The Local Take: Family Farms, Race And History with Stacie Marshall
This week on The Local Take, I reached out to a farmer in the State of Georgia, Stacie Marshall. Marshall inherited her family farm and learned that generations ago, her ancestors enslaved African Americans. Seven were listed of historical documents about the farm.
If you are a descendant of a Southern family with a few hundred acres of farmland that have been in the family for a few centuries, more than likely, your family enslaved African-Americans. Most people have to know this even if they only have a rudimentary understanding of our country’s history. Even families in the North are learning about their history that involves slavery. Filmmaker Kristine Browne, a descendant of the DeWolf family, learned that hers was the largest slave-trading dynasty in US History. Entities as diverse as Georgetown University, Aetna, New York Life, and even Emory University have issued statements about their role in our nation’s tainted history. When leaders are riling up parents about the truth of our country’s history, Stacie Marshall’s story seems almost refreshing.
I asked Stacie if she could share what it was like when she discovered this truth about her family. She does remember precisely where she was and what she was doing. She tells us about the discordant conversation she had with her grandfather as she was nursing her first baby. Stacie then learned the story of an enslaved woman named Hester.
Stacie speaks about wanting to make amends. She talks about the feeling of shame and wanting to hide. In grappling with these facts, she reached out to some of the Black families in her community. A few of the families were sharecroppers on the family farm. She also connected with the Assistant Principal of the high school, who requested to see her records.
Stacie mentions that she wants to help and not out of guilt but commitment. She speaks about removing the “barrier of silence” around our country’s tainted history. The southern phrase “Don’t air your dirty laundry.” Family stories become our nation’s story.
Stacie hopes that in reframing the story, when her descendants look back, they will think of her as a good ancestor.
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