It’s easy to think of slavery in America as the distant past until you realize that one of the last people born into domestic bondage and living in the Toledo area died only 58 years ago.
Her name was Hannah Davidson, and she died at age 116 in 1960.
Pictured in the accompanying 1947 Blade archive photo by Tom O’Reilly, Mrs. Davidson was born in 1843 on a plantation in Ballard County, Ky., and was technically freed with the emancipation proclaimation on Jan. 1, 1863. Like many former slaves, she didn’t leave the South immediately, but lingered on the plantation for several years trying to figure out her future.
At age 25 she moved to Paducah, Ky., married, and had seven children. The family moved to Toledo in 1919, where her husband, William, died the next year.
The Blade interviewed Mrs. Davidson several times over the years, discovering that she didn’t learn to read until she was 93, that her passions included reading the Bible and sewing, and that even late in life she had vivid memories of her time as a slave.
In a 1951 interview, she found humor in one post-war memory. She recalled that when Union soldiers made a routine inspection of Ballard County plantations after the war to ensure that no one was being held against their will, her former master “lit out for some tall weeds like a rabbit. He didn’t come out, either, till thy were gone.”
At the time of her death Hannah Davidson’s life had spanned 25 presidents.
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