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an ulster emigrant and enslavement

Black and white illustration of enslaved people stringing the primings of tobacco plants.

At the Ulster American Folk Park, we have a range of houses, rich with stories that illustrate the diversity of Ulster/Irish migration. Here, we want to develop the narrative around Francis Rogan and the house that you see at the Folk Park today. 


Black History Month 

During Black History Month we are recognising and highlighting some of the experiences of people who were enslaved. These experiences are a shocking and unavoidable part of the history of emigration from Ulster to North America, and we commit to share them and to do the human stories justice.  

Francis Rogan

Francis Rogan was born in Tennessee in 1798. His father, Hugh Rogan, was an Ulster emigrant from the Parish of Urney, close to Strabane in County Tyrone.  

Black and white image of Francis Rogan
Francis Rogan (b. 1798), aged about 83 years. THS Picture Collection, 14027, THS 193. Courtesy Tennessee State Library & Archives.

In the mid-1820s, Francis built this house on his family's farm in Sumner County, Tennessee. According to census records, 71 enslaved people were owned by the Rogan family. Enslaved people who were skilled in brick-making and bricklaying likely assisted in the construction of the house. The bricks would have been made from soft clay that was moulded and then left to dry for several days before firing them in a kiln. 

Francis Rogan House

When the house was being dismantled in order to relocate it to the Ulster American Folk Park, two bricks were discovered to have a handprint and a footprint on them. It is likely that these were left behind by enslaved children.

This poignant discovery gives us a glimpse into the living history of the people enslaved by Rogan. It’s deeply saddening that we don’t know a lot about the enslaved people at Rogan house, as their personal stories were not deemed worthy of record, however, these bricks serve as a solemn reminder of those who endured enslavement. 

Francis married Martha Lytle Read on 21 March 1833 in Tennessee. They had at least seven children, four of whom survived to adulthood. 

Enslaved people carried out most of the labour on the Rogan farm, where the main crops grown were wheat, tobacco, sweet potatoes, and corn. Field labour would have been very physically exhausting and mentally draining, as this involved long hours in all weather conditions, often with inadequate clothing, food, and shelter. 

Strining the Primings

"Tobacco Production, Richmond, Virginia, 1870s", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed October 24, 2023,

Enslaved people also served as household staff, undertaking domestic tasks including cooking, cleaning, and caring for the children. This labour, while demanding, required them to work in close proximity to their enslavers, resulting in more direct supervision and interaction. 

There is no record of how the people enslaved at the Rogan house were treated. 

The Cook
"The Cook", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed October 24, 2023,

In 1860, Francis Rogan possessed legal ownership of 71 enslaved individuals,  making him one of the most prolific enslavers in the state of Tennessee at the time. The value of his real estate was calculated at $46,600 and the value of his personal property, including those he enslaved, was valued at a further $46,030. Collectively, this would equate to over $3 million in today's money. This valuation, with people treated as commodities, is a shocking reminder of the dehumanising effects of enslavement. 

Andrew Johnson, the governor, declared all slaves in Tennessee free on October 24, 1864. However, many newly liberated individuals in need of an income and housing often remained with their former enslavers. In the 1870 census of Sumner County, Francis Rogan and family had five Black people living with them. Their names were Eliza Bill, Richmond, Jason Rogan, Rhodes, and Stokely.    

Although the former enslaved people were free by 1870, the lack of opportunity meant that they continued to endure many of the same hardships and injustices they had faced before. The legacy of slavery persisted in the form of systemic racism, economic inequality, and social discrimination, creating a long and painful journey toward true freedom and equality for all. 



Our commitment

At National Museums NI, we are committed to decolonising our museums and collections. 

We will bring marginalised voices and stories to the fore. 
We will exchange ideas and learn from others.
We will highlight and redress the injustices of the past. 
We will face up to uncomfortable truths.
We will encourage mutual respect and understanding.

We acknowledge we have much further to go, but we must start somewhere.
We believe in Inclusive Global Histories.