Langston Heritage gets slave documents

Langston Heritage Group, formerly HASP, Inc., will receive two original Washington County, Tn. documents pertaining to slaves at a presentation in the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University, Friday, Nov. 9, at 4 p.m. The manuscripts both refer to specific Washington County slaves by name.
   Dr. Donald Shaffer, retired from the Milligan College faculty, recently purchased the documents locally at auction. They had been the property of Carolyn D. Moore of Jonesborough and were previously in the possession of Jonesborough historian Paul M. Fink. Langston Heritage is collecting a wide variety of materials for a museum and archive of the history of African Americans and other minority groups in northeast Tennessee, and Professor Shaffer is donating the slave documents to its collection.
   Mary H. Alexander, Chair of Langston Heritage, will receive the gift for the organization. The documents, along with the rest of the collection, will be housed in the Archives of Appalachia under a special agreement between the Archives and Langston Heritage until the latter group can open its own archive.
   One of the documents is a 1788 sworn complaint against a man alleged to have stolen another man's "Negroe Boy named Clayborn." In essence, it is a warrant for the arrest of the thief. It is signed by Landon Carter, one of the trustees of Washington County, which at that time was part of the state of North Carolina.
   The other document is an 1846 bill of sale for a woman slave named Mill, perhaps short for Millie. Her price was only $5, which led Paul Fink to the conclusion that this bill of sale was probably in reality a deed of gift, possibly from one relative to another. Poignantly, the seller warrants that Mill is "a slave for life," a stark reminder that well before 1846 servitude of African Americans in the laws of slave states had hardened into "perpetual servitude."
   The particular value of these original documents is that they refer to individual slaves by name and these slaves lived and worked in Washington County. For this reason, Dr. Shaffer wishes the manuscripts to remain in Washington County and to be available for research and display.
   Langston Heritage welcomes artifacts, documents and photographs that illuminate minority history for its growing collection. The organization envisions making these materials accessible to the public in a suitable museum and archive facility.