Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Victory Speech

Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama

Election Night, Chicago, Illinois
Tuesday, November 04, 2008

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference. It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America. It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day. It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.

And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you. I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn’t do this just to win an election and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair. The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers – in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people. Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope. For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old. She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin. And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can. At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can. When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can. When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can. She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can. A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made? This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes We Can.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

President Elect Barack Obama II

Life in America changed on November 4, 2008. Yesterday, the country elected the first African American President, Barack Hussein Obama II and all the world has beared witness to one of the most profound moments in United States History.

There is a sense of renewed freedom in the air. Freedom from racial divides, stereotypes and barriers that have existed in this country for so many years. This event marks a new era not just in the United States but the world!

It shows that in the year, 2008, we have evolved! If we can get past petty things like skin "color," then its no telling what else can be accomplished.

For once, it feels as though, we are moving towards becoming one race. The "human race."

Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Barack Obama

Today, marks a historic moment in time. Barack Hussein Obama II born August 4, 1961 just became the 44th president of the United States.

For the first time in history, the United States feels truly "united." The nation is celebrating.

I went out and cast my vote today and although I have voted every election since becoming of age, this experience was the most profound. I took a photograph at the polls to memorize the day. I will upload it later.

Yesterday, President-elect Obama spoke in Manassas, Virgina and I was reminded of how my great-great-great grandfather Henry Johnson of Bossier Parish, Louisiana had fought on the front lines at the 2nd Manassas at the Battle of Bull Run which took place on August 28-30, 1862. He survived but his former Master, Hodge died on August 29, 1862 despite my Grandpa's efforts to save his life by carrying him for miles on his back.

Grandpa Henry was freed along with thousands upon thousands of other slaves when the North won the war and now 143 years after slavery was abolished, Barack Hussein Obama II has become the first black president.

God bless America!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Poor House or the Poor Farm

Frederick County Poor Farm, Frederick County, Virginia

2008 has proven to be a year of hard economic times. Record housing foreclosures, skyrocketing gas prices and plummeting drops in the Stock Market, have caused some to compare this era to that of the Great Depression.

There are many who have fallen on hard times. Families who have lost their dreams of home ownership, former millionaires who have seen their interest melt into nothing and everyday people living day to day just trying to make ends meet sometimes having to skip meals or other needs just to put gas in their cars in order to get to work are commonplace.

Homeless shelters and government programs are inundated with people in need of help.

But thank God for blessings. Unlike the times of the Great Depression, the Government is stepping in to help in the form of Corporate and Housing Market Bailouts, Special Loans, Stimulus Packages, and other programs all in the effort to keep the country afloat and from falling into the an economic abyss that resembles that of the past.

Hence, comes the topic of this blog. A fellow researcher ran across a census report that contained the names of individuals that was housed in a "Poor Farm." She was astonished as I to find the names of several families listed. We recalled how as children, how our parents used to say things like, "You better turn off those lights or be more financially aware or you are going to land us in the "Poor House or the Poor Farm." Neither of us actually realized that it was an actual place. I thought my mother was just being "melodramatic."

I researched it and found that a poorhouse or workhouse was a government-run facility for the support and housing of dependent or needy persons, typically run by a local government entity such as a county or municipality.

During the Victorian era, poverty was viewed as a dishonourable state caused by a lack of the moral virtue of industriousness or laziness.

A Poorhouse often resembled a reformatory and house children, either with families or alone, or a penal labour regime to give the poor work at manual labour and subject them to physical punishment.

The term is commonly applied to such a facility that houses the destitute elderly; institutions of this nature were widespread in the United States prior to the adoption of the Social Security program in the 1930s. Facilities housing indigents who are not elderly are typically referred to as homeless shelters, or simply "shelters," in current usage.

Often the poorhouse was situated on the grounds of a poor farm on which able-bodied residents were required to work; such farms were common in the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries; it could even be part of the same economic complex as a prison farm and other penal or charitable public institutions.

Poor farms were county or town-run residences where paupers (mainly elderly and disabled people) were supported at public expense. They were common in the United States beginning in the middle of the 19th century and declined in use after the Social Security Act took effect in 1935 with most disappearing completely by about 1950.

Most were working farms that produced at least some of the produce, grain, and livestock they consumed. Residents were expected to provide labor to the extent that their health would allow, both in the fields and in providing housekeeping and care for other residents. Rules were strict and accommodations minimal.

I guess they would be today's equivalent of a homeless shelter.

Below is an extract from a 1900 Census that show residents of a "Poor Farm" in Falls County, Texas.

Household Members: Age/Race/Marital status
Nettles Head
Nettles Wife
Baze Chism 49 / Black /Widow
Rachel Edwards 75/Black /Widow
Mary Hayword 30/ Black /Widow
Sarrah Jones 28/Black/Widow
Mathew Williams 50/Black/Single
Norah May 46/Black/Single
Lizzie Duglas 35/ Black/Widow
West Duglas 6 months/Black/Single
Mary Phone 35/White/Single
Lizzie Lee 52/White/Single
Lu Williams 25/White/Widow
Orlee Williams 11months/white/Single
John Popeb 67 White/widow

This farm appears to have been run by a gentleman with the surname Nettles and his wife. No other vital information was given about them. The residents were comprised of both whites and blacks many of whom were widowed with children.

This really puts things in prospective for me. Even in the hard ecomonic times of 2008, we should still be grateful for government programs such as social security widow's and children survival benefits, general welfare, health programs, food programs and the like.

I am still both astonished and saddened to know that the "Poor House" or "Poor Farm," was not just a figure of speech that our parents used to make us exercise more financial consciousness in order to save them money.

In Memory of the Tyree C. Green

Today, I attended the funeral services of my cousin, Tyree Green. The last time I spoke with him in depth, he told me that he was working on getting his health right. Well, I learned today that he was not only working on his outer self but his inner spirit and relationship with God. I was very happy to know that he had recently re-committed himself and had a relationship with God.

