Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Twelve Genea-Days of Christmas

On the 1st day of Christmas, this I do wish for thee
A Full and Fruitful Family Tree

On the 2nd day of Christmas this I do wish for thee
2 Twitter mentions
A Full and Fruitful Family Tree

On the 3rd day of Christmas this I do wish for thee
3 Google hangouts
2 Twitter mentions
A Full and Fruitful Family Tree

On the 4th day of Christmas this I do wish for thee
4 Facebook queries
3 Google hangouts
2 Twitter mentions
A Full and Fruitful Family Tree

On the 5th Day of Christmas this I do wish for thee
5 New WordPress themes-----
4 Facebook queries
3 Google hangouts
2 Twitter mentions
A Full and Fruitful Family Tree

On the 6th Day of Christmas this I do wish for thee,
6 Afrigeneas Buddies
5 New WordPress themes-----
4 Facebook queries
3 Google hangouts
2 Twitter mentions
A Full and Fruitful Family Tree

On the 7th Day of Christmas this I do wish for thee
7 New Google +Friends
6 Afrigeneas Buddies
5 New WordPress themes-----
4 Facebook queries
3 Google hangouts
2 Twitter mentions
A Full and Fruitful Family Tree

On the 8th Day of Christmas this I do wish for thee
8 Mocavo links
7 New Google+Friends
6 Afrigeneas Buddies
5 New WordPress themes-----
4 Facebook queries
3 Google hangouts
2 Twitter mentions
A Full and Fruitful Family Tree

On the 9th Day of Christmas this I do wish for thee
9 Twitter Followers
8 Mocavo links
7 New Google+Friends
6 Afrigeneas Buddies
5 New WordPress themes-----
4 Facebook queries
3 Google hangouts
2 Twitter mentions
A Full and Fruitful Family Tree

On the 10th Day of Christmas this I do wish for thee
10 New Family Tweets
9 Twitter Followers
8 Mocavo links
7 New Google+ Friends
6 Afrigeneas Buddies
5 New WordPress themes-----
4 Facebook queries
3 Google hangouts
2 Twitter mentions
A Full and Fruitful Family Tree

On the 11th Day of Christmas this I do wish for thee
11 Blogging Topics
10 New Family Tweets
9 Twitter Followers
8 Mocavo links
7 New Google+ Friends
6 Afrigeneas Buddies
5 New WordPress themes----
4 Facebook queries
3 Google hangouts
2 Twitter mentions
A Full and Fruitful Family Tree

On the 12th day of Christmas, this I do wish for thee
12 Website Templates
11 Blogging Topics
10 New Family Tweets
9 Twitter Followers
8 Mocavo links
7 NewGoogle+ Friends
6 Afrigeneas Buddies
5 New WordPress themes-----
4 Facebook queries
3 Google hangouts
2 Twitter mentions
A Full and Fruitful Family Tree

Have a Merry Christmas and May you all enjoy the Joys of Christmas!!

© Angela  Y. Walton-Raji

Monday, December 19, 2011

Is The Genealogical Community Closed or Inclusive?

There has been much dialogue in the past week about the inclusiveness of the genealogical community from many perspectives. Good discussions and much to consider, especially when looking at one's own position in the community.

I have to thank George Geder, James Tanner, Robin Foster and others for joining the discussion and for bringing out the issue that many have felt for some time. There are indeed communities and circles of influence from which many have been locked out. There are the elite groups that have been a small circle and who have occasionally opened their doors to a handful of new initiates, who will take their seat in the same small circle.

But there have also been changes--thanks to a new medium and new entities shaped by the internet. Yet in spite of those new platforms, from Facebook to Twitter, many others especially in minority communities, still operate in a real-time arena. So as a result the question must be asked, are many talented people being bypassed in spite of their talents and gifts, since new rules have been made that do not include them?

If one is not blogging, tweeting, forming circles and "friending" strangers, is there a new shut-out? 

There might just be. And add to that, many are coming online hanging up shingles, setting up businesses, and becoming successful and being lauded as the new "authorities". With a strong online presence, the new authorities realize that they will be seen, and those in the real world, real time arena, who occasionally browse online for speakers---they see the new "authorities" and thus launch them into a higher realm, or at least push them closer into the inner circle.

