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Lewis Garrard Clarke, 1812-1897 and Milton Clarke, 1817?-1901
Narratives of the Sufferings of Lewis and Milton Clarke, Sons of a Soldier of the Revolution, During a Captivity of More than Twenty Years Among the Slaveholders of Kentucky, One of the So-Called Christian States of North America
Boston: Published by Bela Marsh, 1846.


Little is known about the life of Milton Clarke (ca. 1817-1901) other than what is written in the Narratives of the Sufferings of Lewis and Milton Clarke. Clarke, the eighth of ten children, was born to Letitia Campbell in Madison County, Kentucky, and given the name Milton Campbell; he later changed his last name to Clarke for unknown reasons. At the age of six, when Milton's white grandfather, Samuel Campbell, passed away and his plantation was auctioned off, Milton and his family were listed with farm implements and animals on the catalog. Milton's family was sold to his white aunt, Judith Logan, and her husband Joseph, who moved the Clarkes to their estate at Lexington. Deacon Archibald Logan later purchased the estate, his son's slaves, including Milton's mother, his brother Cyrus, and Milton himself. In 1833, Milton's mother died of cholera. At age twenty-one, in 1838, Milton began to hire out his time from Deacon Logan in order to travel the Ohio and Mississippi rivers by steamboat. Determined to obtain his freedom, Milton and three other slaves escaped to Ohio disguised as a company of musicians and played at a ball in Cincinnati. His friends continued on to Canada while Milton stopped in Oberlin, assisting other slaves on their passage to freedom. Separated at a young age, Milton and his brother Lewis were reunited in Ohio, where they began lecturing on slavery. They traveled to eight states and lectured to hundreds of thousands of people. Milton died in 1901.

The Narratives (1846) is an enlarged edition of a text written by Lewis Clarke in 1845. When the 1845 edition (3,000 copies) was exhausted, Milton consented to include his narrative in the 1846 edition.

As Milton Clarke explains in the Narratives, he is the grandson of a Kentucky plantation owner named Samuel Campbell. Through one of his slaves, Samuel Campbell fathered Letitia, Clarke's mother. She married a Scottish immigrant and fighter in the American Revolution. After Samuel Campbell died, Clarke, who was six, was auctioned with his mother, sister, and brother to his aunt and uncle Judith and Joseph Logan. Clarke laments that "Among the articles and animals put upon the catalogue, and placed in the hands of the auctioneer, were a large number of slaves . . . My mother, and her infant son Cyrus, about one year old, were put up together and sold for $500!! Sisters and brothers selling their own sister and her children!!" (p. 69).

Clarke respected Judith because she alone recognized his mother as her sister. However, Clarke despised Judith's husband Joseph Logan, a tanner and a man in good standing in the Episcopalian church. Two years after the family was purchased, Judith passed away and Logan married Minerva Campbell, Judith's younger sister, whom Clarke describes as "a half fool, besides being underwitted" (p. 71). Even worse, Minerva severely abused Clarke, as did Logan.

On one occasion, Joseph Logan found that the shoulder of a horse was sore and, blaming Clarke, thumped the young boy's head against a post. Later, while Clarke was tending to the horse, he spoke badly of Logan, unaware that the man was hiding in the next stall. Logan sprang out and attempted to beat the boy, but Clarke bit the man's leg and Logan was obliged to call out to a white worker in the tanning yard for help. Logan was about to slit the young boy's throat when the worker entered and persuaded him to restrain himself. Instead, Logan bound Clarke and beat him with 300 lashes, leaving his back "peeled from my shoulders to my heels" (p. 73). The young Clarke, very near death, was carried in by his mother and lay bedridden for four weeks.

After an argument in which Logan whipped Minerva, she left him to live with a Miss Andersen, and Logan began attempts to make Clarke's sister Delia bend "to his diabolical wishes" (p. 74). On her refusal, she was also beaten and later sold to a Frenchman in New Orleans for $1,600.00. About a month later, the Frenchman took Delia to Mexico, where she was emancipated, and married her. With her husband, Delia spent time in France and the West Indies. At his death, he left her between twenty and thirty thousand dollars.

Not long after Logan sold Delia, Logan's father, Deacon Archibald Logan, purchased the estate and, along with it, Clarke's remaining family. Clarke was made a body servant to Deacon Logan and began traveling with him. Clarke also hired out his time and worked playing the bass drums and bugle for military volunteers training for a campaign in Texas. Learning that Deacon Logan received three dollars for half a day of his services, Clarke refused to play and even sold his bugle and drum. Clarke agreed to play again after Logan consented to pay Clarke half of the money he received for playing. Clarke set this money aside for himself, possessed with "a shrewd notion that I could take care of myself" (76).

In 1838, Clarke began to hire his time from Deacon Logan "for the purpose of going in a steamboat up and down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers" (81). After visiting New Orleans three to four times, Clarke finally found his sister Delia, who expressed a desire to pay for the freedom of Clarke and their brother Cyrus. Unfortunately, as Clarke traveled to New Orleans to receive the money for his freedom, he was met with the heartbreaking news that his sister had died. In her will, however, she left her property to Clarke so that he and their family might obtain freedom. Clarke soon learned that if he accepted the property, Logan could have full claim on it. Attempting to buy his freedom with funds from his sister's estate, Clarke promised that he would give Logan $1000 (the first money he would receive from the estate) on the condition that he be made free, thus allowing him to accept his sister's property without Logan having claim on it. Logan refused.

Wanting to escape slavery, Clarke traveled to Texas, but found that (for reasons not explained in the text) "Here it looked worse than slavery, if any thing can be worse" (p. 82). Clarke then returned to Kentucky, and while in Louisville met three slaves who were also musicians. Together, they decided to escape bondage by passing as a company of musicians bound for a ball in Cincinnati. After playing at the ball, Clarke stopped in Oberlin, Ohio, while his colleagues continued on to Canada. In Ohio, Clarke assisted other slaves as they escaped northward to Canada.

Eventually, Milton Clarke was reunited with his brother Lewis in Ohio, and the pair began lecturing on slavery and their experiences. Milton boasted of having "more calls for meetings than we could attend" (p. 98). The brothers lectured in eight different states, and to hundreds of thousands of people. Though an attempt was made to bring Milton back to Kentucky, he was never, to modern knowledge, recaptured.

Donovan Sanchez

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