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Feb 16, 2022

Enslaved People’s Records Show a Grim, but Needed, Look at What Made Nashville

If you are researching Black ancestry in Nashville, you will be interested in a new spreadsheet listing more than 14,000 rows of data, which might bore you – until the names stop you cold: Eliza, age 3; Peter, 11; Martha Foster, 1. After each, it reads “child of Albert and Betsy.”

On Nov. 1, 1852, it says, John Nichol sold Albert and Betsy, along with Eliza, Peter, Martha Foster and their other five children to Bradford Franklin. Davidson County legally recorded this enslaved family as property, bought and sold.

Metro Archivist Ken Fieth has spent some 25 years compiling a searchable spreadshee. Transaction by transaction, it lists buyer, seller, enslaved person’s name, gender, age and relatives (if known).

These transactions are part of what made us who we are, what made Nashville the place that it is. It is the big “how” and the big “why” of the racism that still plagues us.

You can read more in an article by Karen Johnson and Learotha Williams, published by the Tennessean, at https://bit.ly/3I2CE6U.

The spreadsheet may be found at: https://data.nashville.gov/Genealogy/Nashville-Slave-and-Free-People-of-Color-Database/fqu3-hv5z.