But--there are others who are also part of the genealogy community, who are not following the new rules. They are not singing the praises only of the elite 50 nor are they working hard to join them. But what they are doing is sharing, teaching, giving and mentoring. And those mentors and teachers are the the critical people who give to all. The emerging stars and the unknown alike benefit from what they do. I have come to appreciate so many people with all of their talents. 

But I truly admire most those treasured teachers among us, who have only the desire to share, to help and to nurture. Because of them, many of us have found a comfortable place where we can grow, and learn and feel connected. 

Yes there is a vibrant genealogy community and some have made it a good place for the rest of us to find "a place called home."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Blog Carol: Mary Had a Baby


Thanks to Footnote Maven, and her blog, a Blog Carol event was begun today. There are so many beautiful songs during this time of the year and we all have our favorites. I enjoy this time of the year, and I decided to participate. I thought about several to share, and then thought about the holiday itself. This is a day celebrating the birth of a baby.  There is a Negro Spritual that tells that story, so I share it here.

Mary Had a Baby is a traditional African American Christmas song.

The original lyrics appear below, but this version was a unique adaptation. It was sung by the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, a Canadian choir that specializes in Afrocentric music. and the soloist is Melissa Davis. The song will move and touch the hearts of all who hear it.

The song is simple--it tells the story of a young couple traveling on the road. They found refuge in a small shelter for animals and Mary laid her child in a small manger. This one song, tells that story--- a simple one, about a woman named Mary, who had a baby.

Melissa Davis Sings with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale

Mary Had a Baby

Original Lyrics:
Mary had a baby (My Lord) 
Mary had a baby (Oh My Lord) 
Mary had a baby (My Lord) 
The people keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.
Where did she lay him (My Lord) 
Where did she lay him (Oh My Lord) 
Where did she lay him (My Lord) 
The people keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.

Laid him in a manger (My Lord) 
Laid him in a manger (Oh My Lord) 
Laid him in a manger (My Lord) 
The people keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.

What did she name him? (Oh My Lord) 
What did she name him? (My Lord) 
The people keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.

Named him King Jesus (My Lord) 
Named him King Jesus (Oh My Lord) 
Named him King Jesus (My Lord) 
The people keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.

Who heard the singing? (My Lord) 
Who heard the singing? (Oh My Lord) 
Who heard the singing? (My Lord) 
The people keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.
Shepherds heard the singing (Oh My Lord) 
Shepherds heard the singing (My Lord) 
The people keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.

Star keeps shining (My Lord) 
Star keeps shining (Oh My Lord) 
Star keeps shining (My Lord) 
The people keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.

Moving in the elements (My Lord) 
Moving in the elements (Oh My Lord) 
Moving in the elements (My Lord) 
The people keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.
Jesus went to Egypt (My Lord) 
Jesus went to Egypt (Oh My Lord) 
Jesus went to Egypt (My Lord) 
The people keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.

Traveled on a donkey (My Lord) 
Traveled on a donkey (Oh My Lord) 
Traveled on a donkey (My Lord) 
The people keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.

Angels went around him (My Lord) 
Angels went around him (Oh My Lord) 
Angels went around him (My Lord) 
The people keep a-comin' an' the train done gone.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Mapping: Looking for Traces of Grand Contraband Camp

Hampton VA from 1878 Map

Earlier this year I had the chance to visit Hampton Virginia where I was participating in an even hosted by the Hampton Roads AAHGS.

While there I was anxious to see some of the area. I had been influenced by and old map of the city that reflected places of interest reflecting African American history. What I wanted to see was part of Old Hampton, which right after the Civil War, was known as Grand Contraband Camp. 

I did get to drive through there and to see that nothing remains of "Old Hampton, nor or the Contraband Camp.

So I decided to study the map.  Three streets all let to into the camp: Union,Lincoln and Queen.  So I studied the streets and I compared those streets to Hampton streets today.

Hampton Today
Map Courtesy of Google Maps

I realized that where the three streets end, formed the beginning of Grand Contraband Camp. So using Street View---I wanted to explore the area and see if there was anything that could have possibly have been there 145-150s ago.  

