I am a descendent of John Randolph's Freed People. My ancestors were manumitted in John Randolph's will when he died in 1833. However, they would not see freedom for another thirteen years as his family fervidly contested his decision and last will to free all of his slaves. Upon finally being granted their freedom which would have come with provision of 3,200 acres of land, homes built, and money left for them, the Randolph's Freed People were still not permitted to inhabit their inherited land and access their financial provisions. The German settlers who had occupied the land refused to cohabitate with negroes. Those settlers not only threatened the Freed People's lives, but issued decrees for the media and politicians which threatened to withhold voter support from anyone who would uphold Randolph's will. I learned all of this as a result of researching why I was born in Piqua, Ohio. My ancestors knew rivers. Specifically, the Ohio River which they traveled from Charleston, West Virginia to Cincinnati, Ohio and the Miami-Erie Canal which would carry them to their settlement in Rossville. Freedom has taken on many forms in the lives of black people in America. This performance seeks to give a voice to my ancestors and to continue to tell their story through song. Each of the four songs has a story which will provide an understanding of the lyrics and emotion within them.
The performance will begin with a brief background of this riveting piece of Ohio History. Each song will be introduced with another story. The song, All My Pieces, written by myself and Patrick McLaughlin tells a story about the parade of approximately three hundred seventy-five freed people of color moving through downtown Cincinnati on their way to occupy the land purchased for them in Mercer County, Ohio. The song, Settle My Soul, talks about learning to control ourselves in times of oppression, and keeping focused on who we are as people and on our goals and objectives. The song, Ends That Meet explores what it means to understand that we are all equal on this earth. And the song I Am Here is a way to demonstrate that while some may have been angry at the presence of the Randolph's Freed People, there was no way to deny our existence and our contributions.