W.Va. should apologize for past role in slavery

OPINION | Friday, March, 16, 2007

There was a news story recently from the Virginia General Assembly expressing
"profound regret" for the state’s role in slavery. The announcement
was made in Richmond, Va., at the former Confederate Capitol.

Since West Virginia was part of the state of Virginia, should our state also
make the same apology?

While researching my family history at the Mason county Courthouse, I have learned
a great deal about our county’s role in slavery.

Indeed, slavery was very much a part of Mason County, Virginia. Throughout
the early deeds in Mason County, slavery is recorded. In Will Book 1-A, the
following slaves were listed: "Martin, Harriett, Wenny Ann and Tom and
the future increase of said females, I also leave and bequeath to my family
two horses, milk cows, bridles, hogs, sheep, wagons, ploughs, household and
kitchen furniture."

In a chancery record in the Circuit Court, several slaves were brought back
to the Mason County Courthouse to be resold on an auction-block after an estate
dispute. Slave sales were listed in several courthouse documents. The value
was listed according to age and whether the slaves were male or female.

The Mason County census listed the owners of slaves prior to 1870. In 1860,
two slaves were listed as domestic servants — by only a first name.

Many family cemeteries in the county have "slave graves" that have
no markers.

It is evident all citizens in Mason County didn’t approve of slavery. Prominent
citizens played an important part in the Underground Railroad. It is believed
a house that still stands in Hartford was one of those safe havens.

Many narratives and autobiographies were published in the U. S. and Great Britain
after the Civil War and when the slaves were given their freedom.

I am writing to our representatives at the West Virginia Legislature requesting
that our state follow the example of the Virginia General Assembly. I hope the
readers will do so also.

Copyright ©2007 Herald-Dispatch.com

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