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Personalities: Hazel Mahone, The Granddaughter of Slaves

South Dakota Magazine
Hazel Mahone

For over 100 years, Hazel Mahone carried her grandparents' memories of surviving pre-civil war slavery. These stories provoked emotions associated with brutality, inhumanity, and an overwhelming hope for a better life.

In 1992, Chuck Anderson sat down with Mahone to discuss these rare, second-hand stories that filled her childhood and inspired her lifetime as a humanitarian and cosmetologist in Huron, South Dakota.

Credit Welter Funeral Home

To begin the interview, Anderson asked Mahone a few questions concerning terminology.

Mahone went on to explain the different types of slaves that existed in the deep South, and how her grandmother fit into the equation.

Mahone describes the different types of slaves, and aspects of her grandmother's experience as a house slave.

With her grandparents as part of the slave trade, tracing Mahone’s genealogy back farther than three generations would be difficult due to serial numbers used in place of names. In addition, those enslaved would often take the last name of their owners, increasing the struggle to find family ties.

Mahone addresses the trouble in tracing the genealogy of those descended from slaves.

Credit Visit Missouri

Mahone went on to explain how her grandfather escaped slavery to join the Union Army, and eventually returned to the South to marry her grandmother.

Mahone tells the tale of her grandfather's escape from the deep South.

A strong religious background also largely influenced Mahone’s grandparents, as seen in her grandfather’s actions.

Mahone recounts how her grandfather would give thanks to God.

Credit Melissa Kelly

Prior to the Civil War, slaves seeking community were forced to gather in secret, hiding their church services from plantation owners who refused to allow them to seek education or religious affiliation.

Church gatherings were typically banned on plantations, but slaves created ways to worship in secret.

Credit South Dakota Magazine

Despite humble beginnings, Mahone spent 48 years running a successful business as a beautician, and visited over 80 countries providing first-hand humanitarian aid to those in need.

Mahone describes how she created her business.

A strong woman and prominent personality within the Huron community, Mahone passed away in April of 2010. Prior to her death, Mahone traveled around the globe, providing aid to those in need and advocating for human rights. Her travel logs can now be found at the South Dakota Historical Society in Pierre, South Dakota.

For Chuck Anderson's full interview with Hazel Mahone, listen here.

Chuck Anderson's full interview with Hazel Mahone