Daniel Southall, The Coffee Prince

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Daniel Southall, my great uncle, was a merchant, a planter, a preacher and a large slave owner. In his day everyone justified Slavery, in the North and in the South, so, in his conscience there was no conflict between the preacher and the slave holder. He was a kind master and though he lived in the town of Murfreesboro, he often went out on his plantation and saw the conditions of life among his slaves.

Once he bought several new negro men, and among them there was one large, muscular, fine negro, whose fine physique attracted his attention, but having placed these new slaves on his plantation he soon forgot his burly new slave. Several times when visiting his plantation he noticed this same man holding aloof from the other slaves - distinguished looking as he towered above them, and with a bearing which was not consistant with his thick red lips and flat nose.

My uncle inquired of the overseer why the new man always stood alone, and asked if he was sullen and hard to control. The overseer said the man was tractable and obeyed him, but would not mingle with the other negroes - nor eat with them and at his own (the negro) request he was permitted to occupy alone an old cabin which had been deserted and condemned as unfit for habitation.

My uncle became interested and by degrees approached his new slave - who had acquired our language enough to converse. The negro knew that the white man was his master, but received his advances more with the demeanor of an equal and not with the servility characteristic of other slaves.

Time passed on. My uncle continued to try to solve the unusual manner of his new slave. Finally he sought his confidence and asked him why he would not associate with the other negroes.

The tale he told was that in Africa, where he had been captured and brought to America, his father was a King and he was his oldest son and would be King or Chief of the tribe after the death of his father. He explained that as the son of a King - and a prospective King - he could not mix with the tribemen as equals, and he hoped some day to return to Africa. It was evident he would never mix with the other slaves - the feeling of superiority was too strong. My uncle continued to study his new slave from a new point of view.

Finally he decided to offer him his freedom - which he did - and offered to pay his passage back to Africa. The negro seemed very happy and told my uncle that his father - the African King - would re-imburse him for the purchase money and the return passage, by sending him a cargo of coffee, which was plentiful with his tribe in Africa.

Interested and broadly humane, my uncle saw him safely embarked, with his passage prepaid, and no doubt was happier for having observed the Golden Rule, though he never expected to hear from this interesting savage again.

A year passed - possibly more - when at Winston - the County Seat of Hertford - on the Chowan River - 12 miles from Murfreesboro - a sailing vessel arrived, with a cargo of coffee, consigned to Mr. Daniel Southall, from some part of Africa.

My uncle went to Winston, talked with the "Skipper" of the vessel and received the cargo of coffee - which had indeed been sent to him by that African King, in payment for his son and in appreciation of the kindness of a white father to a negro father.

My uncle sold the coffee for more than the negro Prince had cost him and was always proud of the experience.

The tale is true. My father was living with his uncle when it occurred - for his uncle Daniel Southall raised and educated him after his father died.

The name of the negro has not been kept in the annals of the family, but that captured young Prince, who returned to his Kingdom in Africa, has always been called "The Coffee Prince."

Sallie Southall Cotten.

NOTE: Daniel Southall was the grandfather of Mrs. Sue Southall Laurence of Murfreesboro - whose father, John Southall, was son of Daniel.

Source: Manuscript by Sally Southall Cotten, circa 1916, re Daniel Southall.
Submitted 17 February 1990 from Virginia Roberts. Transcribed from copy 1 September 1990 by Susan Shields Sasek.

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