The following annotations to Slavery Days in Old Kentucky. A True Story of a Father Who Sold His Wife and Four Children. By One of the Children were compiled in the spring 2003 by Katie Baer and Lauren Bruce, first-year students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as a class project in Professor William L. Andrews's First-Year Seminar on Slavery and Freedom in African American Literature and Film. We welcome any corrections, additions, or suggested revisions of these annotations. Send feedback to email@example.com.
Green River—a south central Kentucky River that merges with the Ohio River in Indiana.
Kentucky—a slave state since its admission to the Union in 1798, Kentucky became one of the largest centers for the slave trade in the South. Kentucky was one of four slave states that remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War.
Madagascar—An island off the Eastern coast of Africa, involved in the international slave trade until it was abolished in 1808.
$1600—this amount of money is equivalent today to approximately $29,200.
"...none of whom owned slaves"—In the entire population of the South, only about a third actually owned slaves.
Bardstown—a town in Nelson County about 40 miles south of Louisville in the north-central region of Kentucky.
Beech Fork River—A small river found in Washington and Nelson counties in the north-central region of Kentucky.
pumpkin seed niggers—a light-skinned African American, the color of a pumpkin seed.
"he is green"—someone who is young and inexperienced.
long tow shirt>—A long, coarse linen shirt worn by lower-class people, including slaves, during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Divine Institution—The biblical justification of American slavery. Those that supported this theory ascertained that slavery had existed perpetually throughout the ages and was encouraged in books such as Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Kings. Thus, since with this reasoning slavery was supported by religious faith, the institution of slavery in a society indicated cultural superiority.
incubus—An oppressive or nightmarish burden, supposedly in the form of a demon.
Grists—a batch of grain that is used for grinding in a mill and producing flour.
"My word is law"—indication of the omnipotence of the master or mistress over the slave, as in Psalm 18:30, "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless."
Corn crib—A structure for storing and drying ears of corn.
"...with sticks very much the shape of hockey clubs."—Hockey, whose creation is credited to a group of McGill students, became popular in Canada during the early 19th century and in the late 1800's caught on in the New England states of the United States, where Johnson lived after attaining his freedom.
"hiring took place"—A practice by which a slave-owner allowed his slave to be hired for wages, most of which was returned to the owner.
Hart county—A county in central Kentucky.
Mammoth Cave—The longest mapped cave system in the world, located in south central Kentucky.
"you can 'back' your things"—packing of personal belongings and placing them on his back in preparation for travel.
Octoroon—a person of one-eighth black ancestry.
Grand Gulf —a small town in Mississippi outside of Port Gibson, near the Mississippi River.
Jackson—the state capital of Mississippi.
Vicksburg>—a town in southwestern Mississippi on the Mississippi River.
Nashville—the state capitol of Tennessee.
Louisville—a city located in the western part of Kentucky.
The Lord's Prayer —Matthew 6:9-13.
Canada—a nation north of the United States to which as many as 50,000 runaways escaped to secure their freedom.
Cincinnati, Ohio—a city located in the south west part of Ohio on the Ohio River across from Kentucky.
hoe gang—a method of organizing labor whereby slaves were divided into gangs for a specific daily job. A gang was managed by an overseer who was typically white.
skiff—a small, light boat.
garret—that part of a house on the upper floor, immediately under or within the roof.
Abraham Lincoln—16th president (1809-1865) of the United States, elected in 1861.
the war—the American Civil War, 1861-1865.
gave the guard the slip —eluded the guard.
countersign—a secret sign used to secure passage through a guarded area.
Lebanon—a town located in the middle of Kentucky.
Detroit—A city in southeastern Michigan on the Detroit River bordering Canada.
Company A, 102nd US colored troops—Originally the 1st Michigan Colored Infantry, this company was started in 1864 and fought till the close of the Civil War.
Canaan—that part of ancient Palestine between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, considered the Promised Land of the Israelites.
Southern hospitality—a special degree of welcome to guests and strangers in homes of the South
"But I say unto you, love your enemies..."—Matthew 5:43-45.