Milam County Historical Commission
Milam County, Texas
All credit for this article goes to
Mike Brown and
the Rockdale Reporter
Editorial - Mike Brown
Black History Month theme has chilling evidence in Ohio museum
Theme for the 2016 Black History Month is “Hallowed Ground: Sites of African-American Memories.”
Elsewhere in The Reporter you can read longtime contributor Susie Sansom-Piper’s recollection of some of those sites in Rockdale.
Our town was founded in 1874, a decade after the end of the Civil War, so it doesn’t have the kind of historic “hallowed” ground that’s on display in a museum in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has on display the only known surviving rural slave pen from the Pre-Civil War South.
It was found on a farm in Mason County, Kentucky. It’s a log, two-story 21-by-30-foot jail. Its use was to house slaves prior to being shipped to auction in either Dover, Kentucky or Natchez, Mississippi, or New Orleans.
Slaves were kept there for a few days, or several months as traders waited for higher prices. Men were kept upstairs, women downstairs.
On the second floor is a row of wrought iron rings in which a central iron chain ran, shackling men on either side.
The pen is situated so visitors to the museum have to walk through it to see exhibits.
Carl Westmoreland, museum curator, has observed people in the slave pen. He says it “has the feeling of hallowed ground,” that when people stand inside it they speak in whispers. Indeed.
“Hallowed” is a tricky word. At its heart it means “sanctified” or “consecrated.” We speak of that feeling in a church or a cemetery.
If “hallowed” isn’t quite the word to describe that abomination which now rests so quietly in an Ohio museum what is the right word?
There isn’t one.