Despite bondage, Elizabeth and Emanuel tried to instill in their children a sense of pride. Emanuel’s father, Jim, had taught him to read, and Emanuel, with the approval of Jesse Billingsley, taught his own sons this now-forbidden skill. After Nat Turner, a literate preacher, and his band of warrior-slaves murdered some sixty white men, women, and children in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831, most Southern states had adopted laws making slave literacy illegal. Nonetheless, Emanuel’s family read the Bible every day. The boys learned the teachings of Jesus; they learned to be faithful to God and be dependable, trustworthy, and hard-working. And they were constantly reminded of their great-grandmother’s plea to remember their family name. They were Madisons, and they were together. Still, the threat of being sold and separated hung over them.
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