ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Slaves & Servants of Liberty Hall
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Slaves & Servants of Liberty Hall
Slave Cabin at Liberty Hall
This two-room cottage was home to slaves who
worked in the home of Alexander Stephens. They
remained here as paid servants after Emancipation.
Harry & Eliza Stephens
Freed from slavery at Liberty
Hall, the Stephens stayed
after Emancipation to care for
the sickly Alexander Stephens.
The Work of Skilled Hands
Many of the items now on
display at Liberty Hall were
made by slaves before the
Civil War or freedmen after
1865.
Slaves & Servants of Liberty Hall - Crawfordville, Georgia
African American Life in Georgia
Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
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A Simple Life at Liberty Hall
The simple cottage of Harry &
Eliza Stephens is preserved
at A.H. Stephens Historic
Park. It provides a glimpse
into their daily lives there.
Slave Cemetery
The slaves and later the
freedmen who continued to
work at Liberty Hall were
buried in this simple but well-
cared for cemetery.
African American Historic Sites
Visitors to A.H. Stephens Historic Park are
often surprised when they leave knowing as
much about the African American slaves and
servants of Liberty Hall as they do about
Stephens himself.

In fact, however, the former Confederate vice
president's home offers a story about the
relationships spawned during the years of
the "peculiar institution" that differs greatly
from that often told today. That story is told in
a little two room cottage behind Stephens'
home where Harry and Eliza Stephens lived
and raised their children.

The couple was born into slavery and knew
Alexander H. Stephens as a man quite
different from the stereotypical plantation
owners portrayed by modern writers. The
story is all the more remarkable because of
its portrayal of Stephens, the orator who gave
the "Cornerstone Speech" outlining slavery's
status as a cornerstone of secession.

Stephens never wrote out the Cornerstone
Speech, but delivered it extemporaneously in
Savannah on March 21, 1861. Speaking of
slavery in that speech, the Confederate vice
president said:

...Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated
this, as the "rock upon which the old Union
would split." He was right. What was
conjecture with him, is now a realized fact.
But whether he fully comprehended the great
truth upon which that rock stood and stands,
may be doubted. The prevailing ideas
entertained by him and most of the leading
statesmen at the time of the formation of the
old Constitution were, that the enslavement of
the African was in violation of the laws of
nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially,
morally and politically.

Continuing on, however, Stephens said that
the "rock" upon which the Founding Fathers
had established government had been a
"sandy foundation" now swept away by wind:

Our new Government is founded upon
exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are
laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth
that the negro is not equal to the white man;
that slavery, subordination to the superior
race, is his natural and moral condition.

The speech was widely republished, with
varying degrees of inaccuracy, in both North
and South. And while it did accurately state
Stephens' views of what had caused the
secession crisis, most reporters failed to
note that it was an overview of the crisis and
did not express the vice president's personal
views of slavery.

With regard to those, he wrote:

...My own opinion of slavery, as often
expressed, was that if the institution was not
the best, or could not be made the best, for
both races, looking to the advancement and
progress of both, physically and morally, it
ought to be abolished. It was far from being
what it might and ought to have been.
Education was denied. This was wrong. I ever
condemned the wrong. Marriage was not
recognized. This was a wrong that I
condemned. Many things connected with it
did not meet my approval but excited my
disgust, abhorrence, and detestation.

It was the latter philosophy by which the man
Alexander Stephens lived his life. He never
sold a slave and, so far as is known, never
purchased one except for the purpose of
unifying families. He employed no overseer,
but trusted the laborers on his farm to handle
their responsibilities on their own. No whip
ever cracked at Liberty Hall. No shackles ever
restrained a human being.
When the war ended, the frail Stephens was
imprisoned at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor
for five months. He returned home to find the
farm operating well. None of the former
slaves had left, even after being informed of
their liberation from slavery.

Harry & Eliza Stephens, in fact, remained at
Liberty Hall and cared for Alexander
Stephens for the rest of his life. A post-war
visitor described their relationship with the
former Confederate leader:

...No change is observable in any particular.
Harry Stephens, the faithful servant, who
nursed him in some of his severest illnesses,
and who has so long been his major-domo,
is still there, with his wife Eliza and their
children, five in number. The oldest is a girl
named Ellen, fifteen years old, and a son
Timothy, or Tim as he is called, a boy of
about twelve. These, with the smaller ones,
constitute the household servants. George is
the assistant gardener....

Continuing on, the observer wrote that the
now free servants of Liberty Hall lived in
"comfortable cottages" on the grounds and
that Stephens continued to care for former
slaves too old to make livings of their own.

...The routine of business has not changed,
and while Mr. Stephens pays them wages,
which they spend for clothing and things they
need or want, there is no difference in the
expense to him or comfort to them.... The
children take learning in broken doses - that
is, they study a very little, and play a great
deal.

When Stephens died in 1883, he provided for
Harry and Eliza Stephens in his will. Both rest
peacefully today in a small cemetery not far
from their restored cottage at Liberty Hall.

The observer's note that the children took
study in "broken doses" aside, Harry and
Eliza Stephens handed down their
commitment to compassion and learning to
the family's future generations.

A number of living descendants of the two
visited Liberty Hall several years ago and
among their number could be found
educators, doctors and professionals from a
variety of fields. Among their stops was the
cottage in which their ancestors lived.

Please click here to learn more about A.H.
Stephens Historic Park.