Mariam of Mali or to some folks perhaps Susana as renamed by the Eppes family, ... was born not later than 1720 in the old deposed Mali Empire, maybe even modern day Republic of Guinea, ... wherein we have chosen to visualize the mother of Elizabeth (Betty) Hemings who was born in 1735. Why not Mali? Before the rise of Songhey Empire and its destruction by the combined might of Morocco and Britain in 1591 when Elizabeth was on the throne of England, ... Mali existed in splendor with its great center of learning at Timbuktu where scholars congregated to bestow knowledge in Africa.
We do not know where our ancestor was born and our only clue that she was African born is via reminiscences of Madison Hemings who was told that his grandmother Betty Hemings' mother was born in Africa. It is a very large continent with the beginnings of human DNA sequences that populated entire world before consequences of new testament by Jesus of Nazareth.
We are not Mormons but do believe it is morally legitimate for descendents to at least baptize and rename favored persons of past generations. Our decision has been to baptize her as Miriam in memory of the mother of Jesus, ... and because Elizabeth's first daughter was named Mary. Are we yet free to imagine and do so? Why do so many writers about African heritage beginnings depict birth and adolescence beginning in the worst degenerate, deprived, depraved, denigrated environments imagined by Hollywood?
Free thinking writers, scholars and artists like John Holyfield offer us some insights as to images of young and attractive African young women mothers (above) and lovers (on left) that might have been like Miriam.
Holyfield is one of many African heritage artists of recent years who project that most Black people emerged from something of value, ... though generally unknown because scholars and writers have rarely sought to seek them. Holyfield is quite unlike the James Baldwin and Alice Walker varieties of writers who have grown rich and famous writing for curious White readers and love starved Black women in pursuit of follies and even "nothingness."
Nothing from nothing = zero of value. In fact, most writers of very limited education about the history and geography of African-American heritage often know next to the nothingness of the many thousands of preachers who imagine they teach about gospel of Jesus. We are determined to believe our ancestry did not begin in nothing in Africa.
Only property records of the Eppes Family in Virginia are likely to reveal any additional information about slaves purchased in the 1730-1735 era. The British government in 1733, mindful that Virginia colonists were importing "broken in" slaves from English colonies like Bermuda rather than those available at royal slave sources in African locations like The Gambia, ... passed a new law requiring American colonists to only import slaves via licensed and taxed ones shipped from Africa via registered and taxed shippers.
Slave owners were very particular about the origins of their slaves, ... having pre-determined which kind were better suited than others for the planned enslavements. While we do not know the origins or endings of Betty Hemings' mother, we are free to speculate. Where in Africa, among which language group, kingdom or tribal allegiance, DNA traces? And, last but not least: did she escape the hated institution after John Wayles moved her away from Williamsburg slave port of entry for men like Captain Hemings?
Atlantic Slave Trade
Philip D. Curtin has estimated that 241,400 slaves were imported into the Americas in the 16th century, 1,341,100 in the 17th century, 6,051, 700 in the 18th century, and 1,898,400 between 1810 and 1870, for a total of 9,566,100. J. E. Inikori has argued for a higher total of 15 million, based on research showing 2,365,014 imported 1750-1807 rather than Curtin's 1,616,100.
Amazing Grace by Bill Moyers (PBS, 1993) described the slave trade origins of the song, beginning with John Newton who was active in the Guinea coast trade 1745-54 and kept a daily journal. He converted to Christianity, met William Wilberforce and became an abolitionist, wrote "Thoughts on the Slave Trade" in 1788, and was curator at Olney Parish in England when he died in 1897.
Our thoughts are that men like Colonel Francis Eppes below in service to the British crown lived their lives in pursuit of what they deemed to be goodness. Facts are that he was likely no worse than other men and women profiting from human bondage, but certainly in the eyes of the Christ in which we believe Eppington was far from the Kingdom of Heaven so many professed to value.
Perhaps dead men and women tell no tales but we can imagine that Elizabeth Hemings was not the only offspring of her mother. We do not know. She may have been returned to the Eppes family after daughter Martha Eppes died; or perhaps sold away or died from one of the many diseases that existed. A factor that ought not be dismissed is reality of the Revolutionary War in which upwards of 100,000 slaves reportedly escaped their masters with many not surviving the cholera, capture, and even re-enslavement.
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