Invisible History

Slave Cabins on St. Catherines Island, #211

Slave Cabins on St. Catherines Island, #211, 1883.
From the Georgia Historical Society William E. Wilson Photographs, 1883-1892, MS 1375-076.

The task of compiling a history can be a daunting one.  A good historian is one who is careful to examine all available resources, both primary sources and secondary sources. It is easy to become discouraged, though, when little material evidence remains with which a historian can properly document the life of an individual from the past.

This task becomes even more difficult when researching someone who was not born to a position of privilege.  After all, the wealthy tend to be well educated and to leave behind a more complete record of their lives: items range from journals and diaries, to household accounts and inventories, to silhouettes and portraits.

Sometimes there is very little documentation to be found related to persons born into the lower socioeconomic classes, especially to persons born into slavery. Such is the case with the early years of Mathilde (later spelled Mathilda) Taylor Beasley.  Fortunately, however, this important figure in Savannah history made many contributions in her adult life—despite her humble beginnings—and consequently there remains enough resource material with which to tell a story.


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