The Hairston History

Black Hairstons White Hairstons

Once upon a time in America there were nine plantations. With the exception of one, they were located fairly close together: there were "Marrowbone" (1749) "Beaver Creek" (1776), "Berry Hill" (1782), "Hordsville" (1836), and "Red Plains" (1860), located in Henry County, Virginia; "Oak Hill" (1823), located in Pittsylvania County, Virginia; "Sauratown Hills" (1786), located in Stokes County, North Carolina; "Cooleemee Hills" (1817), located in Davis and Davidson Counties, North Carolina, and "Old Fort" (1862), located in Lownes County, Mississippi. These nine large and thriving plantations had one thing in common: they were owned and managed by HAIRSTONS-descendants of European HAIRSTONS, who settled in the American Colonies to work and prosper.

Beaver Creek Plantation Beaver Creek Plantation

Among other livestock and deeded property, the owners and managers of the nine plantations owned slaves (as was the custom). The total population of servants and slaves for all nine plantations during the above periods was approximately 5,500. They worked the fields, tended the livestock, and served their HAIRSTON masters. They were descendants of various tribes of Africa. Against their will, they were captured and brought to America to provide cheap labor-"black gold". Many were highly respected personages in their African villages.

The slaves labored, the masters managed, and the nine plantations prospered. As a way of life, there were good times and bad times, sickness and health, births and deaths, revolt and revelation, joy and sadness, love and hate, miscegenation and separation, law and crime, religion and reaction - way of life that was no different than any other in the slave belt colonies of the United States.

Berry Hill Plantation Berry Hill Plantation

Some slaves took (adopted) their masters' name, others rejected any close identity, and still others clandestinely were born into it. This lifestyle continued for many years. But one day, and for many days afterward, the nine plantations, their masters, and their slaves were engulfed in the great Civil War, a civil strife that divided America, its states and people as they had never been divided before or since. Slave and master fought with, and against each other. Blood and death of fellow countrymen and kinsmen seemed never to end. But, finally, the Civil War ended, and the slaves were emancipated by proclamation - set free from the entrenchment of bondage-in 1863.

Then, for the HAIRSTON masters, came the long tumultuous days and nights of reconstruction and dissention. For the HAIRSTON freed slaves came the dreary days and nights of disorientation, hard work, low or no wages: the same struggle that other masters and slaves endured. Hardship, survival, and fear gripped master and ex-slave alike.

Oak Hill Plantation Oak Hill Plantation

Some years later, when the agrarian revolt of the 1890's turned to a battle for voting ballots, soon followed klanism, intimidation, and the legislated 'separate but equal" doctrine. Equality of rights did not mean identity of rights. Thus, segregation, discrimination, and the pernicious system of separate but most un-equal.

However, in the midst of the "new liberation" and "equal rights" movements of the 1920's, 30's and 40's, HAIRSTONS, black and white (and colors in between) shared in the agonies and the glories of individual, group-ethnic, and national advancement and progress. Soon the bond of kinship and fellowship began to surface and bind father and mother, sister and brother, and cousins left and right. HAIRSTONS, white and black, began to seek and find each other. Kinship recognition was in bloom.

Cooleemee Hills Plantation Cooleemee Hills Plantation

The Hairston reunion was officially organized on the second Sunday of August, 1931, at the Rock Hill Baptist Church, Stokes County, North Carolina. Prior to this official founding, many HAIRSTONS tried to get together by holding family dinners for their closest kin.

It was some time later that the HAIRSTON CLAN was founded, primarily through an attempt to bring about a greater involvement of family solidarity and kinship feeling among surnamed white and black relatives whose origins began in the nine plantations.

Progressing slowly through the social and legal barriers of humble beginnings and racial struggles, HAIRSTONS, all, are now beginning to join together in sincere kinship unity and expand their historical, sociological and humanitarian horizons for the good of family, country, and GOD.

- William Russell Hairston, Jr.

For More History:

The HairstSons: An American Family in Black and White
The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White
CBS News CBS: A Family in Black And White
Henry Wiencek
Book Discussion with Author, Henry Wiencek

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