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Local brings stories to national meeting

I am taking stories of when slavery met Union Army freedom in the Mississippi valley during the Freedom Summer of 1863 to Little Rock, Ark., to present at the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program’s Underground Railroad Conference.

This year’s theme concentrates on enslaved persons who self-emancipated, ran away from their places of enslavement to freedom wherever the Union Army occupied territory in the Southern Confederacy.

Also, they escaped to freedom in Union contraband camps wherever they existed. Others escaped to freedom in many other locations, or hid out until they could escape to freedom during the Civil War.

Since the Underground Railroad historically has been perceived as enslaved persons escaping to freedom to the North, Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean, some even to Europe, I will present six stories of enslaved persons/families escaping to freedom during the Union presence and occupation in the Mississippi Valley from Memphis to Natchez.

The scripted stories are taken from my “Black and Blue” Civil War living history events and written by me based upon factual reports and records.

My scripts for presentation include:

4Laura Haviland who visited the Union forces at Memphis and recorded in her book that she met runaway enslaved persons who told her their owner had tried to “whip the Yankee” out of them;

4Burl Lewis who escaped from Brown’s Sawmill in Natchez and enlisted in the U.S. 58th Colored Infantry at the site of the Forks of the Road slave market occupied by the Union Army;

4The Reed family escaped from their enslaver in Jefferson County to Natchez and the husband Daniel Reed and his brother enrolled in the Union Army at the Forks of the Road;

4Daniel Timms and family escaped from their enslaver in Jefferson County and with slave catching dogs after them, took from Sunday to Sunday to get to Natchez contraband camp at Natchez Under the Hill. Daniel enrolled in the 64th U.S. Colored Troops and saw action at Davis Bend (the contraband camp on Jefferson Davis’ plantation near Vicksburg;

4Enslaved person Ann Stokes who jumped in the Yazoo River on Jan. 1, 1863 and swim out to a Union Navy gunboat. She enrolled in the Navy as a nurse and is said to have been the first female to do so, she served on the U.S. Red Rover hospital ship of the Mississippi squadron;

4Lastly, Wilson Brown, who jumped in the Mississippi River just below Natchez, swam out to a Union Navy gunboat, was taken to Sandy Hook, N.J., and enrolled in the Navy. He later was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor for his heroic actions on the U.S. Hartford ship in the Battle of Mobile Bay.

These are the kind of living history stories we bring alive and present in our annual “Black and Blue” Civil War living history events. On Oct. 26, our event at Historic Jefferson College just east of Natchez on U.S. 61 North, will be commemorating the Freedom Summer of 1863, Frederick Douglass from Kentucky will be our main presentation on the roles and impact of African descent people on the Civil War.


Ser Seshsh Ab Heter-C.M. Boxley