“Slavery is not a shame on me, my ancestors were some of the most creative and enduring people.” a quote from “Many Rivers to Cross” PBS special.
I look at this picture and think that Louisiana wanted everybody to believed that Vilmont was not human, born as property. He was not a Mandingo in statue, since he was not of breeded stock. His White father did not claim him like the free people of color was accustomed to. He was a slave on a Perique tobacco plantation and a sugar plantation He worked hard from sun up to sun down. When he was 23 years old he was valued at one thousand dollars…He was not the top dollar item…Did he work in the house?…I don’t know…but I do know the house Negro worked as hard..don’t believe the myth that the house Negro had it made. They did not stay in the house in comfort. But I don’t know if he was a house Negro or field Negro, but I do know that he was given a slave quarter after the war, was it the same one he had lived in before the war?.. I don’t know…but his ex-master allowed him to live in an ex slave quarter and share crop on the property.
Vilmont is the six name down. Vilmont was a named property in the settlement of the estate of George Roussel on January 28th 1859. He was passed down to his son Louis Amedee Roussel.
Vilmont ran off Louis Roussel’s plantation and joined the United States Colored Troop. He did return after the war to Louis Roussel’s plantation.
United States Colored Infantry
RANK IN:Corporal SOLDIER’S
FILM NUMBER:M589 roll 77 NOTES: REFERENCE CARD. Original filed under Belmont/Seching Belomont Sechnight.
When the enlistment officer asked for Vilmont Schexnayder’s name, this is what he heard coming out of Vilmont’s mouth, “Belmont Sechnight” Vilmont said that during roll call, he answered to that name, since no one else was stepping up to the name, he said “It must be me.”
Vilmont was honored with the other African-American Civil War soldiers. His name is on a plaque at the African-American Civil War Memorial, at the corner of Vermont Avenue, 10th St, and U Street NW in Washington, D.C.
I am not ashamed of this man nor any other ancestors who were bought and sold as properties. I give them all the reverence, starting with the ancestors on that Trans-Atlantic boat to the ones that finally heard that “We are Free”.