Photo left:  18th century Pace family slave lock passed down by Steven Pace, born 1830 Georgia.  Courtesy of Lorenzo Pace.


Photo right: Descendants of George Berry and Margaret Pace Berry in Gary, Indiana - 1940s.  Courtesy of the Berry Family.

When white settlers from the southeast migrated to The Ridge during the famous "Alabama Fever" migration, they were accompanied by a slave labor force.  The slaves cleared timber, tilled soil, planted, cultivated and harvested crops, built homesteads and mansions, and made numerous other undocumented contributions to create and sustain the social, economic and agricultural fabric of frontier life.


There is little evidence, written or oral, to suggest that daily life for enslaved persons living in The Ridge was in any way different from the harsh existence of enslaved persons elsewhere in the deep South.  There are several recorded acts of benevolence by the planters toward the freedmen after the Civil War.  Naming patterns noted in census records suggest there were some enslaved individuals who had been with their family for generations before "Alabama Fever."  One such planter and physician who was born in South Carolina in 1823 donated land for a church that was built by the freedman in 1895.  The church members included former slaves who possibly were with the family before he was born. According to several black and white descendants of the original settlers of The Ridge, racial relationships in the 1920s and 1930s were influenced by a common denominator of subsistence living.  The daily act of rolling up one's sleeves and working side by side in the fields may have mitigated some racial tension.  A white oral historian with ties to the original settlers stated that it was common in those days for blacks and whites to share their bumper crops with each other.


During the first decade of the 20th century, the freedmen in The Ridge and the surrounding communities built and operated nearly a dozen or more schools, having been personally influenced by Booker T. Washington during his "good will tours" to the rural communities surrounding the Tuskegee Normal School (now Tuskegee University).  Many of the freedmen schools pre-dated the Julius Rosenwald era; some were Rosenwald schools.  Schools were located at Boromville, Creek Stand, Cross Keys, Dawkins, Hannon, Magnolia, Roba (Crossroads) , Swanson and Sweet Pilgrim,


Ironically, several of the freedmen-built churches and schools became "round-up" locations in the 1950s during the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study (also called the Tuskegee Syphilis Study).  The purpose of the study was to examine the effects of untreated syphilis in the Negro male.  Treatment of the disease was purposely withheld from study subjects who neither knew about the gravity of the disease or of their treatment with placebos.  Public health workers met with study subjects at these locations to conduct exams and/or to transport the men to Tuskegee for exams.  Just about the time that the syphilis study was revealed to the general public in 1972, the descendants of The Ridge freedmen established a successful sweet potato cooperative. The co-op was a registered Alabama corporation and was successful in producing high yield crops that were sold locally to grocery stores.


The great migration of African-Americans from the south to the north did not by-pass the descendants of The Ridge freedmen.  During the migration, large numbers of descendants migrated to cities such as Akron and Cleveland, Ohio, Detriot, Michigan, Chicago, Illinois, and East Chicago and Gary, Indiana.  A cluster of descendants also migrated to Birmingham, Alabama.  


Prior to 1870, enslaved persons were enumerated as the property of the slaveholder and were listed by gender, age and skin tone.  The 1870 census was the first U.S. Federal Census that listed African-Americans by name.  African-American family history research can be difficult prior to 1870, but careful study of the 1870 census can yield many clues to assist in the search. Resources on using the 1870 census are numerous.  For example Ancestry.com offers tips and other helpful information.


Click here for an alphabetical listing of 1870 census African-American surnames for the Warrior Stand Beat.  If a name is hyper-linked, click on the link for additional geneaology and history.  Census records from 1880 on will be added in future site updates.

Enslaved Pioneers, Freedmen and Their Descendants