(Part 1): My DNA maternal haplogroup is straight out of Africa. That means my mother’s, mother’s, mother’s, (etc) was born in West Africa and sold to Portugese or Spanish Slave traders as a young girl or woman. She may have been on that ship in August, 1619 that arrived in Hampton, Virginia with “20 and odd negroes”, the first Africans to arrive to America and be enslaved immediately. I may never know her identity, but she was born sometime between 1600-1780 and she had an American daughter that only knew this place and only whispers of the Old World, if at all. She knew only crops of tobacco and corn. She knew what long days felt like in blistering summer heat. She knew short cold nights of hard sleep awaken by the morning call to work.
(Part 2): In 1797 My 5x Great Grandmother, Jane Tuck, was born in the Shenandoah Valley in far western Virginia. The county she was born in was known for breeding slaves. There were very few slaves needed in the community(usually seven slaves for very large farms), most residents didn’t own any. To make extra money, slaves were “bred”, like horses. Usually, the “products of breeding” would be sold further East, where the rich tobacco plantations were. Jane was owned by The Kennedys, a prominent Scotch Irish Family in the County. They were probably the So called breeders, who kept her in the family for themselves.
(Part 3): By, 1816, at 19 years old, she had a Black child named Sampson. His father is unknown. Four years later, Anthony Tuck, 55 year old white farmer in the neighborhood saw Jane and had to have her. He had never owned slaves before and didn’t have the money to buy her. The opportunity presented itself when his common law wife, Susan’s, grandmother died and left her an inheritance in an Eastern Virginia County. He offered to pick it up for her, acquired the funds and used them to buy Jane and her baby for $300 and a few barrels of whiskey.
(Part 4): A year after he purchased her, Jane was pregnant with his child. He continued to have four more children with her over the next eighteen years. Susan, Anthony’s common law wife, threatened to leave him if he didn’t “put that Black Woman out!” He did for a time being, she stayed with white friends in town. Eventually he brought her home again and Susan moved out. Everyone in town knew and rumored about this scandal. Despite it being a deeply religious community, they all knew Jane and the children as Anthony’s “Black Family”.
(Part 5): In 1837, Anthony died. Anthony drafted several wills that strategically cut out all of his White family and freed his Black Family. He willed all his real and personal property to Jane and their children to finance their move to a Free State. Susan took Jane and the executor of his will to court. She claimed she was Anthony’s legal wife and deserved everything. She wanted Jane and the children sold and all the money from the sale. It was disclosed Anthony was an alcoholic that beat Susan. He was actually born Anthony Seals, not Tuck, in a “far eastern county” and shortly before intending to marry Susan, they ran off for some reason to the western community they lived in at the time of his acquisition of Jane. His parents and siblings followed later and testified this in court. Susan couldn’t prove a marriage and lost.
(Part 6):Jane and the children moved to Ohio by 1850 living on a farm she owned and operated near the Ohio River. By the time of the Civil War, Jane’s three oldest sons were U.S. Colored Troops in the Union Army. Her only daughter, my descendant, married the son of a popular Underground Railroad conductor of Southern Ohio and was a socialite, home owner, operatic singer and florist . Her granddaughter, my 3x Great Grandmother, was one of the first Black school teachers of Portsmouth, Ohio. In order to make this the great nation it deserves to be, we must deal with the horrors of enslavement of Black Americans.
(Part 7): Acknowledging slavery is not about shaming White Americans. It is about being honest that these are the roots of our nation. America, like many nations, was built on the broken backs of its Black citizen’s ancestors. It’s just a fact. No longer can we softly gloss over history and handpick the parts that are aesthetically pleasing. That supports a national lie and, frankly, makes me feel unequal and unjustly so. Especially when those before me have so much of the privileges we, as Americans, enjoy TODAY. Jane suffered greatly, this is not a love story, and then she was PAID OFF with freedom. And she was lucky. Think about how many other enslaved women were surviving the same horrors across America and were not freed, who died hoping their daughters wouldn’t suffer that same fate. America we must deal with the truth behind who and what we were and ARE!
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