Is Genealogy Racist?

“Is genealogy racist?” I typed into the search engine.

I had just received results from an ancestry DNA test. No surprises there — 99.9% northwestern European genetic heritage. I immediately wondered how many neo-Nazis use DNA tests to reinforce racism and claim racial purity.

As I typed my question in to the search engine that day, I was excited to find Coming to the Table. But it didn’t seem to apply to me. I come from a lower middle-class background: my ancestors were preachers, teachers, and laborers. None of my ancestors were slaveholders!

I later learned that I was wrong. Months later, once I knew where and how to look, I did discover slaveholding ancestors — among my working-class northern ancestors! But I didn’t make that discovery that day.

Image calls attention to a Resource Guide for White People in the study of 'Genealogy and Anti-racism.'

“Is genealogy racist?” I typed into the search engine.

I had just received results from an ancestry DNA test. No surprises there — 99.9% northwestern European genetic heritage. I immediately wondered how many neo-Nazis use DNA tests to reinforce racism and claim racial purity.

Continue reading “Is Genealogy Racist?”

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!

 

Remembering their names

When I joined Coming To The Table over two years ago, I began a journey—a journey into the lives and times of my slave-holding ancestors and, most important for me, into the lives of the people they had enslaved. Taken together, we call ourselves linked descendants.

Along the way, I have participated in discussions with other descendants of enslaved and enslaver, and learned from what they have said to me.  In March 2012, I had the opportunity to spend a night in slave quarters with Joseph McGill, founder of the Slave Dwelling Project (http://www.lowcountryafricana.com/2012/04/10/descendants-of-slaveholders-descendants-of-slaves-share-overnight-stay-at-bush-holley-house-greenwich-ct/ ), and other Coming To The Table members, in Connecticut, the last place any of us might associate with slavery.

Continue reading “Remembering their names”