LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Juneteenth, the federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, holds a special place for one Limestone County woman.
The holiday has a special meaning for Brielle Newton. She said it reminds her of the resiliency of her ancestors from Limestone County.
In the face of slavery and oppression, her great-grandmother Lucy Bedingfield was known as a strong woman and she left a legacy that still stands today.
On January 1, 1863, then-president Abraham Lincoln declared that all slaves will be freed. But for slaves in Texas, that freedom bell did not ring until June 19, 1865. Some of them took the road from Texas and settled right here in Alabama. For Brielle Newton, that’s very important information.
“I just think that it’s very empowering to me to be able to trace that and to be able to know where I come from,” Newton told News 19.
It’s a piece of the fabric in the long history of former slavery in Alabama right here in Athens – in a community once known as Little Elk.
Newton’s grandparents often spoke about their grandmother Lucy Bedingfield, who was born into slavery in 1832. She raised nine children in Athens and took full advantage of her freedom.
“She was able to have her freedom and then she bought 170 acres worth of land I just thought that was very powerful for like someone who was once a slave,” said Newton.
At the time, the purchase of that amount of land was unheard of for a Black family. Today, Little Elk is known as Lucy’s Branch.
“I thought that was very amazing,” Newton explained. “That inspired our family to celebrate Juneteenth and be much more appreciative of the things we have and where we come from.”
Bedingfield’s children farmed the 170 acres until it was sold in 1935. The land isn’t too far from a resort area called Lucy’s Branch Marina.
“Just see the great things that my ancestors did and the success they were able to have and the resilience they were able to have despite how their life might have started,” concluded Newton.
Several of the family members of Lucy Bedingfield still call Alabama their home.