by Lisa Y. Henderson
“Colter’s entire life has consisted of challenges accepted and made good on. He was born on January 8, 1910, in Noblesville, Indiana, a small farming town about forty miles east of Indianapolis. On both side of the family his ancestors were free blacks who had settled in Indiana several years before the Civil War. Colter possesses a ledger tracing his mother’s family back to Britton Bassett, the son of a black man and a white woman in North Carolina, who was granted his freedom in 1797 when he was twenty-one and given a horse, bridle and saddle, and one hundred dollars. In the 1830s Bassett moved his wife and children to Indiana, traveling by night and hiding by day in order to elude slave hunters.”
— from the introduction to Cyrus Colter‘s The Rivers of Eros (1991).
[Sidenote: Britton Bassett, as the son of a white woman, was born free, not set free. Perhaps 1797 marked the end of his involuntary apprenticeship. He had a son Britton, who also had a son Britton and another named Daniel. Britton and Daniel married daughters of Montreville and Anna J. Henderson Simmons, who were born free in North Carolina and migrated to Indiana by way of Ontario, Canada.]