Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of Congress’ passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States. On Facebook, several friends posted links to sites featuring “never-before-seen” photographs of formerly enslaved Americans, most taken in the 1930s. As I clicked through these images, struck by the strength and endurance embodied, I had a sudden thought — I’ve got a few photos of former slaves, too. And they’re my own people.
Martha Margaret Miller McNeely. Born about 1855 in Rowan County, North Carolina, to Margaret McConnaughey and Edward Miller. Enslaved by John M. McConnaughey. My matrilineal great-great-grandmother.
Harriet Nicholson Tomlin Hart. Born in 1861 in Iredell County, North Carolina, to Lucinda Cowles and James Lee Nicholson. Enslaved by Thomas A. Nicholson, her grandfather. My maternal great-great-grandmother.
Mary Brown Allen. Born about 1849 in Amelia County, Virginia, to Catherine Booker and James Brown. Owner unknown. Maternal great-great-grandmother.
Apsilla “Appie” Ward Hagans. Born 1849 in Greene County, North Carolina, to Sarah Ward and Dr. David G.W. Ward, her owner. Wife of my great-great-great-great-uncle Napoleon Hagans.
Mittie Ward Vaughn. Born 1849 in Greene County, North Carolina, to Sarah Ward and Dr. David G.W. Ward, her owner. Twin of Appie, above. Mother of son of my great-great-great-great uncle Napoleon Hagans.
In tribute to these and countless others, known and unknown, who walked through this country’s darkest days.