Zooming in on the neighborhood and streets immediately to the west of where the three streets (Union, Lincoln and Queen) ended I took a look around.

It was clearly an old part of the city, but most of the houses were 20th century structures--many from the 1950s and younger.   Occasionally an old house would appear on a street standing alone. Did these few old structures arise from the ashes of Grand Contraband, and are these domiciles witnesses to an era gone by?

I did occasionally see some shot-gun houses that truly could have had origins in the days of the early 20th century.  Could they have once been  homes to contrabands?  One of my contacts in the area pointed out that this was the old part of the city. She also pointed out that most of the city was burned during the war, and the fires were set intentionally. As I drove through or as I strolled leisurly with Street View, I found so remnants of truly old structures that would whisper the secrets heard in Grand Contraband Camp.

The map pointed me down interesting streets. I did learn that the community that I explored was and is an historically black.  Ahh---so there were clues---the clus were in the people themselves! They were the descendants of those who chose to survive---and the faces of color that I encountered were living their lives right there---right on Grand Contraband. The remnants of the past I so wanted to see---were passing me by with a smile or a nod of a nodding of the head!! These are the children of Grand Contraband!! I found the hsitory--the treasure I sought---it was right there among the people!!  

I shall continue to explore the area when I get some time, and hope that I shall be able to tell more of the story of Grand Contraband and Beyond.

I can undertake this adventure thankfully by studying maps, employing the technical tools that I need, and by pursuing this quest with vigor.  From Grand Contraband, to Haven of Rest--and Arkansas burial site---I only to have look to find the history--it's right there!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Proactive Response from AfriGeneas Chat

Every Sunday morning, on AfriGeneas, a group of African American focused researchers meet for our Sunday Morning Brunch chat.  All topics are open from latest genealogy finds, challenges, issues, concerns. Sunday's chat was similar and it was a lively one.

Many  members shared enthusiasm about the presentation on Slave era research on Blog Radio that aired earlier this week on the Bernice Bennet hosted program. 

The discussion then turned to upcoming events, including the NGS Conference for 2012. Of interest was the fact that only one speaker out of four presenting African American subjects, is actually African American. Much discussion arose asking why this was the case, and what the possible reasons were.

Some of the dialogue involved a good discussion of the actual presence of African American genealogists on a national level. 

Is there a strong presence of African American researchers? 
Are we submitting proposals as much as we can and should be?  
Is there an effort to overlook presenters who are persons of color?  
Is there a policy of inclusion or of exclusion?  If there is exclusion is this intentional or by design?

Discussion then turned to observations that on a national level that there are persons who are emerging as recognized "authorities" on African American research, who are not a part of the community.  But again,
is this an area of concern, and should it be?

Well before such question can be answered, self exploration has to be addressed.

The question arose then, where are we, researchers of color in the greater genealogical community? I must say that I was quite proud of the group and of the dialogue. The chat could have turned into a gripe session, but it actually became a truly insightful and a thought provoking one.

Questions asked:
How many of us, in the community support other researchers?
How many of us write?
How many of us teach?
And how many of us share?

When we see an article of interest, do we admire and just say, "how nice" or do we share the article with others or a large scale?

Do we make an effort to also acknowledge other researchers or do we simply speak or write (or tweet)  about ourselves?

Many of us are active on Twitter, Facebook, Genealogy Wise and other places. Are we actively sharing information that we glean from our colleagues?

Quite a few of us in the discussion mentioned that we are active on some of the social networks and it was noted that we could use them all more energetically. There is a possibility that we might be invisible to others because we are also indivisible to ourselves!

So, we made a decision to truly become active--to show support of all researchers, to re-tweet messages of interest to the historical and genealogical community.

Many admitted that they do not always re-tweet posts and fewer even used the hashtag feature. Few use the #genealogy group and fewer have considered creating a new group of their own.

So why not create a group for those who research persons of color?
This would include persons of African Ancestry as well as other backgrounds also of color.
This would/could include those who research persons from other communities, and countries.
The concept of inclusion means inclusion on our own parts, just as much as inclusion by others. And sometimes inclusion also means embracing those outside of our own small circles.

