Recently there have been several inquiries to the site regarding African American Avent families. Let me make it clear that the reason there is so little information about black Avents on this site is not from any desire to exclude them, but only because I know so little about the various black Avent families. 

 

As stated in the main page of the website, this site is mainly concerned with the descendants of Col. Thomas Avent of VA. I've spent my entire life in SE VA and NE NC, and there are many more black Avents in these parts than white ones, but the fact that a person's last name is 'Avent' does not mean that they are necessarily descended from Col. Thomas, since after the War Between the States many freed slaves took the name of the family that "owned" them. Human nature being what it is, though, there can be little doubt that there were white descendants of Col. Thomas Avent who fathered children with a black mother, and therefore these children and their descendants are just as much descendants of Col. Thomas as his white descendants, and so their story should also be told on this website.  The difficulty comes in proving it.

I've tried, as much as possible,  on this site to use only what can be proven through solid documentation, but solid documentation is extremely hard to come by when it comes to African American genealogy, especially before the War Between the States, and particularly when it comes to any children produced as a result of black/white liaisons during this period. 

 

Many white Avents were certainly slaveowners. The estate accounting of Col. Thomas Avent (proved 1757) contained references to 44 slaves. By the time of the War Between the States many Avents "owned" slaves, particularly in the deep South. Looking at only one county, Lafayette Co., MS, we see the following:

Benjamin Avent11 slaves
T. Avent59 slaves
T. Avent61 slaves
W. F. Avent63 slaves
Wm Avent5 slaves


Only about 25% of southerners lived in a family where anyone "owned" slaves, and the southern Avents  were pretty typical. The 1850 US census shows 327 names of Avents or Avants., and the 1860 census shows 460. This number included children, though, so for a rough ballpark count of Avent/Avant households you could reduce those numbers by a third, which gives approximately 216 Avent/Avant households in 1850 and 304 in 1860. The 1850 Slave Schedule shows 42 slaveowners named Avent or Avant, and the 1860 shows 48.  That tells us that - very approximately - about 20% of Avent/Avant families owned slaves in 1850 and about 16% in 1860.

The webmaster's great- great- grandfather, Henry Evans Avent of Chatham Co., NC, is a good example. In 1860 there were seven slaves in his household - three who "belonged'" to him, and four to his wife Mary Ann. (Henry: one female 29 years old, two males, 1 and 2 years old; Mary Ann: one female 29 years old, one 19 years old, and two females 1 and 3 years old).

Interestingly, Henry (who was a Confederate soldier) was likely named after a black man.  Many Avent genealogists have speculated about his middle name of 'Evans', since it was not a common one in Chatham Co., and there are no known Avent/Evans marriages. Henry was born in 1829, the son of a Methodist minister, and during the 1820's there was a very well known black  Methodist preacher in NC named Henry Evans. The book "The History of Evans Metropolitan AME Church: A Chronicle of Events" (Dr. Annette C. Billie, ACB Publishing, 2006) states: "...Henry Evans was a free black cobbler and minister and built the first Methodist Church in Fayetteville...". This church, founded in 1796, still exists in Fayetteville - for more information look here. One website describes the church as follows:


EVANS METROPOLITAN A.M.E. ZION CHURCH --

Third Oldest African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church In The World
Second Oldest African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church In The South

Evans Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Zion was founded in Circa (1796) by Henry Evans, a black preacher and a shoemaker from the foothills of Stokes County Virginia. His body lies entombed beneath the chancel of the church built on the original site in 1893.

The church served both black and white members until the founding of the predominantly white Hay Street Methodist Episcopal Church in the early 1830's. By the 1870's Evans Church had become part of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

The Gothic-style building, built in 1893-94, testifies to the skill of African American artisans James Williams and Joseph Steward. The woodwork of the interior is of a notably warm finish. Particular points of significance are the beamed, sixteen panel v-joint ceiling and wainscoting, a balcony with turned posts and brackets, all of which illustrate the superb craftsmanship of the artisans who erected the church, two of whom were James Williams and Joseph Stewart. The lovely chandeliers and wall brackets originally lit by gas are now electric. The front of the building is characterized by a two gable front, two contrasting towers, a lancer or pointed windows and at the pinnacle of the center of the gable, a projected leaning Holy Cross said to be indicative of Henry Evans' struggle to establish a church.

Because of Evans Metropolitan's historical and architectural significance, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.


Ms Billie's book also says that "...this great man...swam across the icy Cape Fear River three times to preach the Gospel...".Given the fact that Henry Evans Avent's father, William, was a Methodist minister, it seems likely that he took this preacher as his son's namesake, which gives an idea of the complicated state of black/white relations in the antebellum South.

The webmaster recently found a fascinating narrative written by a Dempsey Pitts (it can be read or downloaded from here), who had been a slave in the household of Benjamin Ward Avent, of NC and Yalobusha Co., MS.

Did white Avent slaveowners father any children from their slaves? Very likely so, though this is difficult to prove.

We recently received an inquiry from a Rickie Austin, from MS, which is also along those lines and is very interesting. Rickie tells me that the tradition in his family has always been that they were descended from a slave child of Benjamin Edward Avent (1799-1878, Lafayette Co., MS). My research seems to indicate that it is possible that Rickie's ancestor, a Tempy Avent, may in fact have been fathered not by Benjamin, but by his son Thomas Londe Avent (1833-1910).

Lafayette Co., MS, census records show that Tempy was listed as 'mulatto', so she was clearly of mixed race. They also show her and another black child, Young Avent (about the same age as Tempy) in the household of Thomas Londe Avent's brother, James Knox Avent, in 1870, so it's reasonable to assume they were brother and sister.

Other census records show that Tempy's parents were both born in GA. We know that Benjamin Edward Avent himself was born in NC, and James Knox Avent was born in MS, as were most of Benjamin's numerous children, but he had four sons who were, in fact, born in GA before the family moved to MS 1838-40. One of the GA-born children was Thomas Londe Avent. We also know that on 18 Sep 1883 Young Avent received a marriage license, witnessed by a Thomas Avent. So, if this Thomas Avent was Thomas Londe Avent, then it's reasonable to assume that he may have been Young's father, and if Young and Tempy were brother and sister, then Thomas may have been the GA-born father of Tempy, as well.  So, to summarize the evidence:

* we can prove that Tempy was of mixed race and that her father was born in GA
* Rickie's family tradition is that Tempy's father was Benjamin Edward Avent
* we can prove that Benjamin was born in NC, and all his children were born in MS, except for four sons, one of whom was named Thomas and was born in GA
* a 'Thomas' Avent' witnessed the marriage license of Young Avent, who was likely Tempy's brother

This is far from conclusive but when dealing with situations like this circumstantial evidence is usually all you have to work with. More research is needed to prove or disprove this claim, but it's worth considering.