Sunday, February 02, 2014

Faithful Negros and Old Time Darkies

In the late 90s and early 00s I was an avid amateur genealogist. I discovered quite a lot of my family history and enjoyed it all very much.

Black people do face the 1865 brick wall but there is still a lot of information to be had. I have shared my discoveries and in turn been assisted by other family members with their information. I think of genealogy as a way of remembering and honoring my forebears.

Now thanks to digitization, searching is easier and more fun. I’m also planning to attend a family reunion in my grandfather’s hometown this summer and I’ve decided to resume my research and present it there. 

As a friend told me years ago, it is important not just to research one’s own family tree, but to learn from the history gathered along the way. In that spirit, I share with you an obituary that I discovered from 1895.

Death of Adam Prater

Adam Prater, colored, died at his home in this city on the evening of the 5th instant after a lingering sickness. Adam was a good citizen and belonged to the old time class of darkies whose number is gradually but surely diminishing. He was a hard working, honest negro, and attended strictly to his own affairs.

One by one this class of negroes is passing away. Between them and the white people there exists a peculiar bond which death alone can sever. We will never see any more like them for they belong to a different era. The affinity between those faithful old negroes and their former masters and mistresses is peculiar, for it is born of a different period and is the result of a mutual affection that can never be effaced.

Peace to his remains. Piedmont Inquirer, Saturday Morning, 7 Sep 1895, p. 1, c. 5.

I wish that we knew what Mr. Prater’s family had to say about him. I also wish we knew what he thought of his former masters.

If he was among the “old time class of darkies” he had good reason to be. Alabama in 1895 was no place to be a proud black person.  After all, being outspoken in 2014 can still be problematic. In 1895 it was just plain dangerous. Whatever else can be said of him, Adam Prater was probably a very smart man.