In 2010, an archive of rare documents passed down in my family for over 250 years arrived at my home in Austin. Reading them I came face to face with my family’s role in both creating democracy and denying freedom.
I’m the 5x great-granddaughter of George Washington’s brother John Augustine Washington. Although the President freed his slaves in his will, his brothers and heirs continued using slave labor to maintain their lives of privilege until the Emancipation Proclamation became law.
My own life has followed a different cultural current of American history. I’ve been a professional blues musician for over 40 years. I launched my career playing with blues legends, learning authentic styles from those who grew up in the Jim Crow era.
I’ve been looking for linked descendants, and specifically those who share a life in music. Soon after I began my search I found Coming To The Table. Susan Hutchison, one the founders, helped me to come to terms with my family’s legacy. I’m forever in her debt – thank you, Susan!
I’m outlining my search – so far! – In three parts, as a Bittersweet blog post – “Redrawing a Community”.
Part One, “Paper” deals with the impact of learning about my family’s past as slave-owners.
Part Two “People”, tells the story of connecting to the living descendants of Solomon Thompson and Reuben Hatter.
Part Three “Music”, talks about the impact of African-American music on my life, and my search for linked descendant musicians.
I’m telling the whole story in my upcoming book “The Washingtons and The Blues”.