Throughout the history of the United States of America much has been written about the Welsh who immigrated to such northern states as Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York & Wisconsin. Many of these Welshmen were still living in Welsh enclaves insulated from the citizens of their adopted states through the period of the American Civil War.
As this group of Welsh in the northern states were writing letters home to Wales it seems their history is the most documented group of Welsh in American. Thus, theirs is the story that is considered the Alpha & Omega of Welsh history in America today.
I suppose very little attention or ink has been given to the Welsh of the American South because of the institution of slavery which still causes an unpleasantness to those, both in America & Wales, who really do not understand the true nature of that particular institution even though it has now been abolished for over 150 years.
While my topic is the Forgotten Welsh in the American South I feel that for the benefit of the reader I must briefly touch on the topic of slavery in an attempt to put you at ease & keep your mind on the subject at hand & not that of slavery in America & the South.
While no one wants to be a slave the institution on average is not as brutal as modern-day politicos & writers want it to sound. Slavery was an economic institution; it was not about love or hate because of a person’s skin color. It was about making money.
Slaves cost around $2,000.00 each when the average Southerner was making $25.00 a YEAR. So 95 % of those in the South owned no slaves. A slave was an investment to make money not to beat up just for the enjoyment of it. A crippled slave or sick slave produces no money so, the average slave was taken very well care of.
No one would buy an expensive car & then the first time it fails to start beat the windshield & headlights out of it. Such acts profit you nothing & the same holds true with being the owner of a slave.
Were their masters who beat there slaves? Sure, but not on average, just like there are some men who beat their wives this does not mean that we automatically assume all husbands must be wife beaters !
My ancestors & yours were probably slaves at sometime in history to the Romans, Vikings, English & whoever invaded your ancestral homeland. So slavery is not a club that belongs exclusively to black Africans. We could do a little crying & make demands of the worlds societies if we were a mind too.
Slaves or no slaves, the American South has a rich & long Welsh history. Government documentation is spotty, limited & incomplete at best on this subject. Families with Welsh names have been here from the South’s beginning & is for the most part documented only through the many family histories & letters these families have keep of their 1st, 2nd & 3rd generations from the earliest days of the towns & cities that were established in America’s colonial south.
Another area of desperate research needs to be done on the Welsh white slaves who were forcefully removed from their homes in Wales by the British & forced into their new colonies in America. Who knows maybe my Welsh ancestors & yours arrived here in chains also.
Billy E. Price