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Was Your Ancestor One of Freedom’s Lawmakers?

Robin Foster
by Robin Foster
Eric Foner, Freedom’s Lawmakers (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 1996)
Eric Foner, Freedom’s Lawmakers (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 1996)

I ordered this book to document my great great grandfather, Beverly Vance (1832-1899) years ago. The author of the book states that he included black officeholders during Reconstruction. If you have researched African Americans for any period of time you recognize how hard it is to find records to document them. I proudly found a short paragraph in the directory:

Vance, Beverly (1832/3) pg. 218

South Carolina. Black. Illiterate. Laborer.

A constable in Cokesbury, Abbeville County, South Carolina, Vance was threatened with violence in 1876, subjected to an economic boycott, and lost his land when a promissory note was called in. His crime, he told a congressional committee, was that “I’d always taught the colored people in my part of the county to stick to the Republican party.”  A farm laborer, Vance owned no property according to the 1870 Census.

Allen B. Ballard, One More Day’s Journey: The Story of a Family and a People. (New York, 1984), Manuscript U.S. Census 1870.

I was grateful to be led to this account of Beverly. I read One More Day’s Journey by Allen Ballard. I lead me to all the congressional testimonies he gave which led me to other where he was mentioned by others. I also discovered he became a property owner after 1870.

When I was searching for Mitchell Goggins  (born about 1850) last week, I thought of Eric Foner’s book again. I got it out and looked him up and there he was! Two for two. Can you believe that?

Goggins, Mitchell, pg. 87

South Carolina. Born a slave. Black. Literate. Farmer.

South Carolina – born; represented Abbeville County in state House of Representatives, 1870-72 and 1874-1876.

Holt, Black over White, app.

Now as I sit and think about other resources where he can be found, I need to order the book the was referenced, Black over White by Holt. I see he served two terms in the House of Representatives. I can find his record at The State Library in South Carolina. I should also look for him in records at the South Caroliniana Library which is downtown Columbia also.

Sharpen the Saw

Could your ancestor be among the 1,500 included in the directory in Eric Foner’s book, Freedom’s Lawmakers? Taken from seven states some of the officeholders are unknown today so having this book could be really enlightening. If you know your ancestor was an officeholder, let us know on Facebook.

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