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If your ancestors are European American and from the South, chances are they owned human beings. The dark sides of our history are prevalent in documentation such as tax documents, census records, and the last will and testament.

John Langston III was born in 1710 in Virginia, served in the Revolutionary War, would become a prominent landowner in Granville Co., North Carolina, and would have at least eight children. He was my 7th great grandfather.

Family stories can be uncomfortable, and are as complicated as our country’s history. We should not only acknowledge the roles our ancestors played in this history, we must tell the stories, share the facts, and list the names — so that the process of reconciliation for such histories can, in some cases begin, and in other cases continue.

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Langston’s will dated 1782 begins with:

I most humbly bequeath my Soul to God my maker beseeching his most gracious acceptance of it through the all sufficient merits and mediation of my most compassionate redeemer Jesus Christ who gave himself to be an atonement for my sins and is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them and I trust will not reject me a returning penitent sinner when I come to him for mercy in this hope and confidence I tender up my Soul with comfort humbly beseeching the most blessed and gracious Trinity, one God most Holy most Merciful and Glorious to prepare for me the time of my dissolution and then to take me to himself in that peace and rest and incomparable felinity which he has prepared for all that love his Holy Name, Amen.

In the next sentence he goes on to bequeath the following people to his children:
Ben, Hippoh, Harry, Lamkin, Venus, Ede, Tim, and Peter

I give to my son James one negro named Harry, to him and his heirs.

I give to my son Solomon one negro named Lamkin, to him and to his heirs.

I give to my grandson Asa at marriage if he lives until then, if not to his brother Will’m (William), but my wife to have the use of him her life and after her decease Jechonias until such marriage afores’d, one negro named Ben. I also give Jechonias that piece of land he lives on, to him and his heirs.

I give to my daughter Molly Smith one negro named Venus, but if Feb brings one more for that to go to Molly and Venus to fall to her mistress.

I give to my daughter Becka Will’ms (Williams) one negro girl named Ede, to her and her heirs after my wife’s decease.

I give to my daughter Fanny my negro boy named Tim.

I give to my daughter Sally Smith one negro boy named Peter.

I give to my son Samuel one negro man named Hippoh after my wife’s decease.

I give to my daughter Elizabeth Spaun one cow and calf.

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In the appraisement of his estate in 1790, the following are listed as prices for each person and signed by three appraisers. 

Ben — $100
Ede — $100
Feeb — $70
Archipo — $60
Harry — $100
Tim — $80
Venus — $20

In a census record dated 1786, the following is listed for John Langston.

Free white males upward of 16 years including the head of families — 2
Free white males under 16 years — 0
Free white females including the head of families — 4
All other free persons — 0
Slaves — 0 (slaves listed under other family members)

In a tax document dated 1754, the following is listed.

John Langston, James Soloman and Josephs Sons negro Venus — 5 (with purchase amount)