Hardeeville, Georgia was a challenge for anyone, but much more so for a newborn baby girl who parents were enslaved. Mary arrived into this unforgiving world about 1820. Although we do not know her family’s owners, we know life was horrid and cruel. Mary would muddle through and eventually met Fortune Curry, employed on John Colcock’s farm, who was his enslaver prior to emancipation, which would arrive just as Mary and Fortune were producing children: Emma, Cyrus, and Duncan. As Reconstruction loomed, Mary would not only set up a home, educate and raise her children, but herself also work alongside Fortune, toiling on the farmland, just enough to ensure a roof and basic food. Fortune would die young, but Mary would preserver into her seventies to help her children and grandchildren survive. Also born in Hardeeville, Lucy arrived about 1840, enslaved along with her family and future husband Ben Alston by local landowner John Allston. As a teen she would marry Ben and have children, including Lucy, Bessie, Albert, Mary, and Anna. Looking for better opportunity, Lucy would take her family to Savannah, where they rented a home, worked as a farm laborer alongside her husband, and raised her children and grandchildren to fight for their rights during Reconstruction. Her daughter Bessie would marry and start a family with Mary’s son Duncan Curry. Although the winter in 1870s Hardeesville, South Carolina was mild, life for young Bessie Alston was not. Elizabeth, most often called Bessie, was born December that year, pushing their way through racial discrimination and working toward independence in a rough Southern Reconstruction. After Bessie’s marriage Duncan, she relocated her family to Savannah for better opportunities, residing on Indian Lane. Bessie and Duncan had eleven children in twenty years. Duncan secured work as a ‘laborer on wharf’ and as a Railroad Laborer for MM&T company as Bessie tended to home and garden. Duncan died about 1915, and Bessie would carry on until finally passing in Savannah at age 77, the longest-lived ancestors of all the African Americans from this generation. The only other contemporary to live past seventy-five was Hannah Mason, highlighted in a previous narrative. Bessie was born parents who were enslaved as children, raised during the Sectional Controversy, and the ever-burdening Southern Reconstruction. Bessie endured during the Disputed Election, the beginning of the Railroad Era, the Labor Movement, and the Spanish-American War. She would see the fight for the abolition turn into a fight against Jim Crow as her family pushed onward through ever-challenging times, handing opportunity to her offspring!

American Pioneer Chronicles:

Southern Women: the heart, sweat, soul—the foundation of our Nation

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