A Slave Named ‘Six’

by Dr. Stan Hudson, who served as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for 38 years and is currently the Director of Creation Ministries at the North Pacific Union Conference

The national movement sparked recently by the “Black Lives Matter” protest has gotten a lot of us thinking.  Although I grew up in the L.A. area and went to racially mixed schools, like many whites in America, I wonder about how deep racism is.  And all I can really look at…is me!

My dad’s family, the Hudsons and their in-laws, are from the South.  And if you go back far enough you will find a lot of Confederate blood.  In virtually every line I find men who went to war.  In one case, a direct ancestor was killed in battle (fortunately for me, not before he had had kids).  Many were wounded.  My great-great grandfather Albert Hudson was captured by the Yankees and kept a prisoner, walking hundreds of miles after being released at the end of the War and surprising his family in their Mississippi farm; they had been fearing the worst.

Among those children rejoicing in their father’s return was my two year-old great-grandfather Allen Hudson.  He was named after his father’s brother, Allen Hudson, who had been recently killed at Spotsylvania.  Years later he gave that name to his son Edgar Allen Hudson, and my dad gave the name to me:  Stanley Allen Hudson.  So, I bear the name of someone killed while fighting for the South.

It gets deeper.  As I studied my grandmother’s line, the Beard family, I find in the will of another ancestor something very disturbing.  The Beard family owned a slave.  The wording of William Beard’s (c.1773-1832) last will and testament includes this personal wish:

It is my will and desire that my wife Mary Ann shall have during her natural life my Negro woman Six and after her death I will and bequeath said Negro woman to my daughter Adna Mariah.

This is mentioned among his other possessions.  Two sons each got a “filley.”  There were cows, pigs and furniture to distribute.  This slave woman was nothing more than property!  And how dehumanizing is it to have a number for a name?  When compared with the 1830 Federal Census, it appears that “Six” had three sons and one daughter.  She had children, but they weren’t legally hers.  How do you deal with the idea that the “masters” own and can thus lawfully remove your children from you whenever they wish?

The beginning of the will states “In the name of God.  Amen.”  Almost all that I can find out about my Southern ancestors is that they, like me, professed to worship Christ.  The “Bible Belt” in America is aptly named.  Most were too poor to own much property, let alone slaves.  But they certainly fought for the institution of slavery.  And that’s a thought I’m finding hard to process.  Yes, they also were fighting because they had been invaded, but it was evident by the end of the War what the main issue truly was.

“White Guilt!”  So, when I’m looking at some of these protests, might some of these people be descended from Six?  Is it possible or even proper to apologize for what my ancestors did?  True, they were products of their times…but that doesn’t get them off the hook.  Nor will it me in all matters moral.

Ezekiel 18:20 reads “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son.  The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

God, help me to be righteous in my dealings with all peoples.  We are of just one human race, all cousins who should not be fighting each other, but rather fighting the real enemy who seeks to divide and enslave us.  Christ desires there to be just one sheepfold where all find comfort, safety and respect.  To the extent that I live and promote Christ, I am promoting reconciliation and equality. 

It is hard for me, a White, to completely understand the typical Black experience in America.  One time I was driving a guest speaker from a workers retreat to the airport.  We were pulled over by a local policeman for a minor traffic violation.  As we drove off the speaker said, “Do you think that was because of me?”  That remark comes from a life experience that is foreign to me.

I have a mostly positive view of America, its past and its accomplishments.  We could boast that we have historically pushed back whenever and wherever we saw oppression in the world.  But it took a long time to see our own oppression sins.  Hopefully, we have seen them now more clearly.  Just what to do about them though….

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