In elementary school, I learned about slavery. It was sugar-coated content. It wasn’t until the age of 15, when Roots (from 1977) was being rebroadcast on TBS that I actually learned of the true atrocities of this practice. Thank you, Alex Haley!
Thirty-four years later, knowing even more of the brutal nature of slavery, I still felt completely gobsmacked after coming face to face with the physical evidence of my ancestry.
On an 1844 inventory list of property belonging to the Estate of Josiah Askew II (previously referred to as Josiah Askew, Jr.), now deceased, are the names of my 3rd-great-grandmother, 2nd-great-grandfather, and 3rd-great-uncle.
One negro woman Lida value at $250.00
One negro Boy George value at $450.00
One negro Boy Jack value at $400.00
Seeing a value assessed to my ancestors along with farm animals and household furnishings caused the air to leave my lungs. It became so real to me that my eyes filled up with tears. What must the assessment process have been like for them? Were they stripped naked and embarrassingly examined? Did the assessor(s) look in their mouths, and into every bodily orifice? My mind was racing. The only thing that gave me comfort (as if there’s anything to find comforting in this) is that they were still together.
In a previous post titled A Second Look, I reexamined the 1860 United States Federal Census – Slave Schedule for Henry County, Georgia. Josiah II’s widow, Nancy Askew, was the owner of Lida, George, Jack, (previously referred to as Jackson) and two other slaves -a three-year old, male I believe to be George’s son, James, and a 16-year-old female that I have yet to identify.
Nancy Askew died on 2 July 1860 less than 30 days after the enumeration. What happened to Lida, George, and Jack after Nancy’s death?
I found the heartbreaking answer just a few days ago. On 5 January 1864, Jack and George were sold by the Estate of Josiah Askew II. Jack was sold to John Bowden for $3920 and George was sold to H.J. Maddox for $3100. As I imagined my 2nd-great-grandfather, and 3rd-great uncle standing on an auction block in front of the McDonough Courthouse on a frigid Tuesday morning in January, I cried. They were about to be separated, and I could no longer say to myself, “At least they had each other.”
I have even more questions now. What happened to Lida? Was she deceased by this time? What events led to George and Jack being sold? What were their life experiences between 1860 and 1864?
If only the dead could speak.