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Submitted by Sherry Jackson; edited by Cheri Todd Molter

Based on Oral History

My father, James Powell, was a little boy when his grandmother told him the stories, but he remembers bits and pieces. This is what he recalls:

His grandmother, Amanda B. Powell, was born into enslavement in the 1800s in Franklin County, North Carolina. She was eventually sold in either Fayetteville or Elizabethtown.

At 13-years-old, Amanda became blind, due to the punishments she endured from her grandmother. Her grandson, James, remembers her telling the story about Amanda’s grandmother “put[ing] a gate on her head,” which led to her blindness.
Amanda was most likely freed from enslavement by the Emancipation Proclamation, although her family is not certain about the details of that time in her life.

Amanda was married twice: Her first husband was Henry Bibby, and her second was Shelley Brown. Amanda had told her grandson that she had jumped the broom with one of her husbands, although he is unsure which of her husbands participated in that ceremony with her. (Or perhaps she jumped the broom with both men.)

Amanda had three daughters, one of whom was Linda Powell. Linda was James’ mother, and she died when James, who was born in the 1940s, was very little. Amanda, his grandmother, took James in and raised him until she died. James said that Amanda used to “use him as her eyes” when he was young. James said, “What she knew she wanted most was a seeing eye dog.”

James remembers that his grandmother worked in the Sandy Creek area wrapping tobacco and said she was “fast at it.” She also got $13 a month due to her blindness.

Amanda was buried in Louisburg, N.C. in Franklin county.

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