“You owe me what was always mine” is the title of Briayna Cuffie’s latest blog post on reparations4slavery.com. She is speaking to enslavers whose family records, letters, journals, photos, plantation accounts, etc. contain valuable information about the men, women, and children they enslaved.
Maria Montgomery found me on Ancestry.com in 2016. Our family trees overlap because my ancestors enslaved hers. We are “linked descendants”—cousins regardless of whether we share DNA. She asked if I had any probate records that might list people my family enslaved on Gwynn’s Island in Mathews County, Virginia, a five-square-mile triangle of land in the lower Chesapeake Bay.
I sent Maria my third great-grandmother Mary T. Edwards’ Civil War diary that lists 20 enslaved people seized as contraband by the Union Navy in 1863. Maria’s great-great-grandparents, William M. Smith (“Billy”) and Dolly Jones (“Young Dolly”,) are on that list.
By Antoinette Broussard
When I was a child, Uncle George’s stories and the serious inflection in his voice always commanded my attention. He frequently told me about my maternal great-grandmother, Violet Craig Turner, who had been enslaved until 1865 by W. P. Wallingford from Platte County, Missouri. Uncle George was my mother’s brother. He always emphasized the middle initial “P” and Platte County in his stories, and that Wallingford fathered eight of Violet’s children, including my grandfather.
My family’s slave history was an injustice, and the person responsible was never held accountable for it. In my late fifties, with the help of a genealogist, I started to look for the Wallingford family.
Part 2 of the Oral History post describes the kinds of impacts that oral history research can have, regardless of the circumstances of the family whose history is being woven together. The Getting Word project’s impacts and aftermaths are an interesting story, and I hope they give you ideas for what your research might inspire in your family and what else, beyond history, you might be able to create.
Serial, unpermitted marches; a die-in on a major bridge; even overnight encampment at City Hall did not get #BlackLivesMatter concerns into meetings with the Mayor/ Police Commissioner in Portland, Oregon. Instead of allowing public testimony on a secretly negotiated police contract, the City repeatedly ordered police suppression. One bone was broken; throngs were subjected to chemical weapons, nearly a dozen were arrested on 13 October 2016.
Reviewing a Book Review
A few days ago, I got an email from a friend who has become a leader in the field of researching African American family histories, up to and beyond the “brick walls” of slave lists that do not give names and the unwritten records of births, deaths and marriages. This email contained a link to something published by Beacon Press in “Beacon Broadside.”
With this double endorsement, I immediately clicked through.
What I found was Sharon Morgan’s review of Alondra Nelson‘s new book, The Social Life of DNA, full of tantalizing information and pieces of Ms. Morgan’s own family research story. I learned that besides the documentary investigations she does so well online and in county courthouses, Sharon has long been researching DNA connections to her family’s roots in Africa. From Sharon’s overview of points in Ms. Nelson’s book, I learned about an exciting and compelling new application of DNA research. The Social Life of DNA includes a discussion of how DNA profiles can be applied to making successful reparations claims.
Without hesitation, I bought the book!
Read the review. Then read the book. And finally, come back here and share your comments!
Part 3 – Connecting with the Descendants of the Bleak House African American Community
Part 1 narrated what happened when Alice and Jon Cannon bought Bleak House, the remnant of Bleak House Plantation, and then found a book with the names of its enslaved residents. Alice was galvanized into learning about those people and finding their descendants. Part 2 tells what she learned about them as talented, self-determining individuals, some still in Virginia, others farther afield.
BitterSweet: Linked Through Slavery is trying an alternative form of posting. For the first time, we offer a compilation of five people’s responses to a single question. We hope you enjoy the post, give it comments, and feel inspired to respond to the next question. Note: The authors’ names are shown as they requested.
Question: Why is it important to write and talk about the US history of slavery today?
It is necessary to talk about the history of US slavery today, because without truth there can be little or no reconciliation. Some of us learned that from people in South Africa.
It helps all of us, on both sides of the color line, to talk about the truth of slavery, as experienced by the enslaved, and as experienced by the slaveholders. By taking personal responsibility for our own feelings, and sharing them, by talking and perhaps by also writing about them, we are helping to create a healing of this deep wound that still lingers in this country. By listening to each other we increase the healing. And we don’t generalize or stereotype; we speak from our own truth, one by one.
By Joyceann Gray, Sarah Brown and Monique Hopkins
Joyceann Gray, Monique Crippen-Hopkins and Sarah Brown are “linked through slavery”. Joyceann and Monique’s ancestors were enslaved by Sarah’s ancestors, the Washington family. When Sarah published her most recent post, about her connection with Monique’s family, Joyceann spoke out about her feelings about the piece. The three of them decided that the Facebook dialogue that followed was important, and would be valuable as a post of its own.
Read Joyeann’s blog for her full story: http://jgraydiscovery.com/
Read Monique’s blog for her full story: http://genealogybreakingdownthewalls.blogspot.com/
Part One of this series is titled “Paper”. It explains my family background, and how I was launched on this journey. Many thanks to the members of Bittersweet, for your stories and your support.
PART TWO – “PEOPLE – THE THOMPSONS”
My family sold their plantation, Claymont (or Claymont Court) in Jefferson County, West Virginia in the wake of the Civil War, and headed west around 1905 to start over. An archive of wills, inventories and letters remained with them. I tell the story of these papers and how they initiated my search for linked descendants in Part One of this post. From these papers I made a spreadsheet to help me visualize the slave population on my family’s plantations, and used it to explore the many answers to the one enormous question that arose; who were the individuals my ancestors regarded as property, visible only as shadows on inherited sheets of paper?