I was sad to hear the news of his passing but elated to hear of the "Good News" that he has a chance at eternal life since the scriptures tell us that:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Hallelujah and praise the Lord that he called upon the name of the Lord!

Important Election 2008 information




Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Salute to Private JKB

This week was filled with mixed emotions for me. On Monday, October 13, 2008, my nephew, Private J.K.B. was deployed to Iraq. My heart was heavy but at the same time I felt proud because of his obvious dedication and invaluable contribution to this country.

Part of my sadness was due to the realization that the little boy that was once the "apple of my eye" has suddenly become a man.

I talked with my nephew a couple of days before he was to embark on his mission and related to him just how proud I was of him. I also reminded him that he joins the ranks of the many ancestors and other relatives who have served this country. He was surprised to know that we have had ancestors and/or relatvies who have fought for this country since the Revolutionary War but it is true. Heres is just a few:

Joshua Braveboy - American Revolution (Revolutionary War)
Great-GG Grandpa Henry Johnson - Civil War
G-Uncle Johnnie Johnson- World War I
Uncle Huey Lee-World War II 8 Mar 1943
Jewel and Herbert Burney-Korean War
Clyde Lee-Vietnam War
D.Burney and T. Carter-Desert Storm
JKB-Iraqi War

Again, these are just a few. There were so many others. I plan to do a special tribute in another blog to salute ALL those who served this country so valiantly.

I encouraged my nephew to keep his faith and to be prayerful and to remember that he is not going alone, that God will be there every step of the way.

You would have to know my nephew and the journey he took to get where he is today. Even as a tot, you could see that God created someone very SPECIAL. He is one of the most spiritually beautiful people you would ever want to know. He is a man full of
eloquence, grace and honor. He is the type of person that finds friends where ever he goes.

I know that God will accompany him on his journey and ensure his safe arrival back home to his family that loves him.

Please keep him in your prayers

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Miracle at St. Anna

For those of you who have not already gone to see it, Spike Lee's "Miracle at St.Anna" is a must see. It is based on the screenplay and novel written by James McBride.

The movie is set in Italy in 1944 and highlights the contributions and sacrifices of Colored Troops during World War II. It demonstrates the bravery of these colored men who put their very lives on the line to defend the United States even though racism still thrived even in the military.

The cast was awesome. They did a wonderful job of connecting with the characters, era, the mood of the 1940's and the war. The cast included Derek Luke, Aubrey Stamps, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller and Matteo Sciabordi.

According to military records, there were an estimated 922,965 blacks who served in various capacities during World War II.

These men should be forever remembered for their valiant service and contribution.

Again, for a glimpse into that time in history, I encourage you to go see, "Miracle at St. Anna."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Joel 2:13

Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Joel 2:13

Louisiana Death Records Available Online

The Louisiana Death Records index is now available online from 1911-1957. The index lists death certificates more than 50 years old. Unfortunately, the entire image of the death certificate is not available for viewing or printing.

However, you can search the index for a family member and then order the certificate by mail for $5.49 or you can go to the Research Library in Baton Rouge and print the a microfilm copy of the death certificate for 50 cents.

Below is an example of a search I did on my Brittentine line.

Year Age Month Day Name Parish
1932 17 11 18 BRITTENTINE , BEATRICE Caddo
Order Page: 12159 Volume: 31
1946 56 5 23 BRITTENTINE , ERNEST Caddo
Order Page: 401 Volume: 5
1920 19 8 6 BRITTENTINE , JUDY Caddo
Order Page: 8428 Volume: 18
1927 28 9 3 BRITTENTINE , LILLIAN Bossier
Order Page: 10404 Volume: 23
1926 7 MO 4 1 BRITTENTINE , NORA LEE Bossier
Order Page: 10655 Volume: 25
1943 45 6 13 BRITTENTINE , SALLIE Bossier
Order Page: 699 Volume: 508

You can assess the new site at or click the link on the bottom right of this page labeled "Louisiana Death Certificate (Orders).

Be forewarned that there are a few glitches on the new site. The PDF order form will not come up if your pop-up blocker is on. If this happens, I would recommend that you just print screen the index page your subject appears on, highlight it and send your request with your fee to:

P.O. BOX 94125
BATON ROUGE, LA 70804-9125
(225) 922-1000 also has a Louisiana Death Index for the same period. Once you find the name, you can print the page and send with your $5.00 fee. However, is a paid site but you can use it for free at your Public Library. I have ordered certificates from Louisiana before and they are fairly prompt.

Because Louisiana is a "closed record" state, meaning birth and death certificates less than 50 years old are not public records, all these requests must include proper identification. In addition, you can only obtain a certified copy of a death certificate if you are the surviving spouse of the person named on the document, parent of the person named on the document, adult child of the person named on the document, sibling of the person named on the document, grandparent of the person named on the document, adult grandchild of the person named on the document, or the beneficiary of an insurance policy of the person named on the document. You can order these at:

Vital Records Registry, P.O. Box 60630, New Orleans, LA 70160; Phone (504)568-5152 or visit their web site at for more information.

Good luck with your Louisiana Death cerificate research.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Black Loyalists

Black Loyalists were former slaves or free negroes who in exchange for the promise of freedom by the British Government during the American Revolutionary War, promised to fight against the American Colonies. Although, some were slaves of white Loyalists. In an effort to fortify the British forces, some of the Generals issued proclamations that slaves who joined the British Armies would be freed despite threats from outraged Virginia slave owners who decreed that runaway slaves would be executed.

Slavery in England had been abolished in 1772 after a decision from Lord Mansfield, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, but this decision did not apply in the colonies.

The Black recruits formed regiments such as the Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment, Sir Clinton's Black Pioneers, Jersey Shore Volunteers, the King's American Dragoons, the Jamaica Rangers, and the Mosquito Shore Volunteers. Many of these regiments won key battles.

