Why I don’t celebrate the 4th of July

Although the United States of America became an independent nation in 1776, those “freed” Americans continued to enslave my ancestors for nearly 100 more years.

slavery

While I see the Declaration of Independence as irrelevant to me and my history, several measures were passed between 1776 and 1865 (when the Civil War concluded) that did have a bearing on the lives of my ancestors.

12th of July 1787 – Three-fifths Compromise

In 1787, 11 years after US independence, Delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia approved James Madison’s recommendation for determining a state’s representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Although northerners believed enslaved Black people should be regarded as property, warranting no representation in Congress, southerners argued that Black people enslaved in their states should be counted along with the whites (in an effort to increase southern representation rather than an acknowledgement of a Black person’s humanity).

three fifths a man

The “Three-fifths Compromise” clause allowed a state to count three fifths of each Black person in determining political representation in the House. In political effect, a Black person was equal to three fifths of a white person.

This is a cross-post from my Ancestors unKnown blog. Visit Ancestors Blogging for the complete post.

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A nomad with roots: calling all expats to research the past

Replanting your roots shouldn’t mean losing them

In March 1920, my grandmother lived with her parents and siblings in Jacksonville, FL. They shared a home with the parents and younger brother of A. Philip Randolph. She was attending Boylan-Haven School for Girls, a private school for Black girls that Zora Neale Hurston attended about 20 years earlier (and coincidentally my Mom would attend years later). She had just turned 12. Her mother had just died.

Her mother’s death was most likely a significant factor, but not the only reason for her father’s difficult decision to migrate north – just a few years before his own death in 1926. My grandmother and her family left behind the remarkable life they established in Jacksonville and moved to Philadelphia, PA.

Florida East Coast Railway station - Fort Pierce.Photo courtesy:  State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/798

Florida East Coast Railway station – Fort Pierce. Photo courtesy: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/798

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Predicting the future in the past about the present

Until I was in college and became keenly aware of my shortcomings in the study of chemistry, I planned to be a veterinarian. When I was in high school, we had two weeks for special, off-campus study for an internship or travel abroad experience. I always found a veterinarian to follow around and envy. From the emergency room to castrations and teeth cleanings, I was fully immersed in my future professional life. I was all, “shucks, this life thing is pretty much figured out.”

I had no idea I would end up living in another country, building a business that centers on forgotten family histories. But now that I think of it, there were some hints of an entirely different purpose from what I intended.

High school English class

High school nerding in English class

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Your family tree is waiting

And it might be getting impatient. Now is the time!

Lost histories and forgotten ancestors just shouldn’t be a thing. So I’m in the business of getting family trees started. Check out the new pages of Black  Girl Gone, Seeking Ancestors, to learn about my family history research services. And once you’re ready for some answers of your own, let’s get started on your family tree.

Special offer for Black Girl Gone readers! 
Blog subscribers: receive a 10% discount if you submit a research request before August 31, 2014

Toni Morrison’s Bench by the Road
Sullivan’s Island, SC
http://www.tonimorrisonsociety.org/bench.html

Also, I remain committed to the powerful benefits of genealogy for young people with my nonprofit, Ancestors unKnown. (Stay tuned for an exciting reboot over there that’s coming soon.)

 

 

Pro: Freedom to roam

I complained in my last post about not having a stable place to live.  Well, technically I’m still homeless.  And I stand by my complaints.  But sometimes the bright side of a bad situation turns out to be the point of it all.  In this case, once I was able to recognize that bright side, I realized it’s what I’ve been wanting all along: freedom.

Stability would be cool.  Eventually I want to have all of my stuff in one place.  And I’d like to eliminate that uncertain pause when people ask me where I live.  But in the meantime, what have I been complaining about?  This is the perfect time to take advantage of my life with no leash.  As you may know, I thrive on opportunities to pick up and go wherever, whenever.  So I trashed that rising anxiety and purchased another plane ticket.

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Ups and downs of starting up

I haven’t been doing much traveling recently. I’m pretty much staying still in my modest, rented apartment in Paramaribo, Suriname.  Having placed myself on a tight weekly budget, and with lots of work to do, I figure as little movement as possible is my best option.  Now you’re probably picturing me locked in a room, trying to turn straw into gold.  If so, you’re not far off. It’s just…where’s Rumpelstiltskin when you need him?

So I’m here working on the nonprofit startup, Ancestors unKnown.  Maybe you’ve heard about it?  Introducing young people to family history research and the commonly overlooked history of the African Diaspora.  That’s the vision.  And it’s definitely becoming a reality, beginning here in Suriname and Charleston, S.C.

comic reflections

(from facebook)

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Introducing Ancestors unKnown

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dames en Heren, I’m proud to introduce you to my brand new organization, Ancestors unKnown.

Ancestors unKnown introduces young people in the African Diaspora to new perspectives on their histories. We combine a Black history-based curriculum with genealogy/family history research, working in partnership with local organizations, historians, and genealogists.  Beginning in the U.S. (South Carolina) and Suriname, Ancestors unKnown is an international organization.  So in the years to come, I hope to introduce our work and serve communities on multiple continents and islands.

This is still the pilot stage. I want to make lots of changes and additions to the website. And there is so very much work to be done just to stay on track.  But I figure it’s about time to let folks in on the adventure in less cryptic ways.

ancestors blogging

Now I have a few things to ask of you:

1) Check out my first entry on Ancestors Blogging (which eventually will include posts from student participants and partners). Comments are also great!  Here is a piece (I feel like I cheated on this blog by writing over there – so this copy/paste action is how I rectify that):

…could a family that survived the trans-Atlantic slave trade and generations of slavery in the Americas really have left behind no memories? No stories to tell? No lessons to instill? I believe this to be an assumption worth challenging.  And sure enough, digging into some archives revealed tremendous stories waiting to be told, and remarkable ancestors who deserve to be remembered.  I believe everyone has a right to this empowered feeling of knowing her own history, or at least part of it.

2) Please head over to facebook to like the page: https://www.facebook.com/AncestorsUnknown

3) Please share the work we’re doing with your networks. The more people we can invite to the party, the better. (but wait, just so you know, there’s no real party.)

3.5) Eventually I’ll figure out the Twitter thing.  So I’ll be asking you to follow me there at some point too.

4) After all of that, tell me what you think.  Critical feedback is always appreciated.

Sheesh. Feels like I just walked outside wearing my brand new big-girl-pants. But the big ‘ole automatically-locking door just shut behind me.  And I may or may not have forgotten my key.

Big-girl-pants, don’t fail me now. There’s no turning back!