A hashtag group was formed as a result:  #POCGenealogy

Those who have data to share on persons in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and and elsewhere, are welcomed to place, queries, notices, articles and website in this group.

After several hours several dozen posts emerged on Twitter with the new hashtag group.

It is hoped that many will embrace the interest in posting African American focused genealogy and history posts!
We begin by sharing.
We grow by promoting
and We are empowered by each other.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Remembering Dorie Miller--A Pearl Harbor Hero

Video About the Actions of Dorie Miller

On this day in 1941, an ordinary man became a hero. Dorie Miller was a Navy cook. He was a man untrained in military weapons because of his color, and it was policy to have black men serve as cooks only in the US Navy. But in the early morning on that December day, Miller was forced to train himself on weaponry.  The ship he served on was the USS West Virginia, and it, like others at Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Miller ran to the deck, helped one of his officers who was gravely wounded. Then he went on deck, took a weapon into his hands and shot at several Japanese planes and actually prevented one from striking the ship.  He was awarded the Navy Cross for his bravery, the first African American to be so honored.

Today few people know his name---although there is a Dorie Miller park in Hawaii that bears his name and he was a true American Hero. He would never live to see the freedoms he fought for, but shall not be forgotten.

He was honored on a US postage stamp in 2010 on a series honoring heroes from the American Navy.

Rest in Peace Dorie Miller. We honor you, on this day!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Mapping Exercise: Finding African American History on Maps

Detail from 1878 Map of Hampton Virginia

Last summer I attended a wonderful class at Samford Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research where I enrolled in the Maps Class. I blogged about the experience the entire week.

The first point emphasized by Rick Sayre, one of the faculty members, was that maps tell a story. The entire week we were exposed to a number of maps telling some of these stories.  One map caught my attention right away--a map of Camp Nelson Kentucky revealing the location of a contraband camp.

Civil War Era Map of Camp Nelson KY Showing Contraband Camp

I was so thrilled to have seen this image!  I have ancestors who were contrabands, and seeing this map outlining details of the camp was so amazing and enlightening.

A genealogy friend of mine in Virginia, shared an amazing map with me, also. It was a map from 1878 reflecting Hampton Virginia.  The details once again caught my attention and told me so much! In fact I found ten different features of interest to anyone studing African American history in the Hampton Roads area.
The map itself was printed in 1878, more than 10 years after the war, however, the city of Hampton was still recovering from the war, and some of the Civil War era sites were still there.
Map Title Reflects the Territory and Details

I found several features highlighted on the map that reflected the rich history of the area, including several black cemeteries, (see image at the top) schools and a detailed outline of the campus of Hampton Institute!

Hampton Institute Found on 1878 Map Reflecting Buildings and Orchards

One of the things that I learned from the maps class was that maps tell a story--sometimes by what they show and also by what they don't show.

Last year on another blog I wrote a piece about an old "Negro Settlement" that existed for about thirty years, in what eventually became Oklahoma, and then it disappeared. I was able to tell the story from several images of maps that reflected this settlement.

This unknown and unnamed settlement existed for 3 decades in Indian Territory, now Oklahoma

On that blog post I illustrated how the community was depicted on maps by a number of publishers, and then, suddenly it vanished. No history of the community has been written. Who were they? Where did they go? To date, nothing has been discovered, although I have heard from a few curious people who live in the area, who are also asking the same question. One visitor to the page found an old map in the local Cleveland County Oklahoma Courthouse and found a local map that also showed the same community.  

Of course there are also some wonderful online sites that have created maps to specifically documenting African American history. A favorite site is Mapping the African American Past. This site is interactive and a wonderful way to learn from contemporary maps, specifically what was there and what was not there during a specific time period.

However, my particular interest  lies in historic maps. 

We need to take a close look at the communities where our ancestors lived. Many maps of the day, especially those created during the years in which the ancestors lived, often reveal long forgotten places and they can point to long forgotten burial sites. 

These old maps often quietly point to other untold stories from the past. Our goal is simply to find them, study them, and then---tell those stories!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Rosa Parks, Daisy Bates, Fannie Lou Hamer -- Three Women Who Changed America

One woman took a seat, another mentored nine students and another one told her story. All three of these women helped to change America.
~ ~ ~

Rosa Parks 
Source: Library of Congress

On this day in history a small fragile woman got on a bus to go home. She paid her fare and took her seat. By the day's end she would be in jail for riding that bus.