However, as history records it, the British lost the War to the Americans and unfortunately many former British Black Loyalists were returned to their former Masters or sold back into slavery. In addition, the approximate 2500 slaves of White Loyalists, remained slaves until 1834 when slavery ended in the entire British Empire. Hence, the British did not hold up to their end of the bargain that they made to these former slaves.

However, some generals were insistent that the former Black British soldiers be rewarded for their service. There were over 3,000 free African Americans who migrated to Nova Scotia primarily and are listed in the Book of Negroes, a book that documents the Black Loyalists. In 1793, these Blacks were taken to Florida, Nova Scotia and England as free men and women. Their names were recorded in the "Book of Negroes" by General Carleton. The group of refugees who arrived in Nova Scotia were the largest group of people of African descent to arrive there at any one time. Included in the "Book of Negroes" was a Mary Braveboy. Please recall that is one of my ancestral paternal names. Mary was aged 44 at the time of her relocation and she traveled on the ship,"Thames Abraham Ingram," to St. Johns River which in New Brunswick. I must say I was surprised because I have an acquaintance who traced her family back to the Black Loyalists and never knew that there might be a connection in my family as well.

From many of these free and enslaved Africans descended the Black Canadian culture which exists today. They have made a significant impact on the Canadian culture. There is documented evidence, that game of Hockey was created by descendants of these Africans. The story is documented in George and Darril Fosty's book,"Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes." They populated towns such as Halifax, Annapolis, Birchtown, Shelburne and New Brunswich.

However, after the war many Black Loyalists were evacuated to London and were included in the population of the Black Poor. About 4,000 of these former Black Loyalists migrated to Sierra Leone in 1787 and about 1100 more migrated there directly from Canada and are known as the Nova Scotian settlers. Today, their descendants are known as the Sierra Leone Creole people of Freetown, Sierra Leone.

These Black Warriors had a very proud history. They demonstrated tremendous bravery in their quest for freedom although for many, it never came.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Julie Andrew's favorite things about aging!

Julie Andrews Turns 69,

To commemorate her birthday , actress/vocalist, Julie Andrews made a special appearance at Manhattan 's Radio City Music Hall for the benefit of the AARP.
One of the musical numbers she performed was 'My Favorite Things' from the legendary movie 'Sound Of Music'. Here are the lyrics she used:
> > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > >> > > > > > > > >
(Sing It!) - If you sing it, its especially hysterical!!!

Botox and nose drops and needles for knitting ,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cadillacs and cataracts, hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the pipes leak, When the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.

Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Back pain, confused brains and no need for sinnin',
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin',
And we won't mention our short shrunken frames,
When we remember our favorite things.

When the joints ache, When the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I've had,
And then I don't feel so bad.

She received thunderous applause, a 4 minute standing ovation and muliple encores!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Monday, August 25, 2008

Slave Cuisine

A lot of the foods that we eat here in the United States especially among the African American communities, have roots that stem from slavery.

Along with the African slaves kidnapped and brought to the U.S. in slaves vessels for the purpose of bondage came many foods that were native to their home environment. Records reveal that most of the slave cargo ships carried with them food goods directly from Africa for the enslaved passengers to consume during their journey across the Ocean.

Some ships carried foods central to the African diet, such as rice, okra, tania, black-eyed peas, cassava, yams, kidney and lima beans, peanuts, millet, sorghum, guinea melon, watermelon, and sesame (benne). The ship logs of the slave vessel Elizabeth, bound for Rhode Island in 1754, listed provisions of "yams, plantain, bread [cornbread], fish and rice."

Records from the slave ship Othello (1768-69) listed hundreds of baskets of yams taken on board as provisions along with lesser quantities of plantains, limes, pepper, palm oil, and gobbagobs (goobers or peanuts). However, most ships did not provide an adequate ration of these foods to last the entire journey. As a result many of the captives died.

Of course, the slaves on these ships were extremely fortunate. Other ships provided only small portions of rice and beans with a "slabber" sauce, made from old beef, rotten fish and salt, which was poured over the rice and beans in an attempt to fill the slave's stomachs. As you might have guessed, this often resulted in the death of many slaves from the obvious food poisoning. Its a wonder that only about 1/3 of the original captives on some ships actually made it alive to America.

However, as previously mentioned many crops that had been native to Africa made their way into the Southern cuisine and became staples on the slave menu.

The ordeals of the slaves were many. Many slaveowners did little to see to their comfort or well-being. For those who did, more often than not, it was not the result of any genuine concern for the slave per se. Rather, they had their own interests in mind since they viewed the slaves as an investment and their own livelihood depended on the ability of the slave to perform the free labor needed for the owner to prosper.

Despite this, many provided the slaves with just enough food to produce the energy to complete a day's work. Of course, in those days, the average workday was from sunrise to sunset. For many, this meant a full day of working in the fields performing hard labor in extreme weather conditions. Providing the slaves with just enough food for energy was a good case scenario. Many did not provide adequate rations of food to the slaves. Many slaves who tolled for the benefit of their Masters were nearly starved and subsisted only on meager helpings of food.

In most instances, the slaves raised crops and procured meats for the subsistance of the Master and his family and were not allowed to partake of these foods themselves. For instance, if they butcherd a hog or a cow, the Master would get all the prime cuts of meat such as the shank for ham, bacon, pork chops, steak and the like. The slaves would get all the parts of the hog or cow that the Master would not eat and parts that were traditionally thrown away such as the intestines, feet, neck, ribs(carcass), liver, ears, tongue, tails and such.

But God always has a way of turning something that Satan meant for bad into something good. From these scraps came the genesis of the African American cuisine that today is known as "Soul Food." Many of the sisters that were brought here from Africa brought with them their culinary talents that they had learned in the Mother Land which enabled them to turn the scraps they were given into something next to wonderful. After all, their very survival depended on it.

