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Laura Arata

was born in Washington County, Tennessee. While the exact year of her birth is unknown, it was almost certainly between 1852 and 1855, and Bickford would claim that it fell on Christmas Day. She spent her childhood in slavery, owned by either John A. Blair III (US Congressman, 1823–1835 or his brother Robert Laird Blair both of whom were among the most prominent slaveholders in the area Bickford likely spent her childhood years working at John Blair s hotel in Jonesboro and may have attained literacy there After the Civil War Bickford relocated to Knoxville where she lived for a time with the family of Isaac Gammon a slave who later became the first African American alderman elected in Knoxville and his freeborn wife Nancy Jones Gammon It was likely through the Gammons that Bickford became acquainted with a white lawyer named John Luttrell Murphy who when he ...