Shortly, after taking her seat she was asked to move and give her seat to a man. She was tired and she only wanted to go home. She was arrested for not giving her seat to the man.  Her crime was that she was a woman of color and was not allowed by law to sit where she chose to sit. The man who needed the seat was white, as was the driver of the bus. Within an hour she was arrested and taken to jail. Her name was Rosa Parks. Her arrest initiated a boycott of the Montgomery Alabama bus system, and through non-violence, a system was changed in America.

I was a child and never heard much about Rosa Parks until years later. While I was a small child in western Arkansas, we  had a bus service and I remember riding the bus with my grandmother and I loved watching the fare box where people put the change. I would not know until years later that I could sit in the front because of a small framed woman in Alabama who quietly took her seat a few months before. Rosa Parks had helped to change America.

Daisy Bates, Mentor to the Little Rock Nine

A few years later I had started elementary school. My mother was a native of Little Rock Arkansas, and I can only recall as I dressed for school that my mother was very focused on the news coming from her hometown. Nine children tried to go to high school. They were prevented from doing so, by the governor of the state. My mother was worried and quite upset and sensing my concern, she simply explained to me that a very bad man was in Little Rock (the governor) and he was trying to keep children like me from going to school. She kept telling me that I should not worry, because a very strong lady, was helping those nine children and they were winning their cause. The story of this lady was a lesson of how planning and strategy can bring about major changes that even the governor had to obey. The lady was Daisy Bates, and the children were known later as The Little Rock Nine. 

She was the mentor to the nine students, and she was the person who organized activities around the students. She sought national support and worked for their legal protection. Because of her, and nine brave students, policies changed. And when it was time for me to go to high school, there were no policies that prevented my going to whatever school I chose. All of the schools had finally eliminated barriers preventing students of color from attending the same schools as their white peers. Daisy Bates had helped to change America.


Voter Registration and Civil Rights Activist 

When I was in the 7th grade, I was more aware of the world around me. I was influenced by my parents who were members of several organizations for social change. In the summer of 1964, I remember that my parents watched the proceedings of the Democratic National Convention that year. I also remember watching two ladies speak. My mother insisted that I watch one of them-- Patricia Roberts Harris, an attorney, an activist and an eloquent speaker who seconded the nomination of Lyndon Johnson to run as president for the Democratic Party. And I was impressed, for this was the first time in history that a black woman had such an honor. She was as eloquent as she was elegant. But there was another woman, at the same convention who left an amazing impression upon me. Her name was Fannie Lou Hamer.

She was an activist, and she was a poor woman from Mississippi. This woman captivated the entire floor of the convention hall---telling her story of her actions for voter registration, and of her survival from a vicious police beating in Indianola Mississippi. 

Her crime was working for the right to vote. She was active in voter registration projects in Mississippi. Police jailed her and others including her husband. The police made two prisoners beat her mercilessly, and when one was exhausted they made the other prisoner beat her until he too was exhausted! She was a former polio victim, and could not protect her weakened side from the police sanctioned attack. 

It took her weeks to recover---but recover she did! She did not use violence to retaliate, she used her words. She made it to the National Democratic Convention representing the "Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party" and told her story in front of the nation, and the world. She spoke with courage and detail of the extreme police brutality she suffered for one mere reason--the right to vote. She left these words on the convention floor, to weigh on the conscience of America:

"All of this is on account we want to register to become first-class citizens, and if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings - in America?"
~Fannie Lou Hamer~

This simple woman, who dared to challenge things as they were by telling her story, had me captivated! I had never heard a person speak of such violence, as my parents had protected me from the politics of the times. I was moved, and became aware of the world as it was that day.

Her actions, her words and her courage to speak to the national convention that year, also taught me the value of language. And through language,the actions of legally permitted and locally sanctioned violent attacks on citizens of color was now being exposed to the world. And they had to be addressed by a nation that had continually closed its eyes. The denial of the right to vote could no longer be enforced by heinous violence, and of the larger public merely looking away. By speaking out--the words of Fannie Lou Hamer and others like her, illustrated that non-violent social change made a difference. 