Hence came the creation of such dishes as chiterlings, pig feet, tails and ears, neckbones, barbeque ribs, hogshead cheese and ham hocks. Add to these, their native yams, okra, black-eyed peas other crops such as greens, rice and beans, it made for some good eating and became slave delicacies.

In addition, dishes make from grains such as skillet and hot water cornbread and grits became slave staples.

When they did get to eat more traditional cuts of meat, you were looking at some cooking. They created such dishes as smothered pork chops, glazed hams, steak with gravy, fried catfish, turkey and dressing and fried chicken.

At Christmas, many slaves described the killing of hogs, turkeys and chicken with plenty of side dishes and desserts to go around. However, during most of the year, this was not the norm. Normally, their food was rationed but again, the slaves made the best with what they were given.

Most of the dishes that the slaves conjured up are still being enjoyed today although many now have modified the ingredients because of today's health concerns, myself included. The prevalence of diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and heart problems especially amongst the African American population have caused many to substitute meats such as pork with chicken or turkey and grill rather than fry meats and vegetables.

Remember, slaves for the most part consumed pork because their survival and the survival of their future generations required them to do so. Prior to them arriving in America, many of them did not consume pork. Instead their diets consisted mainly of other small portions of other meats and mostly vegetables. Many Africans today still do not eat pork. Could our ancestors have known the adverse effects that prolonged consumption of pork could have on their bodies? The Bible, in Deuteronomy teaches it is unclean to consume swine or any animal that has divided hoof and/or chews a cud.

As for myself, I consume pork maybe 3 times a year, ham at Easter and Christmas and 4th of July Ribs. Other than that, it is turkey, chicken and fish, all cuts but I work these meats into the traditional dishes originated by African slaves.

Whatever, your preference, if you enjoy "Soul Food," you have the slaves to thank for its origin.

Psalm 146:5-7

5Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:

6Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:

7Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Grandma Margery Brittentine Lee and son Huey Lee

Photograph of my GG-Grandmother, Margery Brittentine Lee and son Huey Lee in a deguerretype photo/postcard. On the back is written: Mrs. R.C. Lee and Master Hughie Lee(She was the wife of Richard Clyde Lee)Taken circa 1915-1917 since Uncle Huey was born in 1912. The frame surrounding the picture was digitally added as was the names on the photo. Click to enlarge

Margery(Margie) Brittentine Lee was born in about 1880. She was the daughter of Monroe and Sophia Gay Brittentine. She was one of about 12 children including Robert, Sidney, Esther, Eva, Ella, Lizzie and Jones, Phoebe, Promise, Punny and Ernest. She resided in the Plain Dealing/Rocky Mount,Louisiana area near Shreveport.

She married Richard Clyde Lee on January 27, 1894, the son of Betty Banks Brown Lee Smith and her 1st husband. Richard and Margery according to oral history met at their family church, Galilee Baptist Church. She reportedly sang in the choir. The ceremony was performed by an uncle, Reverand Allen Brown. It was a double wedding since Richard's sister Mary Eliza married Marcus Burton the same day. It was a Saturday wedding on more than likely a crisp winter day since the average high is about 56 degrees in that area during January.

Copy of their marriage liscense (Click to enlarge)

Margie picked a good husband. Not only was he extremely handsome but Richard was a hard-working man and a go-getter. He is listed on the census as doing farm work but also taught school at Galilee Baptist Church according to my late cousin Lizzie Neal Bagley of Detroit, Michigan who was one of his pupils. She also related that he was very educated and he and his wife Margery were regarded as 2 of the most upstanding colored citizens of the area.

By all accounts, Grandma Margie was a fine dresser. She and her husband were well to do and she dressed accordingly. According to family sources, she was a wonderful seamstress having sewn many of her own outfits.

She was also a wonderful homemaker. She and her husband lived in a grand home in Rocky Mount. They owned over 80 acres of land which still remains in the family.

Papa Dickie(Richard Lee) is said to have owned one of the nicest horse-drawn buggies in the area. He acquired hundreds of acres of properties in bossier parish some of which he purchased according to records from the DeMoss Family.

They were a strong God loving family who had deep Christian and family values that they passed on to their families.

Richard and Margery raised two sons, Robert Edward Lee (1897), my grandfather and Huey Lee (1912). Tragically, Margery miscarried approximately 6 other children including twins all of which were girls. According to her son, Huey Lee, all are buried in Galilee Cemetery in Plain Dealing surrounding the body of Mrs. Margery Brittentine Lee.

Their grief was kindled by the birth of their 1st grand-daughter, Johnnie Pearl Lee in 1918, the daughter of their son Robert and his wife, Annie Bell Johnson Lee. By all accounts, they loved her very much and spent a lot of time fawning over her. According to my Aunt Lizzie Neal Bagley, Johnnie Pearl’s cousin on her mother’s side, she spent most of her time and holidays with her “Papa Dickie” and “Grandma Margie.”

Richard died in 1926, cause of death unknown at the age of 54. Among the loved ones he left behind were Margery, his wife of 32 years, 14 year old Huey, 29 year old Robert and his mother Bettie.

According to my Grandpa Johnie, Grandma Margie developed breast cancer in the early 1930's. As a result, both of her breast were surgically removed. Unfortunatley, the cancer spread and Margery Brittentine Lee died on November 14, 1937. She is buried next to her beloved husband, Richard Clyde Lee in Galilee cemetery.

She was a fine woman who passed down some meaningful family values and I will always love her for it.

Rest in peace Grandma, until we meet someday!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Johnnie Willie Greene

Here is a memorial page that I added for my Grandpa Johnnie Willie Green. I recently did a blog page on him in honor of his "Would Be 100th birthday" but I am now adding his image. To read more about him, please find his story under Green/Greene line

Please note that the items surrounding his photograph, i.e, coins and keys were some of his actual belongings. You can click on the photo to enlarge the image.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Colossians 3:1-2

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:1-2

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bossier Parish Library Historical Library site updated

I have been finding some wonderful things on the Bossier Parish Library Historical Library site! They have really updated the site.

