This Street Corner in Kentucky Tells a Tragic Story

Introduction

It was the inspiration for Beloved.

Location: Intersection of Main and Sixth Street in Covington, Kentucky
Expert: Sharony Green, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Alabama

Why You Should Visit
Local shops and taverns, a tree-lined walkway and picnic tables surround this intersection in Covington, Kentucky. But the unassuming street corner is much more than it first appears to be: it was the jumping off point for a deeply tragic story. At a spot now marked by a commemorative plaque, the enslaved Margaret Garner ran for freedom with relatives and her fair-skinned daughter across the frozen Ohio River in January of 1856.

When Garner was apprehended by U.S. Marshals in the free state of Ohio, she elected to kill her two-year-old daughter rather than see her returned to a life of bondage in Kentucky. This story was the inspiration for Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved.

Historical marker describing the slaves escape in Covington, Kentucky. (Credit: Todd Bannor/Alamy Stock Photo)
Historical marker describing the slaves escape in Covington, Kentucky. (Credit: Todd Bannor/Alamy Stock Photo)

Sharony Green, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Alabama, has often sat to ponder Garner’s courage, “but also the sadness she must have still carried in her heart when she was captured shortly thereafter.” Garner was one of many black women at the time who fled the South with children fathered by white southerners and slave masters. Despite violent tensions between European immigrants and African Americans in Ohio and the threat of recapture, notes Green, the trip was vital for those who hoped to escape enslavement. Some Southern men—unlike Garner’s master—even supported the escape of their children born to enslaved women, so their children would have better opportunities and a chance to get an education.

“Sixth and Main in Covington is a place to ponder this messy past, the sort that involves women like Garner,” says Green. “What could her life have been like or that of her children if she had successfully escaped?”

Margaret Garner, an escaped slave, as she stands over her child whom she killed so they would not have to endure slavery any longer.
Margaret Garner, an escaped slave, as she stands over her child whom she killed so they would not have to endure slavery any longer.

How to Find It:
There is a commemorative marker at the intersection of Main and Sixth Street in Covington.

This story is the sixth in a series about amazing historical travel destinations in America. Read expert recommendations on where to go in Ohio, Florida, Idaho, Massachusetts and Kansas here.

Article Details:

This Street Corner in Kentucky Tells a Tragic Story

  • Author

    Natalie Zarrelli

  • Website Name

    History.com

  • Year Published

    2017

  • Title

    This Street Corner in Kentucky Tells a Tragic Story

  • URL

    http://www.history.com/news/this-street-in-kentucky-tells-a-tragic-story

  • Access Date

    October 18, 2017

  • Publisher

    A+E Networks