A year after Fannie Lou Hamer spoke and returned to Mississippi to continue her work on Voter Registration, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, into law in August 1965. Fannie Lou Hamer had helped to change America.

Ms. Hamer's speech can be seen here:

Fannie Lou Hamer's Speech at the Democratic National Convention

Today is Rosa Parks Day. On this day she sat down on a bus and changed America. When I think of Rosa Parks, I also think of Daisy Bates and I know I must also think of Fannie Lou Hamer. These women were names that I learned were women who lived in my lifetime, and who were able to bring about change in America.

 On this day, honoring Rosa Parks, let us remember all of those brave women, whose actions made a difference.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Mapping Exercise: Locating Contraband Camp Sites

Excerpt from Map of Washington DC Showing 2 Contraband Maps

Having ancestors who lived in a contraband camp in Memphis during the Civil War has created enormous interest in the history of the "Contrabands" themselves--the refugee slaves who freed themselves during that time of conflict.

My ancestor Mary Paralee Young was the sister of my gr. gr. grandmother Amanda Young Barr. During a raid into northern Mississippi, in 1864 Union soldiers entered the small town of Ripley. Able bodied black men joined the Union forces readily, obtatining much longed for freedom. Later that same night, those remaning slaves who could travel, left also following the route taken by Union soldiers.

My ancestor Paralee Young described what happened the night they left the estate of Tandy Young of Tippah County Mississippi:

Deposition of Mary Parlalee Young Taken from Pension File Application of Amanda Young Barr, widow of Berry Young, Civil War soldier.

Upon arrival in Saulsbury Tennessee, she and dozens of others were sent on to Memphis where they would live out the war in a contraband camp, called President's Island.

Mary Paralee Young Tells of Being Taken to President's Island Contraband Camp

Paralee Young and her children lived on President's Island till 1866 when she later settled in Memphis, where she would spend the remainder of her life. 

After reading about her being taken to President's Island, I wanted to know more---where was this place, this contraband camp, and where there other such places?  I have learned how throughout the south---such facilities arose near the Union lines and wherever there was an encampment of Union soldiers with newly recruited black men as part of the line.

After asking questions for a long time, I eventually learned that this Memphis site is now a peninsula that extends into the Mississippi River directly from downtown Memphis. But I have yet to find any maps that reflect the area, so I decided to use Google Maps to find my own map and to get an image of the area.

A View of President's Island using Google 

I realize that today the island is used mostly for industrial purposes, however, I learned that until the 1960s, people still lived on President's Island, and that there was even a small schoolhouse on the island as well. The schoolhouse has since been moved and the community left the island in the 1960s. Searches for any remnants of this historically black settlment leave me baffled--as there appears to be nothing found online--neither map nor photo, nor evidence that this was once a Civil War era Contraband Camp.  

The few images of President's Island speak only to the current use as an industrial park and nothing of this once being a home for runaway slaves, can be found in current maps and images.  

I did find an aerial view of President's Island as it is today. This is from the President's Island Industrial Association website.

The  Association's site did present a brief history of the island. However no images have surfaced yet of this being a settlement for many years after the war ended.

Earlier this year, a friend and genealogy research colleague share with me a map of Hampton Virginia. This map reflected the community of Hampton roads during the years after the Civil War.  I became profoundly interested, when I examined the map and spotted a very large contraband camp that occupied much of what is today downtown Hampton.  

The camp eventually became an area referred to as Slabtown.
Image of Slabtown that grew from the Grand Contraband Camp in Hampton VA

Hampton Neighborhood Today Once Part of Slabton--Grand Contraband Camp

On another map I was looking at a Washington DC map showing a route that President Lincoln took to go from the White House to the Soldier's Home.  On the map, his route was outlined, and two places caught my eye---they both indicated that they were Contraband Camps.  Their location surprised me as they were not far from Logan Circle in Washington DC.

Image of Washington DC Map Showing Two Camps off Logan Circle

Location of Camp Today Using Google Map

12th and O Street NW Washington DC Looking West- Site of Old Contraband Camp

12th and O Street NW, Washington DC Looking East -Site of Old Contraband Camp

These locations are important, and need to be known.  This history of the camps, the people in those camps represent part of the untold story of the Contrabands of War America's Forgotten Freedom Seekers. 

