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I 'M THE GREAT-GREAT GRANDDAUGHTER OF JOHN W. FIELDS, THE INDEPENDENT SLAVE

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I 'M THE GREAT-GREAT GRANDDAUGHTER OF JOHN W. FIELDS, THE INDEPENDENT SLAVE

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, 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.

I imagined my daughter at six, being torn from my hands. Scared and trying not to cry in fear of something worse happening if she did. 

"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. 

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

“When my masters estate had been settled, I was to go with the widowed 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 very much, and she took me down to where there was a bunch of men burning brush. She said, “see those men” I said: yes. Well, go help them, she replied. So at the age of six I started my life as an independent slave."

I am the great-great granddaughter of John. W. Fields, the independent slave. I believe it was his resilience and mindset of independence, in spite of his external circumstances, that resulted in his amazing life story and legacy that I will share with you as I uncover more and more. When we look back to move forward, we can all find a new level of resolve and requirement to beat the odds and set ourselves free from people and things that enslave us. 

Kim Bettie