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Black Accountant Celebrates Juneteenth as Largest Write-off in History

It is Juneteenth and Thomas B. Franklin, surrounded by his wife, children and grandchildren, lifts an old-style fountain pen and briefly touches it to a single piece of paper. Moments later, the gathered family erupts in celebration. The act is unfamiliar to most, but the occasion is celebrated by families like his across the United States. We’ll let Mr. Franklin tell his own story…



Back in 1863, my Great-Great-Grandfather, B. T. Franklin, was a bookkeeper on a particularly large plantation. It was certainly unusual to have a slave as your accountant, but it wasn’t unheard of. After all, even then, people didn’t want to do their own books. But I can hardly imagine the entries he made. Movements from cash to assets when a slave was purchased. Write-offs when slaves died.

Some historians of accounting argue that the concept of depreciation was fundamentally advanced by the practice of slavery and the need to measure the useful economic life of human property. Can you think of yourself just as a depreciating asset? Can you think of your brother in this way? Yet there he was, keeping track of it all and making his entries in the Journal.

He was on the forefront of accounting, and in the darkest of places.

I mean, just consider the birth of a child. A gift from God Almighty in any good reality. But not for him. For him, a baby born into a life of slavery meant a debit to assets at fair value with a balancing credit in the capital account. No immeasurable gift of human life. No… just a book entry.

Mr. Thomas' Grandfather Reenacting the Famous Journal Entry
Mr. Thomas’ Grandfather Reenacting the Famous Journal Entry

My great-great-grandfather wasn’t entirely honest, as an accountant. Thank the Lord, he was a small-time embezzler on the side. Bit by bit, drip by drip, he shifted small amounts of funds to a bank in Springfield, Massachusetts. The cotton traders who bought most of his product were in Springfield. They used the same bank. It was littlest thing to adjust a few account numbers and tweak an invoice here and there and move out these little sums of money. The account was meant for any man, woman or child who escaped the plantation. Everyone who was old enough knew the account number. They wouldn’t get it all, of course. But over time he built up enough to guarantee $100 for anybody who got away. A sort of down payment on a new life. 

That might have helped B.T. live with he was doing. But the facts remained: if his master decided to sell a man down the river one day, it was B.T. Franklin who was going to make the entry.

For B.T. and his plantation, freedom didn’t come with the stroke of Lincoln’s pen. Instead, when the war came to their part of Mississippi, the slaves of his plantation just up and decided they’d had enough one day. They walked into the Masters office and informed him that they were no longer his property. Old B.T. wasn’t satisfied with that statement though. He wanted to make it official. So he got down the ledger and he made one final entry: credit to assets, debit to the capital account. He wrote off the Master’s single largest asset.

Can you imagine? An asset writing himself off.

It is the most poetic thing this accountant can picture.

The whole plantation went north then, to Springfield. My grandfather became their bookkeeper. He was never legally an accountant, but he was, truly, an accountant. And so was his son, and his grandson and at least one child in every generation down to me.

Ever since that last enslaved stroke of B.T.’s pen, we’ve celebrated our freedom by recreating that final entry. 

Nowadays, on Juneteenth, we take down a little ledger and we make an entry: credit to assets, debit to the capital account.

I like to imagine that if Moses himself had double-entry accounting, this little celebration would have been a part of the Ten Commandments. In this reality, though, it’s just the way our little family of accountants celebrates the greatest write-off in history.



Yes, the above is fiction, this is a business news parody site, after all.

But… can you imagine?

if you enjoyed that story, you will definitely enjoy one of the below…

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