Image from George Geder collection; obituary from Daily Review, Towanda, Bradford county, Pennsylvania

The Age of Slavery 1780-1860; Pt 2

Many Rivers to Cross w/ Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Episode 2 opens with an accounting of the story of Mum Bett, a slave who would challenge the tenets of the constitution and the laws surrounding slavery- and she won her freedom in 1781. Mum Bett, changed her name to Elizabeth Freeman and lived until her mid 80s, passing away on December 28, 1829. See

As some of my genealogy colleagues have done, I searched for an Ancestor, in my database, who may have been a contemporary of Mum Bett and, perhaps, had a similar fate. The closest I could come is my 2nd great grandmother, Mrs. John (Emma) Jeter. However, she wouldn't see freedom until 1865, at an age of about 65.

As we learn about courageous and desperate Africans, we also have to remember and honor those who from birth to death would only know life as slaves. My dear Emma would only experience freedom in her senior years. 10 of her children would be sold away from her and she may have never seen them ever again. If those 10 children survived, there is the possibility of a countless number of cousins for me to connect with.

It took tremendous will for our Ancestors to resist slavery on any level. Some chose the legal system. Some chose religion; others chose rebellion. Margaret Garner chose the extreme measure of removing her children completely from the evil mortal plane of slavery; by killing them. Yet, far many more chose to endure the horrors. My 2nd great grandmother, Emma, did just that.

A poem for Emma

”I Choose To Stay”

From the kitchen I can see the Willows
The warmth
The smell of the sweet cakes in the air

From the stable I can see the pastures
The sunlight
The smell of the junipers in the air

From the veranda I can see the creek
The stream
The bullfrogs jumping in the air

From the slave quarters I can see my children
My husband
The rope hanging in the air.


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