You Owe Me What was Always Mine

“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.

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Healing Historic Harms Through Research — Sharon Leslie Morgan

Bettie WARFE/GAVIN

Sharon Leslie Morgan moved to Noxubee County, Mississippi to research her ancestors’ history. Morgan’s great-great-grandmother, Betty Warfe Gavin, was enslaved there, and gave birth to 17 children. The father of all of them was Robert Louis Gavin, a white man and the nephew of her enslaver.

“My ancestors came from here and fled,” says Morgan. “For me to come back and reclaim memories, experiences, relationships, I think that is going to help with healing the historical harm of slavery.”

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Science May Enable Reparations

Reviewing a Book Review

beaconlogoA 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.

alondranelsonWhat I found was Sharon Morgan’s review of Alondra Nelson‘s new book,  The Social Life of DNAfull 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. Nelsosociallifeofdnan’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!

 

Repairing the Breach of Slavery

What Linked Descendants Say About Making Connections Across the Divide

Reflections provided by participants of the December 2015 Coming to the Table conference call. Post co-authored by Sharon Morgan, Our Black Ancestry, and Prinny Anderson, Linked Descendants.

If you could have a conversation with a descendant of the people who owned your ancestors, or with a descendant of someone your ancestors owned, what would you want to say? What would you like to ask?

CTTT tree This was the starting point for a conversation when ten people recently gathered on a conference call sponsored by Coming to the Table — Bittersweet: Linked Through Slavery. The themes from what people shared on the call are presented below. Feelings – strong and uncomfortable — came up for everyone.

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BLACK RUG/WHITE RUG; A DIALOGUE AMONG THREE LINKED ANCESTORS

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/

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Linked Through Slavery–The Last Furman Slave Owner

This is the final post in my series of three on the connection of my father’s family to slavery —a 110-year legacy— and my search for African American descendants whose ancestors toiled on my family’s plantations in South Carolina. This post takes us to the Civil War and my 5th great grandfather, James C. Furman. Like his father before him, he was a slave owner, Baptist minister and educator.  Along the way, I have had the help of genealogist Sharon Morgan and Trina Roach, a recently revealed linked descendant.  Sharon helped guide me through the murky records of the censuses and other on-line research. Trina provided me with irrefutable evidence —by way of a 1916 article in a local Sumter County, South Carolina, newspaper[1]—that some of her ancestors were owned by mine.  Trina found me online through Sharon’s website, Our Black Ancestry, which links to the BitterSweet: Linked Through Slavery blog. She also provided me with information about her family from the 1870s, as well as other materials, which she has graciously allowed me to use in this post.  I thank both Sharon and my linked descendant, Trina, for their help with this journey. 

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Part I: Facing Slavery and Finding Amanda

This post is the first of three pieces on 1) how I discovered slavery in my heritage, specifically focusing on a woman named Amanda owned by my ancestor Thomas Jackson and his second wife Courtney Robertson; 2) what more that official county records tell us about Amanda’s life of enslavement and release; and 3) how I found and met one of her great great granddaughters in 1982, my first “linked descendant.”

*      *     *

Over thirty years ago, for my first sabbatical I set out to study pioneer women’s lives in Randolph County, Missouri. Having required my students to do extensive family history projects in a class on “The Social History of American Women,” I thought I should spend some time pursuing my own.  I was born in Missouri but we moved to California when I was eight and never went back, but still wondered about that place.  Because I was interested in genealogy, when my Grandma Neel died, I inherited her shoebox filled with locks of baby hair, letters, and obituaries so I knew the names of several generations of her people who lived in Randolph County. I wanted to know who these people were and what their lives were like.  I was particularly intrigued by the detail in the obituary of Courtney Robinson Jackson, my grandmother’s great grandmother who died from complications from a fall at  “74 years, 9 months and 20 days.”

In the course of examining the U.S. Censuses of Randolph County from the 1830s to 1870s, I was shocked to find out that ancestors of mine in this region of Missouri (which I soon learned was known as “Little Dixie” — hello!) had owned slaves – not on the order of Thomas Jefferson’s hundreds – but some of my ancestors in that time and place did own slaves, more on the order of five, ten, or fifteen people.  These particular ancestors were typical of white farming families in the upper South and Southern Midwest. Slaveholding for them was part of daily life, a legally sanctioned way to satisfy their labor needs in the effort to survive and “get ahead,” to make a yearly profit, and to accumulate even more property in a capitalist economy.  Slaveholding came with age and a modicum of “success” in large portions of this white dominated nation during the 18th and 19th centuries.

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