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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ernest Seeman, February 13, 1976. Interview B-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Family heritage and grandfather's comments on slavery

Seeman talks about his family heritage on his mother's side of the family. Dating back to the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, Seeman's family had a long history in North Carolina. Specifically, Seeman offers a vignette of his grandfather who had owned slaves. Seeman remembers feeling extreme discomfort at his father's nostalgia for slavery.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ernest Seeman, February 13, 1976. Interview B-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

MIMI CONWAY:
Your mother worked with your Aunt Ada as a milliner?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
Yes. She was quick with her fingers; she caught right on.
MIMI CONWAY:
And had their family been in North Carolina for long?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
Oh, he was the ruling elder in the Presbyterian church on Battleground Road - that's where Cornwallis and some other general fought in the Revolution. And that became a main artery to Greensboro from the west. And old Buffalo Church had been started there long ago, And he had had slaves.
MIMI CONWAY:
Who is he?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
My grandfather. [Albright]
MIMI CONWAY:
Your mother's father?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
Yes. He got me to disdaining him, because when he was visiting us down in Durham (which he did now and then), there was nothing he liked to tell about better than whipping women slaves. He just reveled in it. And there he was, a ruling elder in the church. 7 7 On p. 1 of this interview, Ernest Seeman refers to his mother as a "poor country girl" and on p. 3 as "a raw country girl," yet her father was a slave owner and ruling elder in the church. On April 27, 1976, in further interviewing with Ernest, he said his mother's father was a good farmer and had made money but later lost it. He reiterated that they were good farming people He had a lot of white whiskers. I never liked him But he was a good farmer; he and his boys raised wheat and rye and corn and potatoes and stuff.
MIMI CONWAY:
How did you feel when he told you that he whipped his slaves, his women slaves, when you were a boy and heard him tell stories?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
Oh, I just fumed inside; I didn't argue with him. I didn't like it; I didn't like him - it made me hate him.
MIMI CONWAY:
When did your mother's family first come to North Carolina?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
Oh, we've got a little book at home. A woman at North Carolina had to do a dissertation, 8 and she chose the Albright family for his dissertation. 8 At the University of North Carolina. Elizabeth's [Ernest's wife] got the book at home in the library. All the old castles on the Rhine that the Albrights used to have . . . Albrecht-Durer, that's where he got his name.
MIMI CONWAY:
Is that your mother's family or your father's family?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
My mother's family, the Albrights.
MIMI CONWAY:
And when did they come to this country?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
Oh, way back.
MIMI CONWAY:
In the seventeen hundreds?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
Yes.
MIMI CONWAY:
Earlier?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
Sixteen hundreds or early seventeen hundreds, I should say.
MIMI CONWAY:
Did they come down from New York to North Carolina, or what?
ERNEST SEEMAN:
Yes, I think they generally did. Philadelphia, that was the landing place, and then they would journey south on horseback, most generally.