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.”
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!
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—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.
My internet connection had been down all day. I was beginning to get very perturbed—for a lot of reasons. One was that author and genealogist Sharon Morgan was going to help me scour the internet to look for possible linked ancestors on my father’s side of the family, a task I thought might be impossible. (I’ll describe our work toward this effort in another post.) I had “won” Sharon’s services at the Coming to the Table silent action in May of this year, and I was anxious to get started.