Whose Stories Get Heard and Whose Don’t

So, last night I stumbled across information that some of the descendants of Jackson’s slaves believe they are also descended from Jackson himself–that he “had an affair” with his slave, Hannah, and that, at the least, her daughter, Charlotte, is his child. Hannah’s an interesting person in that she did a few interviews before she died and she seemed quite delighted with being Jackson’s slave (she was there when both Andrew and Rachel died). Of course, actions speak louder than words and she did escape during the chaos of the Civil War, so one gathers it wasn’t “being a slave” that was so great, but that, if she had to be a slave anywhere, being a slave under (um, no pun intended) Jackson was the best bad option.

I am, of course, curious as to whether this can be substantiated.

On the other hand, I have now read a lot of Nashville histories. And it’s like Nashville spent from 1850-1880 just making shit the fuck up about our history. “Oh, remember when Jackson wiped out the Chickamauga at Running Water?” “Oh, yes, right. All gone. Every last one of them. Terrible tragedy.” And then people study that story of how Jackson wiped out the whole village of Running Water and jot down the names of the people killed there. And it gets passed along–those names of the dead–without anyone checking to see if the source of those names isn’t full of shit.

Like I thought White Man Killer died at Buchanan’s Station because all the history books say so, but it turns out he was just injured and that the U.S. government kept close tabs on him until he disappeared into an Arkansas swamp where he then reappears in Arkansas history. He’s not a hard guy to follow through primary sources. He didn’t die at Buchanan’s Station. That’s a fact. We just went with the legend instead.

So, here’s part of what I want to get at. At first glance, I’m inclined to believe these descendants. It’s not just one person saying this. It appears to be a pretty wide-spread family story.

But true or not, the fact that a great number of people believe it to be true and yet it can’t gain any traction in the general public’s imagination when “Yep, Jackson wiped out Running Water” (when we know Jackson didn’t lead that campaign and that captives were taken at Running Water because they flat out said that among their captives were Richard Finnelson’s wife and son) still does, tells you a lot about whose myths get to become public legend.

7 thoughts on “Whose Stories Get Heard and Whose Don’t

  1. So, I talked to my source for old South miscegenation gossip and she said she could hook me up with Jackson descendants. Do I want the Hermitage ones or the Mississippi ones? (He had plantations both places.)

  2. Apparently, supposedly, one of Jackson’s descendants who lives in Hermitage is pretty easy to recognize, because he is the spitting image of Jackson.

  3. How does this square with the “devoted to Rachel, never loved another woman” legends around their relationship?

  4. “Devoted to Rachel…” does not preclude raping (or even having consensual sex) with one’s servants. If men considered their wives “delicate,” a “good husband” could construe it as a loving act NOT to have sex with them and to find a surrogate whose physical condition required no regard on their part.

  5. Whatever “consensual” means in a assymetrical power situation like that…non-resistant, maybe? I don’t know. Consensual is the wrong word, since sex can be coerced without being forced.

  6. Bridgett, I think you captured it in a way I couldn’t find the words for – thank you. It’s like we’re applied this patina of the idealized 1950’s spousal relationship to them and disappeared any of the complexities – which I recognize is a hugely insulting way to describe a line of descendants borne out of an at best a quasi-consensual relationship. The sheer volume of whitewashing is just breathtaking.

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