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Stolen Stories | Reclaiming the lives of Tennessee slaves

Stolen Stories is a series about the lives of Isaac and Adaline, two East Tennesseans whose families are helping tell a story history tried to steal.

Gabrielle Hays, Madison Stacey

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In 1619, the first people were brought against their will to a place that didn't even call itself America yet.

For the next 200 some years, African-Americans crisscrossed this cruel New World in bondage, forcibly laboring all the while in the service of masters who considered them property - even after that land had declared itself one of liberty and justice for all.

Yet, given nothing, these people built lives for themselves. Against the backdrop of an oppressive and peculiar institution, they fell in love and had families. They created art, made music, and told stories, preserving the details of their lives in a way society refused to. 

Their legacy, one rich in oral tradition but not often preserved by written record, was not lost. It lived on in their children, who in turn ensured their children knew as much as possible about the lives of the people who gave them theirs. 

For people descended from enslaved people in the United States, tracing their lineage back through a history of chaos and cruelty is almost impossible.

Yet, two families in East Tennessee have managed to do it. 

Now, they are telling their stories. Meet two families reclaiming the lives history tried to take from them. 

Credit: Madison Stacey