The year was 1860. The bloody American Civil War underway.
"In some ways, slaves understood what this war was about before anybody else did," Dr. Jeannie Whayne, University of Arkansas Professor of History said.
Slaves like Adeline Blakeley, who was brought to Northwest Arkansas as a baby and worked for the Blakeley family.
"From birth they are taught that black people are constant state of childlike, slavery is a good thing for black people," Dr. Calvin White, University of Arkansas Professor of History and African and African American studies said.
Arkansas was home to more than 100,000 slaves. Twenty-five percent of the state's population.
"When you start attacking this institution of slavery you are in essence attacking the economic underpendings of the south, you're attacking a certain culture that has grown up around this, so it's a little bit more than just these people are picking up a gun and going out to maintain human beings as property," Dr. White said.
Slaves in Eastern Arkansas worked on cotton plantations, but closer to home was a different story.
"Because the black population in Northwest Arkansas was so small, you actually saw many blacks that will be subjected to even harsher punishments and things from whites because of that small population," Dr. White said.
A view President Abraham Lincoln would see changed.
January 1st, 1863, 3 years into the war, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.
"He also rationalized publicly the Emancipation Proclamation as a war measure, out of military necessity and that's how he sold it and not everybody bought it," Dr. Whayne said.
Only slaves in rebellious Confederate states like Arkansas were freed by Emancipation.
"Slave owners very quickly came to understand that whenever the Union army showed up they were likely to lose their slaves," Whayne said.
During battles like Prairie Grove, if slaves could escape to Union lines, they were free-men.
"What they were doing was rejecting their bondage and embracing the possibility of an entirely different life," Whayne said.
A life, only later granted in 1865 at the end of the Civil War and the signing of the 13th Amendment, relieving all African Americans of forced servitude forever.
A freedom thousands fought for but met with more obstacles.
"We know overwhelmingly the preponderance of most slaves who are freed, many of them would start following the union lines as contraband, but even more of them stayed put because that was home, it was what they knew," Dr. White said.
"After the war, they came to Mrs. Blakeley, the soldiers did, and accused her of keeping me against my will. I told them that I stayed because I wanted to. The Blakeley's were my people," Adeline said.
Adeline was born into slavery, but stayed with her Northwest Arkansas family after Emancipation, all 95 years of her life.
She was even laid to rest by their sides as the only African American in Fayetteville's Evergreen Cemetery.
A privilege Lincoln spent his life working to establish, at the price of his own.
"My heart aches for Lincoln in a way, not the fact that he was the Great Emancipator but he was placed in a difficult position. I like to say he was damned if he did, he was damned if he didn't and that is what cost him his life," Dr. White said.