Former Bradley County slave’s freedom finally recognized

Nathaniel Grant bought freedom back in 1853, died in 1856

BRADLEY COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — History was made Monday in Cleveland, Tennessee, as Nathaniel Grant was finally recognized as a free citizen of the United States after purchasing his freedom from slavery over 150 years ago.

Andrew Freiberg, court judge of Tennessee’s 10th Circuit Court, officially signed the orders proclaiming Nathaniel Grant’s freedom on February 7, 2022 — the first time his freedom was ever recognized by the state of Tennessee.

“I am happy to sign this order which states that Nathaniel Grant is declared a free man,” Freiburg said.

Officials said that Grant was born a slave in Bradley County in 1812, but then purchased his freedom for $155 in 1853.

Regardless, the Methodist minister and father of eight was shipped away to Liberia three years later, where he ultimately died.

He never saw his family again.

His family today, however, was present as Freiburg signed the orders.

Nathaniel Calloway, Grant’s great-great-great-grandson, traveled to Bradley County all the way from Los Angeles to be there.

“It’s a symbolic victory, but symbolic victories go a long way to healing open wounds,” Calloway said. “There are a lot of open wounds in the community, in the state [and] in this country because of slavery.”

Steve Crump, the district attorney general for Tennessee’s 10th Judicial District, said that some may see the impact as small but he believes it’s anything but.

“Every day, you get to change the world,” Crump said. “Some days, it may be tiny and some days you may not be able to stretch your arms far enough. This is one of those days that, in my mind, I don’t think you can stretch your arms far enough.”

Calloway and Crump exchanged pleasantries and shook hands at the end of the public hearing.

While they know that history, itself, can not change for Mr. Grant, he’s finally being recognized the way he always should have been — as a free American.

Categories: Bradley County, Featured, Local News

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