Adeline Blakeley: 'This is My Family, This is Where I'm Going to Stay'

"She was born a slave in my great great grandfather's family in Tennessee," Ann Sugg, the last child Adeline raised said.

Adeline Blakeley was born July 10th, 1850 working for Ann Sugg's family.

Shortly after, the family and their slaves came to Fayetteville, Arkansas.

"They, along with their 13 children, they had brought 20 slaves with them and Adeline was just a little, not quite 2 year old child when they came," Sugg said.

Several years later, trained as a house slave, Adeline was passed down through the family as a wedding gift, taking the Blakeley last name.

"My great grand father had a custom of when his children married, he gave them their choice of a slave, and she chose Adeline," She said.

Not even a teenager, Adeline's ties to her blood family were broken.

"In Adeline's report, she said that the last time she saw her mother was when she was 12 years old and that just brings it home to you so much how terrible the Civil War was breaking up and slavery in particular, it was slavery that did that, they often would break up families," Sugg said.

After the Civil War, at just 15 years old, Adeline had the choice to leave the Blakeley family, but instead, chose to stay.

"She said that the soldiers came after the war and accused Mrs. Blakeley of holding her against her will and she said no, this is my family this is where I'm going to stay,"

From that point on, Adeline helped raise 12 children, none her own by birth, but hers just the same, Ann being the last one.

"Adeline and I were pretty important people in that family. We've got a lot of pictures of the two of us sort of signifying that. She was just a very kind and caring person, she was fun to be with, she was a good cook," Sugg said.

Adeline truly was a part of the family.

"Nevertheless there was still a lot of bias about blacks and not everybody held her at the high degree that our family did," Sugg said.

Ann remembers a family trip to the circus in California. Adeline was not allowed to sit with the family in the "whites-only" section.

"Well, the family was not going to deal with that. So after a lot of maneuvering and possibly some money exchanged hands, but eventually the usher asked if she was the nurse maid to the baby. And we all said yes, yes, she's the nurse maid, and then that was okay."

But back in Fayetteville, Adeline's reputation preceded her.

"Adeline was really considered a celebrity, everybody looked up to Adeline,"

So when she passed away in 1945, at 95 years old, the Blakeley's insisted she be buried in their family plot in Fayetteville's Evergreen Cemetery.

Jerry Hogan with the Washington County Historical Society says it was the most prestigious cemetery in the area.

"Many of the movers and shakers of this town are buried here. Well known people like J.W. Fulbright and his family, Edward Durell Stone, many University of Arkansas Presidents," Hogan said.

At that time, the cemetery was for whites only.

But Adeline was so highly revered by the community, and viewed as truly a part of the Blakeley family, she was allowed to be buried there.

"The only African American that we know of buried in this cemetery is Adeline Blakeley," Hogan said.

Born a slave, but died a legend.

Blessed with the family that picked her, and that she chose to keep.

Adeline Blakeley's legacy in Fayetteville remains, and like the beginning of her life, her final resting place is in the presence of her Blakeley family.

"They just wanted her with the family, where she had always been," Sugg said.

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