Saturday, January 26, 2008

Slaves in the Family

After writing my first family history, "Say My Name," I was exhilarated and exhausted. I edited it, abridged it, added to it, but then put it aside. Lately, I've been wanting to go back to it. For me it's a skeleton. The story needs flesh and blood. I want the ghosts to speak.

For inspiration I went back to a book I bought many years ago. "Slaves in the Family," by Edward Ball was published 1998. I read bits and pieces of it while I was doing my own research. It was a unique perspective of a descendant of slave owners. As I reread the beginning, it struck me. One reason Black Americans are having so much trouble finding more genealogical data is because the research needs to be done in conjunction with our White ancestors. They have the names and the documents, if they still exist.

I have communicated with a relative of Solomon Koonce's slave owner. He was the nicest man and also a genealogy hobbyist. I also emailed a relative of Charles Featherston. She never knew of the family that claimed him as father. Both persons were very receptive. I know all White relatives won't be helpful. I did receive a racist email while I was looking for more information about Winnie Dear.

I have also talked with many Black Americans who deny their White heritage. On a similar vein, I had a discussion recently with a co-worker who thought birth data should be kept secret from adopted children. She believes there are things in the dark that should remain in the dark.

I disagree. The truth may sometimes be ugly but I feel it should be uncovered. The truth is the light. The dark breeds shadows, lies and ugliness. The trick is to stare into the light without flinching. I'm about the light.

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