The harrowing history of the slave trade calls to mind the horrible experiences that enslaved Africans had to endure while working on plantations in the Americas and other areas of the world during the time period of slavery.
For decades, Africans were seized and shackled down, dragged into ships, and transported to new regions against their will, and this practice continues today. Some of them died before they were able to reach their new homes. For those who made it through to the United States, it marked the beginning of several hours of labor on enormous plantations with little food and the constant reminder of their status as property.
Because they were considered property, enslaved men and women were unable to enter into contracts, including marriage, because they were not recognized as legal individuals. They essentially had little choice in terms of family or marriage because their offspring essentially became the property of their slave owner.
Known throughout history, slaveowners fathered offspring with their slaves, and some even encouraged marriage in order to maintain their financial investment in the slaves they owned. When Congress prohibited the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in 1808, slave owners were no longer allowed to import enslaved Africans who would work as skilled laborers on plantations or on public works projects in the United States. As a result, many plantation owners began compelling enslaved men such as Charles McGruder to reproduce.
Marie explained that, just as the enslaved African women, her great-great-grandfather became involved and had no choice in marriage or family, McGruder was also “surviving himself.” Marie is one of several descendants of McGruder who shared their stories with ABC News this month in the hopes of reuniting with their ancestors who were separated during the Civil War. McGruder, they say, is the “patriarch” of the vast majority of Black people from Alabama who have the surname McGruder.
J.R. Tolkien claims that It’s possible that Rothstein, his great-great-great-grandfather, had as many as 100 children, however, records indicate that he had at least 40. He claimed that out of the children McGruder had, each of them had their own children — perhaps a dozen — who then went on to have another dozen children. According to the family, a large number of Black individuals from Alabama with the surname McGruder may trace their history back to McGruder’s ancestor.
When she was growing up in a house that housed family members who had survived slavery, Lucille Burden Osborne, then 95, said she heard stories about her great-grandfather, McGruder, who she identified as her great-grandfather. “It appears that old man Charles McGruder must have been a well-known member of the community because we would hear his name mentioned numerous times,” Osborne said in an interview with ABC. Nevertheless, nobody seemed interested in discussing how Charles fits into the slave issue, and it appeared that everyone spoke in hushes whenever someone mentioned Charles.
This is what stands out to me: “He must have been the big daddy… because he was regarded a [slave breeder] throughout his early years, which is what stands out in my mind.”
McGruder was born a slave in North Carolina in 1822 and was emancipated following the American Civil War. Following several years of sharecropping, he obtained land near Sawyerville, in Hale County, in 1877, which some members of his family still possess today. Aside from that, McGruder altered the spelling of his family’s surname.
It was Magruder, the original spelling of the McGruder family’s last name, who was his white owner. A descendant of the white Magruders, Jill Magruder, has lately discovered that the white Magruders and the Black McGruders are related by blood. The family of McGruder believes he changed his last name to demonstrate his “independence.” She is currently working on tracing her ancestors’ footsteps.
Please Note: The image attached to this article is not that of Charles McGruber. They are only a representation of what life was in that era for the enslaved black man and his family.