 They and their history deserve to be replaced on America's historical landscape once again.

There are other sites still to be uncovered and stories still to be told.  I am currently interested in documenting the sites of contraband camps that I have learned of in Arkansas from Pine Bluff, to Ft. Smith, and even westward to Ft. Gibson in Indian Territory.

As one whose history is connected also with the Civil War Contrabands, I look towards finding more evidence of these courageous men and women and moving them from being mere footnotes to history, but true players in the winning of their own freedom.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful For Family

A Collage of Family Faces from Some of My Family Lines

On the day that we give thanks, I find special joys in my family near and far, distant and close. 

I am also thankful to the ancestors upon whose shoulders we stand, and am grateful for the next generation that takes the family forward to the future.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Such Men of Honor Shall Not Be Forgotten

Harlem Hellfighters - Black Soldiers from America Incorporated into the French Army in World War I.

From America they came, these men- ready to serve. These American men served in an army that did not want them, but they served, fought and even died.  Known as the Harlem Hell fighters, these men marched under an American flag, but wore French uniforms and used French arms.  Their contribution was noted and they were later honored in a monument to their bravery and history. 

From my own family history comes my own soldier who was a hero of World War I. My grandfather was Pvt. Samuel Walton who was drafted into the army from his native Oklahoma. He served in the 809th Pioneer Infantry. One of the only photos that I would ever have of my grandfather was the one taken of him in uniform

Pvt. Samuel Walton, 809th Pioneer Infantry

As I watch the film on the Harlem Hellfighters, I wonder if he ever saw them, and ever met them.  I would like to think that he did. I know that one of his best friends was his bunk mate, Seles Bates, from New York.   

Pvt Seles Bates, New York, New York

Did Pvt. Bates have other friends from Harlem who served?  Did he know some of the Harlem Hellfighters personally?  I hope that he did. He lived in New York and lived in Harlem.

I know that many soldiers returned to their lives as second class citizens and would only hope that the liberties that they fought for in France would someday be experienced by the next generation..  The parades afforded World War I veterans in New York City, would indeed symbolically represent the hope of the future, that someday they too would be respected as men, and honored for their bravery by a nation yet to grow in this direction.

I hope that my grandfather got to see some of his army buddies again. I hope that they shared the comradeship of men, who fought for a just cause in a far away land.  My hope too, is that all of them will be remembered as heroes.

Bonus Footage of the Harlem Hellfighters Return Home

Sunday, October 23, 2011

National Black Genealogy Summit - Second Day

Another day of presentations for me

Well Saturday was a full day for me. Two more presentations (after having given two the day before) and there was much interest from the audience and I truly enjoyed the sessions.

I decided to sit in on an interesting session Genealogy in the Electronic Age presented by Tony Burroughs were some unique websites were shared with the audience.
Workshop, "Genealogy in the Electronic Age

So much of the fun came from the opportunity to meet people from other states.

Charles Brown of St. Louis brought a bus load of society members from his organization.

Three new friends leave the Wayne Center, Argyrie McCray, Bertha Curtis and Vicki Daviss Mitchell

There was a lot of sharing and I appreciated the time that I had on Thursday to do some research. I especially enjoy looking at the rare books and journals in the library. But the greatest pleasure I must admit was the feeling that I got as I observed friends helping strangers in their quest to know something of their past. On Thursday we all enjoyed watching Shelley Murphy of Virginia, assist a stranger in finding his grandmother's  maiden name. We later watched her assist another new friend, in locating data on her family as well.  Later, in the hotel room, Argyrie McRae of Baltimore assisted the same lady while chatting, and there in the hotel late at night, more genealogical gems were shared with her. Our evening ended with an informal genea-pajama party with friends laughing and sharing great times with each other, and we then prepared for early morning departures.

Sunday morning ended with a ride back to Maryland, through the beautiful Allegheny Mountains. What a wonderful evening to a great genealogy-filled weekend. 

