My 3rd great grandfather, Hiram Bell Arrant, with his wife, Addie Fretwell

“According to the Census of 1860, 30.8 percent of the free families in the confederacy owned slaves. That means that every third white person in those states had a direct commitment to slavery. That is a lot of slave owners. The free labor these slaves provided and how the slave owners profited financially from slavery are just some of the reasons why #ADOS continues to fight for reparations for Native Black Americans.”
Ann Brown, “Fact Check: What Percentage Of White Southerners Owned Slaves?”

“To get a sense of the financial value of this workforce, historian Sven Beckert estimates that the value of enslaved people in the United States in 1860 was equal to all of the capital invested in American railroads, manufacturing, and agricultural land combined.” — The Debt Collective, “Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay”

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
Order 3, Read aloud in Galveston, TX on June 19th, 1865, almost 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation

Today is the anniversary,
156 years ago,
of General Robert E. Lee’s
surrender to Ulysses S. Grant
at Appomattox Courthouse

and i am learning that
i have an ancestor,
Hiram Bell Arrant,
who inherited
enslaved Texans in 1864

there were still 8 months left til
the first juneteenth would tell them
of their freedom
when Hiram’s father died of Typhoid Fever
and they were shuffled
amongst my family

Hiram Bell Arrant
was born on land his father,
Reddick Knox Arrant,
had “won” in the
Cherokee Land Lottery in Georgia,
born of the Indian Removal Act
& the Trail of Tears

his mother died before he was two

according to his memorial in the Alto Herald
he was “thrown upon his own resources
at the age of 17” and became an overseer
on a large Louisiana plantation
They go on to say that,
“by close, energetic effort,
coupled with indomitable energy
and shrewd business tact,
he acquired the unique distinction
of being the most proficient overseer in that State.”

in 1861, he became a Confederate soldier,
fought at Chickamauga,
& named one son
“Robert Edward Lee Arrant,”
in 1866

“On the 7th day of October 1864 Reddick Arrant desired us to come into this room in which he lay sick in his own residence in Tyler Co. Texas and then and there in presence of each and all of us made this declaration or in substance as follows, that he wished his property equally divided amongst his children and heirs. That in said division he desired that his son Hiram B. Arrant should have the following negro property to wit, Jack a Negro boy, Henrietta a girl and then some other property to make his share equal with each of the other several shares.” — from the Numcaptive Will of Reddick Knox Arrant

Reddick said in his will that
he had “wore out” his land
and that it couldn’t be valued
very highly

but that he wanted his “property”
evenly divided

I thought I would die
when I first read all of this.
Sobbed and sobbed.

the ancestor card I drew today
simply said, “acceptance”

a good perspective for those of us
that urgently need to do
the work of facing
what our people have sown
and what we, therefore, reap

none of this
was all that long ago


This piece is one in a series, Climacteric: On the Turning Point, a poetic collaboration for National Poetry Writing Month (#NaPoWriMo) by Samantha Wallen and Michelle Puckett. To read the previous poem in the series, click here. To read the next poem in the series, click here.

Michelle Puckett, MFA is a poet, doula, permaculturalist, coach and Co-Founder of Creating Freedom Movements, a social justice school for activists. All of her work aims to nourish the sacred and make it plain in every day life.

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