I found pictures of ancestors and relatives on the site as well of a lot of other information that I did not previously know.

The site allows you to search their Collections database by putting in a keyword. This can include a surname, a place, subject or whatever else you might be looking for. It also allows you to do a random search of their photographs or other documents. It is a wonderful site.

You can assess it by clicking on the link in the lower left hand corner of this my site.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Malachi 4:2

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” Malachi 4:2

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fabulous Discovery in Texas-Another long lost relative reunited with his Ancestral Tree!

Today, I had another amazing discovery. I finally found the death certificate for my Great, Great, Great Uncle Major Smith in Texas, a place that I would have never thought to look.

Click to view image

The reason I would have never thought to look in Texas is because his family was from the Plain Dealing, Louisiana area and because he is buried in the family cemetery with them. I have pictures of his grave. However, I was never able to find a death certificate or any other records of him for that matter. Much of the information that I have on him came via oral history from family members including his sister and my GGG-Aunt, Sally who lived to be about 106. She kept his memory alive. I actually have an original large oval framed photograph of him pictured with his brother, my gg-grandfather, Richard Clyde "Dickie" Lee. It is a beautiful photograph of two very handsome men which graces the wall of my dining room.

Even though I had a great deal of proof of his existence, I just never had any genealogy records on him before now. It was as if he left no paper trail of his life at all until now in Texas.

Again, I am so elated. The death certificate confirms some information that I already knew including the fact that he died young, at age 30. It lists his parents as Anthony Smith and Betty Banks which I also knew. However, it dispelled a lot of the rumors that previously existed regarding the circumstances of his death. The information that I always heard was that he was killed in a tragic car accident. However, according to his death certificate, he died of pulmonary tuberculosis while working in El Paso, Texas doing rail road work on January 21, 1923. It says he had only been in the area for 4 months. Apparently, he went there to earn money since although the Great Depression did not hit until 1928, times were still hard especially for african americans in the South so they often went where they could find work. He was listed as single which is also in contrast to some of the stories that he was married. It is still unknown if he had any children. His death still seems tragic to me and must have to his family with him dying at the age of 30.

I'm sure Uncle Major is smiling today because of the knowledge that his final story is finally known made possible by the release of vital records, today's technology and the Awesome Power and Will of God Almighty! I'm smiling too!

Major Smith January 1, 1893 to January 21, 1923

(Major Smith's grave in Galilee Baptist Chruch Family cemetery in Plain Dealing, Louisiana. Most likely placed much later after burial since Birth and Death information is incorrect on stone as if it was estimated by memory)

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I'm found
Was blind but now I see!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mystery of Long-Lost Relative Solved

Yesterday, I created a post regarding having discovered a "missing link," i.e. great uncle by the name of Edward L. Hines who lived and died in Texas.

After speaking to an Aunt who is somewhat of an authority on our family history, we figured out that my Uncle Edward L. Hines is actually the same person as my Uncle Erascus Hines. However, Aunt Jane never knew him as Edward L.

We came to this conclusion based on the particulars surrounding his death. Please recall, his death certificate indicated that his occupation was a Radio Tech. My Aunt Jane remembered that her Uncle Erascus owned a TV/Radio repair shop in Houston, Texas, the same place where this Edward L. resided. Also, his age, parents and the circumstances and date of his death matched exactly.

Aunt Jane reminded me that I had actually viewed Edward L. (Erascus) tombstone when we were in the family cemetery in the Frierson/Gloster, LA area some years ago. However, his tombstone gives his name as Erascus Hines. Maybe, the Edward L. Hines was his formal given name but the family called him Erascus which by the way was the name of one of his uncles or he did not like Erascus and decided to change it to Edward L. I'm not sure but I am pretty sure that we are dealing with the same person.

I am glad though that I was able to locate his death certificate because up until now, I had very little information on him.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Found: Long Lost Relative!

Today, I made an amazing discovery on FamilySearch Labs. I located a long-lost relative, actually a great-uncle who had been missing from my family tree due to his early demise.

The subject in question is one, Edward L. Hines, who was the son of Isam and Cornelia Jefferson Hines, my great-grand-parents. Today, I found him hiding in the pages of death certificates in Houston, Texas. You see, he was born and raised in Friersen, Louisiana and up until now there was no prior information given to me putting him in Texas.

The way that I found him was I did a broad search under Texas Death certificates for individuals born in Frierson, LA who died in Texas. The search engine generated several names of other relatives mostly from my Brayboy line that also proved valuable. Although, I am grateful for those finds too, but at least I already knew that many of them had relocated to Houston. However, I did not know that Edward L. Hines, who was cousin to the Brayboys on his mother's maternal side, had followed them there. He was the stunner for the day!

His death certificate lists him as being born on August 20, 1903 in Frierson, LA and died on April 15, 1944 in Houston in route to Jefferson Davis Hospital of a ruptured esohageal vein with internal hemmorage and cirrosis of the liver. It says that he worked as a Radio Tech. At the time of his death, he had lived there for 8 years. The certificate indicates that he was the son of Isam Hines and Cornelia Jefferson of Louisiana. His sister Nelvin Hines signed the death certificate. His place of burial is listed as Shreveport.

I think he really wanted me to find him because up until now, I was beginning to doubt his existence. Now, I have proof the he lived through his death!

I am so elated! Now, I am going to be on a quest to find other records on him. I will let you know what I find!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Witherspoon/Pressley Acquaintance

A couple of months ago, I made an acquaintance with a Witherspoon descendent who had run across my website. His name is John Renning Phillips, a very nice gentlemen who I exchanged several emails with.

