12 September 2011

Eastern Kentucky Black Research After the Civil War

Compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber
September 2011

[This article reflects word usage of period]

The Civil War was over.  The ratification of the 13th Amendment freed slaves in 1865.   Kentucky counties were already trying to determine how to handle taxation lists.  In 1865 Boyd County appended a list of eighteen free Negroes over age 16 but did not tax them in the handwritten tax book.  

Trying to integrate these families into the general economy and day to day life in Eastern Kentucky was problematic.   By 1866 counties were trying to abide by all new legislation and rulings. The Annual Report of the Auditor of Public Accounts of the State of Kentucky for the Fiscal Year Ending October 10, 1866  stated Boyd County  reported 118 which does not match the local tax book.

Obviously there was some confusion in taking tallies and who was to be counted.  This in large was because, without occupation, many of these newly free individuals were moving around trying to find a way to support their families.

The counties reported a tax of Negroes that varied. Most taxed $2.00 per Negro.   Greenup County reported taxing 143 Negros over 18.  Greenup also charged them tax on their property. 

Legal marriages were recognized in 1866 by the state of Kentucky.  But they were recorded by counties in separate books.  Many of the books for various counties have not survived.  The book for Boyd County, Kentucky has survived and is labeled “Register 1-1-A, Colored Marriages.”  Thus if you are researching your black heritage these marriages, as of this writing are not in the Marriage database at either FamilySearch or the Boyd County Public Library online site.  The marriages have been extracted in Boyd County, Kentucky, Monographs I.

By 1867 separate tax pages of “Free Negros” in Boyd County show the individuals being taxed for the same items of all individuals residing within the county.  A list of those persons being taxed in Boyd County can be found in Boyd County, Kentucky, Monographs I, by this writer, along with other  information on slavery and the Black population of the county.

Neighboring Greenup County had problems with taxation submitted to the Auditor of State in 1867. In March Kentucky passed an act to benefit "Negroes and mulattoes."  The taxes collected were to be set apart as a separate fund for the education of their children and paupers.  According to records, the sheriff, Joseph Pollock and Constable W. F. Harding and others had failed ot turn over the money to an appointed receiver, there being no county treasurer at the time.  The case went to Appeals Court and the judgment was affirmed. The case appears in Kentucky Opinions Containing the unreported Decisions of the Court of Appeals, compiled by J. Morgan Chill, Volume 5, published by Bobbs Merrill Co., Indianapolis. 

This writer wonders if this was Greenup's way of protesting the Freedmen's Bureau and the funds utilized to school the children? You can read more about the Freedmen's Bureau in A History of Blacks In Kentucky: From Slavery to Segregation, 1760-1891 by Marion B. Lucas.

Two Kentucky marriages appear in the Freedmen's Records, one for Montgomery County and another for Hickman County in 1867.  None are listed for Eastern Kentucky.

In 1867 The Revised Statues of Kentucky stated that all freemen of the commonwealth excluding “negroes, mulattoes and Indians” would be armed and disciplined for defense.  This also meant they were excluded from the state militia.   In elections for representatives every male citizen with exception of “negroes, mulattoes and Indians” having reached 21 year of age and resided in the state two years could vote.  The forty-second chapter also stated that any free white person who played a game of cards or with dice or any game whatever involving money or a thing of value was disqualified from holding any office or serving on jury.  

The Freedmen’s Bureau office in Louisville Confidential lists for identification of claimants  shows at least one soldier from our area. So while they could not defend Kentucky in 1867 several served during the Civil War  from Kentucky.   Jackson Scott served in Company H of the 100th Regt. Of the United States Colored Troops.  He states that he was born in Carter County, Kentucky and enlisted the 16th day of May 1864 at Greenupsburg, Kentucky.  He enlisted for 3 years.  He was described as 21 years old and 5 feet, 9 ½ inches tall.  Black hair, black eyes, black complexion.  His occupation was farmer.  He was discharged 26 December 1865 at Nashville.  He stated that Alfred Gill and Jerry Lee enlisted about the same time he did.    At the time of his enlistment he was the slave of Stewart Scott of Floyd County, Kentucky.  The U. S. Freedmen Bureau Records of Field Offices 1865-1878 are available at Ancestry.com. There are 1032 images of the Confidential lists of 1872-3.    Beginning at image 97 you will find  form 24 for the surname beginning with Ahl and continuing thru the alphabet by browsing.

While these people fought for freedom, in those early years, for many years it was selective freedom.  Black’s would not be able to testify against white citizens until 1871 in Kentucky nor could they serve on a jury until 1882 in our state.  Thus if you are researching your Black heritage in Eastern Kentucky you will only find them in circuit court records if they are accused of a crime prior to 1871.  Utilizing and understanding the history and laws of Kentucky will also help you on your exploration and research.

You can find another article African American Research in North Eastern Kentucky written by this author 15 March 2010  at this blog.  Boyd County, Kentucky Monographs 1 includes several articles by this author on Black research in Boyd County.  Information for purchase of the cd can be found at FLI Publications.

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