Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities

Major Harper and Betsy Scott

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This presentation commemorates the enslaved people of Pebble Hill and other Scott properties and it focuses on Major and Betsy Harper, the patriarch and matriarch of the African-American Harper family and their journey from enslavement to freedom. 



The marriage certificate of Major Harper and Betsy Scott marks the time when this emancipated couple legally codified a sacred union that was already sealed prior to 1865 but was not recognized by the laws of Alabama or the nation. Additionally, the certificate evokes the question “how did Major Harper and Betsy Scott meet? We can never be one-hundred percent certain about the circumstances that brought them together due to the lack of personal documents like diaries and letters that might provide the missing details. The best we can do is to examine primary sources and information provided by the descendants of Major and Betsy Harper within the historical context of antebellum slavery. We reviewed primary sources and information from descendants and found that the kinship ties between the slaveholding families of Nathaniel J. Scott and Judge Harper likely made it possible for Major and Betsy to meet. 




Last Updated: September 16, 2020