners my wife's ancestors had been.  We know that 90% of American slave owners were white; 7% were native Americans; and 3% were free, black landowners.  But, how did they treat their slaves?  Some were ruthless and brutal.  We know that from history.  Some were much more kind, trying to keep their investment in good health.  But most bought and sold slaves; splitting up families; selling off children, and even separating husbands and wives - they were simply property.

I am aware of one slave owner who went far beyond being kind.  It was George Wasington, our first president.  George Washington was against slavery, and actually formed an anti-slavery organization in Virginia.  Washington never bought a slave; but he inherited some.  The reality of the time was, that had he set them free, the laws of the state would have immediately re-enslaved them.  Washington never bought a slave, and he never sold one.  He refused to split up families.  Washington built a church on his proplery, which also served as a school.  He hired a pastor and teacher to educate all of the children, and any adults who wished; and many did.  The number of slaves on his property grew to more than 300, and nearly bankrupted him.  But he refused to sell any of them.  All were born on his proplery, and he knew them all by name.  He provided nice houses for them, and provided them with land on which to grow their own food.

I could wish and hope that those slave owners in our ancestry were as kind to their slaves; but I am well aware that there is little chance of that.  I cannot understand how anyone could look into the faces of these people and conclude that they were not people.

I have been so upset over my discovery these past weeks that I just simply had to get it out; and this is my way of doing that.
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