Black History Month: Lavinia Bell Escaped Slavery in Texas

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African Americans have come a long way since the days of slavery.

One story that isn’t often told is that of Lavinia Bell.

She was born a free woman in Washington, but was kidnapped and forced into slavery in Galveston.

She was forced to work in the fields naked, harnessed to a plow.

She tried many times to escape. After one attempt, she and her husband were captured. Her husband was beaten to death and Lavinia was mutilated.

“You can kill the body, but you cannot kill the spirit,” said Sandaria Faye, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Arts and Humanities at UT Dallas, and author of Mourner’s Bench.

On one escape attempt in 1861, she finally made it all the way to Ohio and New York State. A kind man paid her train fare to Montreal.

That’s where a newspaper learned of her story and told the world about the torture she received at the hands of her owner in Texas.

“Most people, being maimed, being beaten, the way that she was, she did not give up. Not only did she not give up, she encouraged other people not to give up and freed them,” Faye said. “That’s more than one person needs to do in a lifetime.”

Records show she leased a home in Montreal for about two weeks in April of 1861, but there’s no record of what happened to her after that.

We can only hope the end of her life was much better than the beginning.

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