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Catherine Hill Love, abt 1788
Home Up Samuel Hill, abt 1780 Dennis Hill, abt 1784 Henry Nelson Hill, abt 1786 Catherine Hill Love, abt 1788 Henry Nelson Hill, born abt 1792 Rebecca Hill, born abt 1794 Jane Hill, born abt 1800 James Hill V William Hill, born abt 1802 Thomas Hill, abt 1803

Mary Lee Brady, Ph.D.

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Catharine Hill, daughter of Henry Hill, so far as we know was the first of the Virginia or Ohio Hills of African heritage to bear the first name of Catharine, which still exists in the person of Catharine Hill, daughter of Dunbar Hill and grand-daughter of Henry Hill of Salem, Virginia and born of parents who experienced the Civil War.  Our fascination with the first Catharine born in 1788 is that she was not a slave in Ohio and likely among the early African-American literate women, and like White women in the early 19th century fascinated by the world around them that came crashing down as a result of Thomas Jefferson's immortal declaration that all men were created equal. 

In both Europe and America such thoughts would spark not only rebellion among the masses of human beings literate enough to comprehend that Christ (despite aristocratic catering priesthoods, preachers and even rabbis) did not mean for them to be less than others, ..... but also the beginnings of abolition activities to end the hated institutions of slavery in America, the Caribbean and Europe and especially Africa where it began. As a little girl at the table of her father and mother in both Virginia and Ohio, she would have them speak about the institution of slavery "down home" in Virginia where their kinfolks still struggled to live without fear.  Depending on news of the week or month in their household, ... supper time blessings of the food might have lasted until it was nearly cold, ... as words of their earthly father and mother flowed into prayers for helping them to help others.  How many Black novelists have ever written about teenage years girls like Catherine likely experienced?  What did they think about?  Boyfriends?  Maybe even Christ and meaning of Christmas?

We know that many African-American women like Catharine became active in the abolitionist movement and joined with like minded White women and men who also believed slavery was wrong.  Our argument is that such tendencies for goodness did not come forth out of the Age of Enlightenment that many modern scholars love to reference and quote, ... but rather the spirit of Christ that could not be contained by human reasoning. By the beginning of the 19th century when Catharine was a teenage colored girl in Ohio there were millions of people in the southern states who still believed slavery was not bad, and even good for the slaves so some reasoned and like manipulative minds of power following the French Revolution, ... created God in their image for slaves and poor Whites to believe in, worship and "be happy." 

In our view the "Cult of Reasoning" propagated by French intellectuals like Robespierre during last decade of the 18th century was a precursor to the various "White Supremacy" concepts that would arise for worship in the 19th century.  It was the ante-bellum south of Christians and Jews that reasoned that not only was God a White man in their image but also surmised Africans were better off being slaves to them than living in the hell-hole Africa.  Both the old and new testaments of various bible verse were constantly cited to each other and slaves to reason and rationalize chattel slavery with Blacks enslaved to Whites.

We dare suggest to African, African-American and African-Caribbean writers of novels and screen-plays there was no place or people of consequence during the Age of Enlightenment that women like Sally Hemings and Catherine Hill did not witness or participate in.  Women attractive to men of any color, in the first instance, are prime witnesses to human history and that of their offspring who ought to know whether or not had minds in addition to wombs.  Whether the Court of Saint James in London or Palace of the Dauphin at Versailles with 2,000 attendants, ... it takes a lot historical ignorance to not imagine presence of attractive women of African heritage free or enslaved.

In any event, we have decided to imagine that our girl Catherine Hill heard stories from family and friends about the great and powerful men and women like King Louis XVI of France whose head was cut off when the poor people rebelled against the rich and powerful folks that ruled them.  And, we can only wonder what they heard and believed about Emperor Napoleon in his ruthless rise to power over not simply France but all of Western Europe excepting Great Britain.  

She would certainly have learned about the Haitian Revolution that deposed the French slave owners on the island and later repulsed attempts by Napoleon to re-enslave the island nation that had previously generated tremendous wealth for the French treasury.  In fact, as many writers of the day reasoned, ... Napoleon's failure in Haiti discouraged his long-range plans to recapture New Orleans from the Spanish and exploit the Mississippi River territories claimed by France.  Had he succeeded in reoccupying Haiti, it is very doubtful Thomas Jefferson would have been able to achieve the famed "Louisiana Purchase" that doubled size of the United States.

 

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