As I continue making my way through the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection while it’s here through March 4, I come across a letter written in1854. Reading through it I’m extremely appalled and disheartened by its content. The letter details a slave master by the name of AMF Crawford selling off a seventeen year-old girl named Frances he owns to pay for a stable of horses. What’s bad (as this alone is already awful of him taking part in the institution of slavery), he’s taking her away from her family. Even worst, he’s having her hand deliver the instructed letter transferring ownership of her freedom to her new master, unbeknownst to her. All of this and he doesn’t even have any type of courage to tell her this is happening.
Reading the letter literally almost had me in tears as I couldn’t even imagine someone having to go through that – to not even know you’re delivering your freedom to another person as property, never to see your family again. This is all so this slave master can simply pay for horses. This reminds me that when you truly reflect on America’s history, it wasn’t too long ago that this was the “norm” for our society.
Seeing letters such as this one in the exhibit are truly powerful and moving to me. Experiencing this in the Kinsey Collection helps to reiterate the part of our mission of “challenging and inspiring everyone to take courageous steps of freedom today”. It challenges and corrects misconceptions that are often portrayed about history especially pertaining to me being of African descent. Although reading the letter did put me in a bad mood for a good part of my work day, I felt better thinking that hopefully the next person who sees it will also experience similar emotions and will want to take action in seeing atrocities like this never have the chance to happen again.
Public Relations & Social Media Coordinator
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center