Elvie Barlow walks among the cotton plants that are being grown on his family’s farm in southeast Dougherty County. He has written a book, “Covered by the Blood: An African-American Family’s Journey from Slavery,” based on his family’s history. (July 26, 2013)
ALBANY, Ga. — Elvie Barlow was rummaging through some of his grandmother’s belongings some 20 years ago when he came upon a document that would change his life forever.
African-American family is in its eighth generation of owning southeast Dougherty County farm.
“My grandmother was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s at the time, and she was always going through these papers,” Barlow, an environmental scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency and a graduate of Albany State University, said. “There was one piece of paper in her belongings that spoke to me. When I finally sat down and read it, it helped me discover the history of a people whose story I’d never heard.
“That piece of paper, which led to a biblical story about the people of Ethiopia, became a link to my own family’s rich and proud history. And it led me to try and tell the story of my family.”
Barlow’s revelation led him to research and then write “Covered by the Blood: An African-American Family’s Journey from Slavery,” a compelling look at his family’s history that takes readers back to the time that his great-great-great-grandfather Titus Stephens was taken from his mother as a 9-year-old and sold into slavery.
The man who bought young Titus, Albany planter J.W. Mock, would late in his life allow Stephens to obtain ownership 100 acres of land in southeast Dougherty County even before the Civil War ended the institution of slavery.
“While writing the book, I tried to imagine what it was like for Titus, to be taken from his family as a 9-year-old and sold as a slave,” Barlow said as he showed a visitor the land obtained by his great-great-great-grandfather. “Can you imagine what his mother must have felt?
“But as I researched this amazing story, it took on a bittersweet quality for me. The act of taking a child away from his family and enslaving him is barbaric, an unimaginable horror. But if Titus Stephens hadn’t been taken from South Carolina to Albany, he never would have owned this land we’re on, and it would not be a part of the rich history of this family. I think God intervened, and although my ancestors endured hardships to maintain the land, God sustained them.”
Barlow’s detailed research into his family’s history, through official documents and interviews with family members, offers a very personal take on an amazing story that offers compelling reading even for those who have no ties to the family.
“Covered by the Blood: An African-American Family’s Journey from Slavery,” which includes amazing family photos of historic significance, is a work of love well worth reading. Contact Barlow at www.elviebarlow.com to obtain a copy.