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Posted: February 2, 2011 4:22 a.m.

Living legacies

By Brittany Thomas/

Lynn Linnemeir will present Unraveling Miss Kitty's Cloak on Sunday at Old Church in Oxford

The complex legacy of slavery will be the subject of two events this week in Newton County that focus on the story of Kitty Boyd, an enslaved woman who lived in Oxford and was the property of Methodist Bishop James Osgood Andrew.

At 7 tonight, Mark Auslander, a Brandeis University anthropologist, will discuss Re-visiting the Story of Miss Kitty: Remembering African American Family History in Oxford. The free lecture is open to the public and will be held in Williams Gymnasium on campus.

On Sunday, Remembrance in Slavery’s Aftermath: A Day of Commemoration, Reflection and Celebration, will be held in Oxford and at Grace United Methodist Church in Covington.

Both events are part of Emory University's Slavery and the University conference.

Bishop Mike Watson of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church will preach at the 11 a.m. service Sunday at Grace, followed at 2:30 p.m. by a closing event, "Slavery and Jim Crow at Emory and in Newton County: A Talking Circle," to be held at Old Church in Oxford.

The Old Church event will feature descendants of Boyd, Andrew and other community members reflecting on the legacy of slavery."Descendents of each family will talk and reflect on this great and complicated history here in the county," Auslander said.

An art installation, Unraveling Miss Kitty’s Cloak, a project of artist Lynn Linnemeir, will be presented at the event. Click here for more on the art project.

Auslander became acquainted with Boyd’s story when he served as an assistant professor of anthropology at Oxford a decade ago. He is the author of a forthcoming book on Boyd and Andrew, "The Accidental Slaveowner: Revisiting a Myth of the American South" (University of Georgia Press, fall 2011).

Tonight, he will discuss what’s known of Boyd’s story, and the mystery that had long surrounded what happened to Boyd’s children.

As with much of history, Boyd’s story differed in the telling. In Oxford, the lines were drawn along racial lines as blacks and whites in Oxford held different views of Boyd and her life.

For blacks, Boyd was abused and the enforced concubine of Andrew.

For whites, Boyd was the loyal slave, the woman who chose to remain with Andrew than to move to Liberia. She was honored with a special marker in the historic Oxford cemetery and was the only black to be buried in what was the whites’ only section of the burial ground.

Auslander says it’s hard to know what really happened, whether Boyd was Andrew’s mistress or not.

"She was given a choice, but it’s more complicated than you would think," he said.

Auslander said the true mystery was what happened to Boyd’s family.

Information on Boyd’s husband was found, as was his burial site.

Their children also have been rediscovered, and their descendents have been tracked down to today.

Reflecting his mother’s legacy, one son became an African Methodist Episcopal Church minister.

Emory’s Board of Trustees has recently issued a statement of regret for the school’s role in slavery, and the nation is currently marking the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Even after 150 years, the war and slavery continue to impact society.

"It’s complicated," Auslander said. "The story of slavery and the story of the Civil War are powerful mirrors for us."

"As a nation, we are made up of the past, more of the past than the future, so that’s why the Miss Kitty story is important. It holds up a mirror to the past and makes us ask difficult questions."

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