During Black History month, 2019, I began to do some family research, beginning with a copy of a letter I received a number of years ago from my Aunt Bonnie. The letter was written by my Grandmother Addie Mae Freeman (Adams) to her daughter Bonnie. My Aunt Bonnie was the second born in my father’s family and she passed away in Oct/Nov 2003, about 18 months after my father.
My father was the oldest of 8 children. Aunt Bonnie (Beulah, birth name) knew I was interested in family history. I was very close to her and would call her several times during the year just to chat. The time durning Bonnie’s life, we didn’t have the resources we have today to search family history. Within that letter, she outlined family history, who came from where.
Staring January 26, 2023, There will be a six-part 1619 documentary series shown on Hulu.
There was a lot of controversy concerning The NY Times publication of that story. I never read it because I didn’t want it to taint my own research because of a letter my paternal grandmother wrote to her daughter, my aunt Bonnie (1980s), to which my aunt sent a copy to me.
This is a photo of my family in 1963. You might understand why my siblings referred to me as the “white sheep” of the family. My blonde curly – not kinky hair, blue eyes, and fair (tan) skin showed no hint of my black heritage. In fact when I told my doctor, he stated “ you show no trace of your black background. Let’s do a sickle cell test on you. “. I replied “No, there is no need to do that test.” I was 65 at the time and if I had that condition it would have showed up years ago. Anyway I digress.
I will start off this story with two sentences from my grandmother’s letter
Here I go with Part 1
These are two sentences in my grandmother’s letter that “blew me out of the water.”
- My grandmother (Addie Mae’s grandmother) was from Africa, and she was a breeder. I think all of you know what that means.
- Grandma was Juliann, Grandpa Monroe Cade was born to the plantation owner’s daughter. I saw him once or twice. He lived to be almost 100.
“Everyone had their own home. Uncle Monroe and Uncle Dave had vast holdings of farmland. They were prosperous farmers. They all had an education and were intelligent. They did not put on airs they were very plain honest people.
Get this book and read all. I don’t belong to that class of Blacks, This was before my time.”
The “book” my grandmother was referring to was “The Feast of All Saints” by Ann Rice. I purchased the book and the DVD. The book is a historical fiction of the “gens de couleur libres; Free People of Color” in Louisiana, especially in New Orleans. The story is centered around Marcel whose father is white and mother is half white and half black. BTW, my grandmother was from Abbeville, about 40 miles south of Lafayette, LA
Upon doing further research, I came up with the question, “was my great-great grandfather, Monroe Cade the offspring of a sexual union with between a black slave and the The Cade Plantation (South of Abbeville) owner’s daughter.” With this knowledge I started to conduct research based upon the statement #2. Researching question #2, confirmed my grandmother’s statement #1.
If you read the book or saw the HBO movie, “The Feast of All Saints” there is a mention of black slave owners, which led me to ask the question “Did free people of color own slaves?” The answer is a resounding yes. Black plantation owners did in fact own black slaves. This is the part of history you never read or learn about in school.
To be continued in Part 2, Part 2, and Part 4.
Instead of rewriting Parts 2, 3, and four as separate pages I will direct you to the three pages and photo slides that make up my four day travels on the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Part 2 (Abbeville and the travel to the Cade Plantation)
Part 3 (Travel to Natchez, MS)
Part 4 (Natches, MS, Center for slave traders in the area)
Part Five (Finding Monroe Cade, The move to Generational Slavery)