By Andrea Price
Connecting to my genealogical past is a journey I started in 2006 while pregnant with my first child. I wanted my children and future generations to know their personal genealogy. Since then, I’ve written narratives, prepared scrapbooks, and donated my family stories to a genealogical repository so others will have access to this information.
In 1758, my 5th great-grandmother, Susan Tucker, was born and enslaved in Maryland. She gave birth to Sarah Tucker, my 4th great-grandmother, who was taken from Maryland to Kentucky where I. Tucker enslaved her. Sarah’s daughter Minerva was taken from Kentucky to Arkansas in 1855 by R. Tucker and was forced to endure the harshness of chattel slavery in the blistering heat of Southeast Arkansas. Many of Minerva’s descendants still reside in Arkansas, not far from where she was enslaved.
The severity of the conditions on the R. Tucker plantation were described by Julia Fortenberry who stated in a slave narrative that she lived in a one room log cabin with dirt or plank floors and the adult slaves fear(ed) the beatings and whippings administered by “pateroles” (patrollers), the gangs of white field hands and thug citizenry charged with handing out punishment to slaves. My 3rd and 2nd great-grandmothers, Minerva and Henrietta, survived these deplorable conditions on the R. Tucker plantation.
The same R. Tucker who forced his slaves to live in these conditions was a Methodist Episcopal minister. Oh, the irony! In 1844, a split occurred in the Methodist Episcopal Church over the issue of slavery. At a conference in Louisville, Kentucky, those siding with the institution of slavery formed the Methodist Episcopal-South, which advocated fervently on behalf of enslavement and slave owners. R.Tucker became an active member and minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church-South, and would remain with the Church until his death in 1875.
Ten years before R. Tucker’s death, the Civil War ended. This represented a loss for the Confederacy, but unfortunately, the ideology of the Confederacy is still a mutated gene in the DNA of America. Rather than deal with the policy change in America, R. Tucker packed his bags and moved to Brazil where slavery was still legal (slavery in Brazil wasn’t abolished until 1888). He was a part of over an estimated 20,000 supporters of the Confederacy who fled the United States and moved to Brazil.
These Confederates (known as “Confederados” to the Portuguese speaking Brazilians) left because the then the ruler of Brazil, Emperor Dom Pedro II, encouraged Americans to move to Brazil where the Emperor hoped to increase the cultivation of cotton. The Brazilian Emperor offered government subsidies on the transport of cotton to Brazil, cheap land and tax breaks to the immigrants.
The Methodist Episcopal Church-South described Tucker’s migration to Brazil as “seeking a location for a colony of Christian people.” R. Tucker’s personal letters tell a different story. He was there to make money via slavery. In his personal narratives he stated, “There is the greatest opening here for making money I have ever seen in any country… The Negroes in the city carry on their heads often 200 lbs. and go in a trot and sing all the time. They are the largest, and stoutest, both men and women, that I ever saw, and the finest forms I ever beheld. They can be brought at a very fair price, say $300 to $600.” Clearly he was there to “colonize”, but not in the name of Christianity, but rather capitalism. His stint in Brazil only lasted a year because he became ill and had to return to the United States.
The convolution of Christianity and the Confederacy is mind-boggling. Preaching Jesus while supporting oppression and chattel slavery is incomprehensible. Leaving your home country to continue holding on to a heritage of denying others the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is reprehensible. This is a part of the legacy of R. Tucker and many other supporters of chattel slavery.
Almost 150 years after R. Tucker made his trek to Brazil, the fight for human rights, racial equity and respect for Black lives wages on. Many modern supporters of the Confederacy ascribe to the same ideology and theology of R. Tucker. While times have changed, the pervasiveness of R. Tucker’s ideologies is still evident in rhetoric and policies in America.
Those who still proudly support the Confederacy and unapologetically wave the confederate flag are the antithesis of my “suthun” pride and heritage! I know more about my Southern heritage than many of the people who claim the South as their own. All I have found in my ancestry are stories of love and perseverance. The Southern heritage rhetoric used in our modern context does not represent anything I find prideful, and for me, R. Tucker represents the hypocrisy of heritage. He represented a system that continues to leave it’s nasty residue, a system whose theological underpinning supported both oppression and the cross, a system that is opposite to my belief in the basic principle of love. There were no moral underpinnings to the Southern heritage that enslaved my ancestors, a heritage many say they are proud of. How can I be proud of this heritage when I know what my ancestors endured and overcame while enslaved by R. Tucker? Oh, the hypocrisy of Southern “heritage”.
What I am proud of is the legacy of love that represents my family heritage. This legacy runs through my DNA. Love, this necessity, is what can lead us to a more equitable society. Love won’t allow us to spew evil rhetoric. Love won’t allow us to love an inanimate object like a flag more than we love others. Love won’t allow us to ignore the humanity in others. Love won’t allow us to be proud when others are subjected to pain. Love won’t allow us to remain silent when we can be the voice for someone else. Love. Love. Love. As simple as it may be, it’s too often rejected. It is my hope to continue the heritage of love that I inherited. Now that’s something I can be proud of.
This post is dedicated to Susan Tucker, Sarah Tucker, Minerva (Tucker) Cash. Henrietta (Cash) Smith, Calvin Smith, Calvin “Bud” Smith and Sarah Smith.