Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It's Not Easy Being Green

When I was in school, it was the custom to pinch anyone not wearing green on St. Patrick's Day. It had nothing to do with being Irish. I attended a Black segregated public school. However, I would proudly tell my fellow classmates that I really was Irish. This was the oral legend of my family.

Now with the aid of science and DNA testing, I have proof of my Irish heritage. According to ancestry.com, I am a whopping 19% Irish. I still don't know how, when or where, but I am definitely descended from several persons from Ireland. And my Irish ancestors reside behind my brick wall.

I know most of my Black ancestors back to 1825. I only know one White ancestral line up to that date. That is my Featherston line. There may be Irish roots there. The Featherstons did come from England so there may be Irish ties somewhere in that family tree.

What is unique about my Featherston ties is that the interracial union of my great grandparents occurred right after slavery. Those other earlier couplings were, more than likely, forced and they definitely were not documented.

Irish immigrants didn't have it easy when they first arrived here in America. People looked down on  them, discriminated against them, called them "black" among other epitaphs. Some were even held as slaves. Of course, their road to equality cannot compare to Black American's tedious journey.

I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about my Irish heritage. I'm no longer that young naive child that gladly pronounced that she was Irish. I don't resent it either. My feelings, like Black genealogy, is complicated.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

History Matters

Last year, nearly to the day, I wrote:

"There are many people in the world who do not believe the holocaust happened. There are many people who believe that the sun revolves around the earth. Really. And that dinosaurs roamed the earth as late as 6,000 years ago. And that slavery in America is just a myth.

This last belief confounded me. Well, they all confound me but the last one was a new one on me. Although I am amazed that there are some people out there (really out there) that ascribe to this notion and at their ignorance, sadly, I am not surprised.

This belief was observed by a member  of a Facebook genealogy group I belong to. He posted 'I work in Gettysburg doing tours at the Farnsworth House. I do afternoon historical tours of the house and I talk about the battle in that corner of the town. We have some historical documents framed and hanging on the walls. One is a bill of sale for a slave from Virginia. Last year I had two African American young ladies 17 and 18 from Uniontown PA (south of Pittsburgh) on my tour who upon seeing that told me that they did not believe that slavery ever existed. And that documents like that were just white peoples ploys to keep black folk down. I asked if they took history in high school and they replied that history doesn’t matter.'”

These young ladies chose not to believe a distasteful part of their history. Instead  they decided to use the ostrich method of dealing with it.

About a month ago, this screenshot was posted on the same Facebook genealogy group.

I can only assume that these were also young persons involved in this conversation. At least, I hope so. All I can do is shake my head.

It is said that those who do not know, learn, ignore (choose whichever word you prefer) history, are doomed to repeat it. Kurt Vonnegut says "“We're doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That's what it is to be alive." Looking around at current events, it looks like Vonnegut is right. However, I keep the faith that learning about our history will make us better.