He has written a book called, "The Good Intent: The Story and Heritage of a Fresno Family.” His book has information about his father’s family, which includes the Witherspoon and the Pressley families of Williamsburg County, South Carolina so he thought I would be interested in reading it.

I am very interested and have started but not yet finished reading it. However, John brought it to my attention that the Pressley and Witherspoons have several connections including the marriage of Ann Pressley to marry James Witherspoon, the great-grandfather of Boykin Witherspoon.

John has documented the family’s journey in 1734 on the ship called “The Good Intent” from Ireland to South Carolina. The family was originally from Scotland.

John also confirmed with me information about the prestigious family line that the Witherspoons in particular descended from including John Knox (The Divine), Robert the Bruce, kinship to Mary Queen of Scots and modern day actress, Reese Witherspoon.

I am very grateful to John Renning Phillips for the information he has shared with me and look forward to finishing his book. In fact, another friend of mine says she had heard good things about it and planned to read it as well.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy, you can do so by clicking on to the link below.

Ladies of Freedom

Lucretia Mott

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Susan B. Anthony

As you know, there were many heroes who were instrumental in the struggle for freedom in America.

Among them were Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. All were at least at some point of the Quaker faith and were abolistionists. They were all anti-slavery activists as well as instrumental in the struggle for women's rights.

These women should be remembered for their invaluable contributions in the fight against slavery. They all stood up and spoke out against slavery even though at the time it was unpopular to do so especially by women who were in that time considered unequal to men.

Yet, they risked their lives and own freedom since some of them were at times jailed for their speeches and work against slavery and women's rights.

As I mentioned, there were many heroes in the struggle for freedom but God also used these very brave women to rally for the cause. As African Americans, we can should remember the thank these women for their contributions.

I will write a more detailed account of their contributions at a later date but wanted to give you some information on these women.

The Magna Carta in New York

I forgot to tell you that when I was in New York a couple of weeks ago, there was a "Big Stir" about the news that the Magna Carta, Britain's foremost national treasure is coming to New York.

The Magna Carta which we all studied about in school but have probably forgotten is the document that set the global standard for religious freedom, trial by jury and other liberties that became the basis of human rights laws in Britain and eventually in the U.S.

In 1215, English barons forced King John to sign the Magna Carta - Latin for "Great Charter" - to limit the monarch's power after a series of abuses.

The 793 year old charter is set to arrive in New York at the Fraunces Tavern Museum in Lower Manhattan returning to the City for the first time since the 1939 World's Fair in Queens.

It is set to be on display for 90 days.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Happy "Would Be" 100th Birthday, Grandpa Johnie

Memory page of Johnnie Willie Greene (Coins and keys surrounding his picture were some of his actual belongings) Click to enlarge

I would like to wish a Happy "Would Be" 100th Birthday to my Grandpa Johnie. He was born Johnie Willie Green(e) on July 11, 1908 in Bradley, Arkansas. He actually added the "e" on the end early on to distinguish himself from what he considered the "ordinary." It fit, because he was anything but ordinary.

He was a very rare and special person. He was the son of Edward Green and Recie Clayton Green Jackson. Although, he was born in Arkansas, the family relocated back to the Plain Dealing, LA area where both of his parents were from. His parents parted ways during his youth and his care was assumed by his Aunt Lucy Green Faye and her husband Ransom Faye who he described as a tough taskmaster. Grandpa Johnie was required to work the family farm instead of attending school so he taught himself to read and write and later enrolled in adult school upon reaching maturity.

Johnie met and married Johnnie Pearl Lee, the daughter of Robert Edward Lee and Annie Bell Johnson Lee Green. The couple became parents to my mother, Lottie Viola Green and Shirley Bell Green. Johnie also was father to William Green and Lucille Green. He was a wonderful father to all of his children.

Grandpa Johnnie relocated to California in the 1940's. Initially, he moved to the San Francisco Bay area cities of Oakland and Richmond where he worked in the shipyards and worked for a period for the Ford Motor Company. He also worked for a time in the agricultural industry picking tomatoes and other crops. He was a hard worker with an excellent work ethic.

He moved to Sacramento, California where he resided for many years and became a homeowner. Like him, his home was also distinctive! The inside of his house was filled with things that reflected his unique style. It was essentially a kid's paradise. He had a large collection of dolls, trains, cars, action figures and other toys that every kid longed to play with. However, for the most part, his toys were for looking at and not for playing with. In addition, he had a fascination with unusual gadgets like clocks that uttered animals sounds at the stroke of each hour, cans of peanuts that when opened, snakes jumped out and toilet seats that talked to you when you sat on them. His house was distinctive, indeed!

Christmas was a very fun time at Granpa Johnnie's. He decorated every inch of the exterior of his house with neon lights, life size Santas and all the trimmings that said Christmas.

During the rest of the year, the exterior of his home was also special. Grandpa Johnie because of his early rearing was an excellent Gardener. He had one of the most wonderful and bountiful gardens that I have ever seen. He grew large stalks of corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, greens, peas and many other delicious vegetables. In addition, he had apple and peach trees. He also had the most refreshing well water that you ever tasted. You could sit all day under his shade trees and drink his delicious water.

My Grandpa was also an excellent hunter. He knew how to live off the land. He could hunt pheasants, quails, rabbit or anything else that had the misfortune to cross his path. He was actually a very healthy eater which I know contributed to his longevity.

My Grandpa was one of my favorite people in the world. He was very special to me. I loved going to his house as a kid and he made me feel very special. As a kid, he referred to me and the "Lawyer" because he said I would argue with a "sign board." He referred to my younger quiet sister, Carla as the "Rabbit." Ironically, she was one that became the Lawyer.

My Grandpa loved coconut cakes so on his birthday when I was growing up, I would make him a coconut cake and walk it over to his house on July 11th, one of the hottest days of the year. I would get as much joy out of making it as he would eating it. It would last him all week!