Autumn beauty seen on the way home.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

National Black Genealogy Summit Opens With a Bang

Argyrie McCrae (Maryland) Lisa Lee (California) Charles Brown (Missouri)

The first official day of the National Black Genealogy Summit went extremely well. This was the opportunity for many researchers from from all corners of the country to meet and share ideas, thoughts and have questions answered.

One of those opportunities was especially poignant when a beginning researchers received some assistance from another researcher and she found some information on her family online.

Ms. Bertha Curtis examined her notes after being shown some information on her family online.

 It was exciting to see so many groups that had arrived. Several groups were present also--St. Louis African American Genealogy Society arrived on a charted bus, as did a group from Chicago and Baltimore. Many from the local area were also in attendance.  Friday was an opportunity for many to also meet several authors from and have books autographed as well.

Tony Burroughs (Illinois) and Bernice Bennett (Maryland) 

Although I had two presentations yesterday myself, I was glad to be able to attend some sessions myself. I particularly enjoyed the session by Lisa Lee on Search and Reward Notices. This session illustrated the need to use newspapers in a different way, and how exploring data in Search and Reward Notices one can see how often times multiple generations are reflected in many of the ads found in black newspapers around the country.

Also present was noted author and scholar Dr. Carla Peterson, author of Black Gotham, a book describing life of free people of color in New York City.

Author Dr. Carla Peterson

The exhibitors were present and among them were those representing the website. Several people took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the website and the many features to be found on the site.

Vicki Daviss Mitchell explains the AfriGeneas website to an inquiring visitor.

The conference banquet speaker was Robin Stone of Essence Magazine. She shared the story of how the genealogy-focused article published in the February 2011 came to be published.

Robin Stone, Banquet Speaker

The conference banquet was enjoyable as it allowed participants to relax, share a wonderful meal and to listen to the presenters.

The final day unfolds on Saturday October 22.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ft. Wayne Pre Summit African American Genealogy Conference

I am attending the National Black Genealogy Summit  Today was the Pre-Summit event held at the Allen County Public Library.

After a long ride from Maryland to Ft.Wayne Indiana, and a good night's sleep, it was great to get into the library again and to see old friends. The check in process was a smooth one with a friendly team of library staff on hand to greet everyone.

Seeing old friends, and meeting new friends is always a great part of any conference. Several of the conference presenters were already on hand and ready to interact with the crowd.

Argyrie McCrae of MD, Tim Pinnick of IL, and Bertha Curtis of MD meet in the lobby.

Many in attendance were anxious to get upstairs to the genealogy library and quickly found a comfortable space and got to work.

These two Maryland researchers quickly found a comfortable place and got to work.

Before settling down to work, I had to take a few moments to appreciate a beautiful exhibit of quilts on display currently at the library.  The quilt exhibit is called Sisters of the Cloth. This is a quilting guild based in Ft. Wayne Indiana. The quilts on display are stunning!

One of the quilts from the Sisters of the Cloth Exhibition

The lunch hour consisted of a brown bag lunch meeting and it was well attended.  There were a number of people in the audience who were quite engaged and asked poignant questions.

I had a great chance to show some support to some members of the AfriGeneas Team.  Ms. Vicki Daviss Mitchell of Phoenix Arizona, and Mr. Art Thomas of Dayton Ohio shared with participants some highlights of  the massive AfriGeneas website.  I was able to get a little bit of footage of that session as well.

Vicki Daviss Mitchell and Art Thomas Present a Session on Navigating the AfriGeneas Website

In the afternoon, I was at a table and observed how an experienced Shelley Murphy of Charlottesville Virginia took out time to assist a gentleman from Michigan who needed some help with a family line. She was able to find the maiden name of his grandmother. In addition, she also was able to provide the name of the gentleman's grandfather's first wife--an name previously unknown to him.  He was most appreciative and said that with the help that he had received, he was more than satisfied with her assistance, and was, in fact quite moved.  He continually thanked her and their exchange was so touching I was able to get a photo of them together.

Shelly Murphy and a new genea-friend after she assisted him with a puzzle about his family history

Afterwards it was back to work, and enjoying research.
Vicki Daviss Mitchell and I reviewed a document on my computer.

Well after a full day, it was back to the hotel, and time to turn in. I have two presentations tomorrow and am looking forward to both.