Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Johnson's Parrottsville Slaves

Marker ID:  
Location: at the intersection of Tennessee Route 340 and Old Hwy 321, Parrottsville, TN
County: Cocke
Coordinates: N 36° 0.509    W 083° 5.412
  36.00848333    -83.0902
Waymark: None


Johnson's Parrottsville Slaves
Origin of Tennessee Emancipation Day

In 1842, state senator Andrew Johnson, a resident of neighboring Greene County, purchased his first slave here in Parrottsville. Her name was Dolly, and she was fourteen. Her son claimed that she approached Johnson and asked him to buy her because she "liked his looks." Johnson later bought Dolly's half-brother, Sam. In 1857 he acquired another boy, thirteen-year-old Henry.
When Tennessee seceded in 1861, Andrew Johnson (by then a United States senator) remained loyal to the Union. President Abraham Lincoln appointed him military governor of the state in March 1862. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves only in states still in rebellion on January 1, 1863. Tennessee, although it had seceded, was considered under Union control and therefore exempt from the Proclamation's provisions. Johnson, nonetheless, freed his own slaves on August 8, 1863. He followed his personal action with an official proclamation on October 24, 1864, declaring all Tennessee slaves to be free.

After Johnson liberated Dolly and Sam, they took his surname as their own. Dolly Johnson had three children, Liz, Florence, and William. Sam Johnson and his wife Margaret had nine children. Dolly Johnson lived with her son William in Andrew Johnson's former tailor shop in Greeneville, where they baked and sold pies. In 1937, William Johnson met President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who presented him a silver-headed cane.
Beginning in 1875, African Americans in this area observed August 8 as Emancipation Day. Now the date officially marks Tennessee's commemoration of Andrew Johnson's decision to bestow the dignity of freedom on his Parrottsville slaves.

Erected 2015 by CivilWarTrails.org.