Grandpa Johnnie retired from Bercut Richards cannery in Sacramento and soon after relocated to Fordyce, Arkansas in 1984. He lived there for many years. While there, he became a Jehovah's Witness and later an elder. He was very active in the Church and traveled to many Kingdom Halls in Arkansas to speak which was remarkable at his age.

He relocated back to Sacramento in January 2001 at the age of 92 and remained in excellent physical and mental state. He rode a recumbent bike daily, out walked most young people and his mind was as sharp as can be.

No one would have guessed that he had terminal cancer that had metastasized all over his body but in July 2001, it became apparent. He fought a good fight but inevitably, he lost his mortal battle with cancer on August 13, 2001 at the age of 93but remained spiritually victorious since his soul reunited with Christ.

Grandpa Johnie Willie Greene was quite a man. He was a gentle soul that would give you the shirt off his back. Everyone loved him both young and old. He was truly good person and it eminated from his very soul. Little children especially could see it as they were naturally attracted to pleasant manner.

He lived to see 4 generations of his seed. From his daughter, Lottie, her daughter, Sharon, her daughter, Shawndra and her son Pablo who he established a very special bond with. In addition, his daughter Shirley, her daughter, Cassandra, her daughter, Josylyn and her daughter, Alexis. That makes 5 generations living at the same time and before his mother passed, 6!

He was a very intelligent man of distinction. He prided himself in his dress. He was a very daper older gentleman who was always dressed color-coordinated. He also wore gold and diamond rings on every finger but his thumbs. He was quite a handsome fellow and it did not go unnoticed by the ladies even in his elder days.

I miss my Grandpa Johnie. Again, he was so special to me. He thought he would live to get 100 years old and so did I since his mother lived to be 111. He would have but God had other plans for my Grandpa.

Anyway, I am wishing him a Happy "Would Be" 100th Birthday. May the angels in Heaven throw you one of the biggest Birthday celebrations ever with trumpets and angelic voices loud enough to shake the foundations of the world!

By the way, in rememberance of your "Would Be" 100th Birthday, your daughter Lottie made you a cake!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

African American Civil War Memorial

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the US Colored Troops. In it, I mentioned that has a site you can search for your ancestors or other relatives who may have served.

I also want to tell you about the African American Civil War Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The Museum which has a memorial sculpture that is surrounded by a memorial wall in remembrance of the contributions that these soldiers made.

The museum curators utilize photographs, documents and state of the art audio visual equipment to convey the heroic's of the soldiers in their struggle for freedom.

The Museum is located at 1200 U Street N.W., Washington, DC 20009 and is open Monday to Friday from 10 AM to 5 PM and Saturdays, 10 AM to 2 PM.

I was in D.C. about 3 years ago and as you probably know, there is a lot to see there so I did not get the chance to visit this museum but I plan to. If you are in the D.C. area, please make a point to see this museum. The contributions of these men are invaluable not only to African Americans but they influenced our current way of life in America.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is located in Harlem at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, New York, NY 10037-1801, 212-491-2200. It is a division of the New York Public Library and is a national research library devoted to collecting, preserving and providing access to resources documenting the history and experiences of peoples of African descent throughout the world.

I did not get the chance to visit the center this visit but felt compelled to tell you about it. It is a wonderful resource not only for researching family history but the black experience in general.

The center houses records and exihibitions of all types including books, art collections, historical documents, original photographs, film, videotape, audiotape and sound recordings of events, personalities and social/cultural movements.

You can literally spend not only the whole day but weeks and months, perusing the center's collection.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Scripture regarding all the Generations of Earth

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10

Sundays in Harlem

For the past 8 years, whenever I visit New York, I spend my Sundays in Harlem. I start out by attending church service at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts, III, presiding. This Sunday was very uplifting. It was a celebration of freedom in honor of the 4th and 5th of July (African freedom in NY) and commemorated the 200 year church anniversary. The sermon was excellent and the choir angelic.

After church, I also go to Sylvia's Queen of Soul restaurant on Lenox Avenue where I partake in some of the most delectable southern cuisine around. This sunday, I had the catfish and grits with a side of collard greens as I decided to combine breakfast and lunch. It was soooooooo good. I made acquaintance with the famed but very down to earth proprietor, Mrs. Sylvia Woods who very graciously agreed to take a photo with me.

We also discussed the fact that we shared a common family surname, Pressley/Presley from South Carolina. I told her about how my great-great-great grandfather, Stephen Pressley who had been brought from South Carolina to Louisiana by the Witherspoon family. We both agreed that we probably were related somehow since we both come from a family of really good cooks.

Again, the food there is excellent so if you ever get a chance, please visit Sylvia Soul Food in Harlem.

I ended my day in Harlem by just walking around perusing the various shops and historical landmarks. The weather was beautiful and I did not want the day to end but unforturnately it had to.

Anyway, if you are visiting the New York area, Harlem is a must see.

African Burial Ground in New York City

For those of you who do not know, an African Burial Ground was discovered in New York in 1991 during excavation work for a new Federal office building and workers discovered the skeletal remains of the first of more than 400 men, women and children.

These turned out to be the remains of formerly enslaved Africans who were buried in a 6.6 acre burial ground in lower Manhattan outside the boundaries of the settlement of New Amsterdam, which would later become New York.

Over the decades, the unmarked cemetery was covered over by development and landfill.

Since being uncovered, the site has now been declared a National Monument and has a distinctive memorial that commemorates the former slaves.

The artwork above is entitled, " UNEARTHED" and was done by artist, Frank Bender in 2002 in finished bronze with patina and is located at the Ted Weiss Federal Building, 290 Broadway, New York City. Frank Bender is a world renowned sculptor from Philadelphia, known for his work on forensic facial identifications, fugitive age progressions and fine art. His studio is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The subjects deplicted are recreations of the actual skeletal remains found in the Burial Grounds. Bender indicated that he held the eldest woman's scull in my hands and felt that she had endured the most. The younger woman with the bandana had been shot in the back. The young man in the background, the youngest and tallest of the three, is rising for the hope-filled future.

