High Performance Coaching with Kim Bettie
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Blog

Let’s work together to change the world.

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I’ve tried to live according to the way the Lord would wish


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John W. Fields acquired a respected place in his home community.

“John W. Fields, despite his lowly birth and adverse circumstances, has labored, economized and acquired a respected place in his home community. He is the owner of three un-mortgaged properties and co-founder of Baptist Church of Lafayette. His life has been one of constant effort to better himself spiritually and physically.” (Cecil Miller, Interviewer for Slave Narrative of John W. Fields)

“I married at 24 years of age and had four children. My wife has been dead for 12 years and 8 months. Today, I am the only surviving member who helped organize the second Baptist Church here in Lafayette, 64 years ago. I’ve tried to live according to the way the Lord would wish, God Bless you.” (John W. Fields)

Kim Bettie
he gradually acquired a mean and overbearing manner
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He made me hold a light, while he whipped her.

“My Mistress had separated me from all my family but one brother with sweet words, but that pose was dropped after she reached her place. Shortly after I had been there, she married a northern man by the name of David Hill. At first he was very nice to us, but he gradually acquired a mean and overbearing manner toward us, I remember one incident that I don’t like to remember. One of the women slaves had been very sick and she was unable to work just as fast as he thought she ought to. He had driven her all day with no results. That night after completing our work he called us all together. He made me hold a light, while he whipped her and then made one of the slaves pour salt water on her bleeding back. My innards turn yet at that sight” (John W. Fields)

Kim Bettie
I immediately resolved to run away
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I then tried to find work and was finally hired by a man at $7.00 a month. That was my first independent job.

“At the beginning of the Civil War I was still at this place as a slave. It looked at the first of the war as if the south would win, as most of the big battles were won by the South. This was because we slaves stayed at home and tended the farms and kept their families.

“To eliminate this solid support of the South, the Emancipation Act was passed, freeing all slaves. Most of the slaves were so ignorant they did not realize they were free. The planters knew this and as Kentucky never seceeded from the Union, they would send slaves into Kentucky from other states in the south and hire them out to plantations. For these reasons I did not realize that I was free untill 1864. I immediately resolved to run away and join the Union Army and so my brother and I went to Owensburg, Ky. and tried to join. My brother was taken, but I was refused as being too young. I then tried to find work and was finally hired by a man at $7.00 a month. That was my first independent job.. “ (John W. Fields)

Kim Bettie
IF HE CAN; WE CAN
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“If He Can; We Can”

- Kim Bettie

A few years ago when I learned I had, as a legacy, one of the slave narratives from the survivors born into slavery, I admit I had mixed emotions of excitement and fear. I prepared myself for heart break, and expected the worse. What I read in my great-great grandfather's interview about his life as a slave and a free man, has impacted me more profoundly than I ever imagined. 

My name is John W. Fields and I’m eighty-nine (89) years old. I was born March 27, 1848 in Owensburg, Ky. That’s 115 miles below Louisville, Ky. There was 11 other children besides myself in my family. When I was six years old, all of us children were taken from my parents, because my master died and his estate had to be settled.
— Black Genealogy, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia

I can’t imagine my daughter being torn from my hands.

I can’t describe the heartbreak and horror of that separation. I was only six years old and it was the last time I ever saw my mother for longer than one night. Twelve children taken from my mother in one day. Five sisters and two brothers went to Charleston, Virginia, one brother and one sister went to Lexington Ky., one sister went to Hartford, Ky., and one brother and myself stayed in Owensburg, Ky. 
— Black Genealogy, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia

The resolve it took for him to show restraint and survive being torn from his mother and siblings is mind altering.

When my master’s estate had been settled, I was to go with widow’s relative to her place, she swung me up on her horse behind her and promised me all manner of sweet things if I would come peacefully. I didn’t fully realize what was happening, and before I knew it, I was on my way to my new home. Upon arrival her manner changed, and she took me down to where there was a bunch of men burning brush. At the age of six I started my life as an independent slave.
— Black Genealogy, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia
Kim Bettie
WE ARE FAMILY
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“We are all brothers and sisters in the afterlife.”

- Elder Adams, New York Family History Center and Genealogy

I decided to make a visit to the New York Family History Center and Genealogy in Manhattan to do research on my great-great grandfather, John W. Fields. It was packed with people researching, Elder Adams agreed to talk with me and give me a quick tour. I learned that the Mormon Church obtained copies of post–Civil War records created by the Freedmen’s Bureau. When the slaves were set free, the Bureau opened schools, managed hospitals, gave food and clothing and legalized marriages during the reconstruction era.  Elder Adams told me that by gathering the handwritten records on roughly 4 million African Americans., the project would digitized the footprints of those born into slavery. FamilySearch, along with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History, galvanized organizations and people worldwide to help get the files indexed and digitized.

As my tour of the church and family center was coming to an end, I asked Elder Adams why on earth the Mormon Church cared so much about African Americans reconnecting to their roots.  As Elder Adams and I walked down the corridor of the family center together, he looked over at me and answered very sweetly, “We believe we are all brothers and sisters in the afterlife.” 

Kim Bettie