The sculpture is truly remarkable and a priceless memorial not only to these individuals but to the countless other former slaves long buried and forgotten whose voices now cry out to modern generations to remember their pain.

If you ever get a chance, please go visit this African Burial Ground in New York.

New Yorkers celebrated end of slavery on July 5th

While visiting in New York over the 4th of July weekend, I learned that many African Americans there were celebrating the 181th anniversary of the abolition of slavery on July 5th, the day after the American Independence from Great Britain. In fact, New York was 2nd in the country besides South Carolina for holding the largest number of slaves which played a role in the building of New York.

Slavery officially ended in the state of New York on July 4, 1827 which was about 35 years before President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment in 1865, abolishing slavery in the entire U.S.

On July 5, 1827, over 4,000 blacks in New York City marched along Broadway, preceded by an honor guard on horseback and a grand marshal carrying a drawn sword. The parade wound through the downtown streets to the African Zion Church, where the abolitionist leader William Hamilton declared, "This day we stand redeemed from a bitter thralldom."

African Americans in New York chose to celebrate the 5th of July versus the 4th of July for fear of violent threats from whites and because African americans were not actually freed in 1776.

While I was in New York this past weekend, The Lefferts Historic House, the former home to a family that owned 10 slaves was where one of the main events commemorating the freedom of countless slaves was held. The event attracted people of all background and featured music including the bang of drums and the rattle of gourds, and re-enactments.

Again, I learned something new this past weekend because while New Yorkers still celebrate Juneteenth like many other African Americans around the country in rememberance of Emanicipation from slavery, they also commemorate July 5th, since slavery came for New Yorkers on July 4, 1827.

Back from New York

I have just flown back from New York. It was a wonderful retreat. I plan to tell you all about my trip and the things I did and learned pertaining to Genealogy.

I have made many trips to New York and this by far was one of the best! So much to do and I just feel revived, relieved and inspired!

I plan to go back soon and indulge more in the history of New York residents and in genealogy possibly presenting some genealogy seminars since what I have found in talking to people is that a lot of New Yorkers do not know their family history or about the contributions of their own ancestors to their area and the country as a whole.

Anyway, I will tell you more later.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Sweet Honey in the Rock

Before I go to bed, I had to tell you about an acquaintance that I made today both at the productions of "Thurgood and Strange." It was 2 of the members of the Grammy Award-winning group, “Sweet Honey in the Rock. They are an African-American female a cappella ensemble that tours the country with gospel inspired music.

I met the group's co-founders, Carol Maillard, the lady in the top hat, kinte cloth neck wrap with boots and Bernice Johnson Reagon, the lady on the far right in the fuscia colored dress.

I had not had the pleasure of seeing them in concert yet but have heard astounding reviews of their performances and I promised the ladies that would see them as soon as they are in a city near me again.

They told me that they are in New York for 2 weeks rehearsing for a concert they are slated to do in December with the Alvin Ailey dancers. I might try to catch that.

Anyway, they were very nice and we seemed to be on the same schedule since I encountered them at both theatre performances. I took a picture with them but I will have to upload it when I get home.

If you get a chance to see them, please do so. Okay, for real, I'm off to bed now!

Passing Strange

Well, I just got out of the Tony Award winning musical, "Passing Strange" and while I would not give it the applause I gave "Thurgood," it was entertaining yet a little strange.

It featured an all african american group of actors that performed to the beat of rock and roll music played by a predominantly white band with the exception of the lead guitarist/singer/narrator.

The gist of the story was the maturing of a young african american male musician at the coming of age who rebelled against his mother, God and society to find himself. He ended up first in Amsterdam and then Berlin where he experienced drugs, free sex, freedom of expression and self acceptance.

Despite his mother's attempts to reunite him with his family and religion in the US, he never returned except for her funeral which had a profound effect on him.

Again, it was entertaining. The actors were very talented as reflected by each of their portrayals of diverse characters.

After the show, I indulged in some Sorbet from a French restaurant called "Un, Deux, Trois", translated it means, "one, two, three". After that I took a slow stroll back to my hotel.

The streets are littered with theatre goers all dressed up for their shows as well as other tourists headed for shopping, dining, comedy shows and more. There is no place like New York. It truly is the City that never sleeps! Except, for me because I am off to bed so farewell for now.

2 thumbs and a pinky finger up for Thurgood!-An excellent Broadway Play

I just witnessed one of the most powerful plays ever! The Broadway play that I am referring to is "Thurgood." It is a one-man play performed by the very talented Laurence Fishburne. It is playing at the Booth Theatre in New's York's Theatre District.

Lawrence did an excellent job of portraying the late former Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall. So good, that at times you forgot it was Fishburne instead of Marshall.

The play chronicles that late Marshall's rise from poverty in Baltimore to his prestigous legal achievements. It starts out talking about Marshall's genealogy. In particular, the origin of his name which he inherited from his great-great grandfather "Thorny Good" who was a slave brought over from Africa to the South but was freed before slavery ended at which time he relocated to Baltimore. Thurgood was himself originally named Thoroughgood but later shortened it.

The play also explains the influence on his life by his father and his decision to become a lawyer as well as his early brushes with racism. Fishburne recounts in the first person how Marshall worked as a waiter, pullman and later decided to go to law school.

The highlight of the play is when Marshall as a then lawyer prepares for, argues and await the decision of the famed Brown vs. Board of Education in which the Supreme Court did overturn the previous, "Law of the Land," "Plessy vs. Board of Education" which allowed for "separate but equal" policies for whites and minorities in the US in terms of education. The Supreme Court ruled in 1954, that the law was unconstitutional and allowed for integration in America.

Of course, this changed the lives of many African Americans including my mother, Lottie Green Burney who was a victim of the previous law. She recounted recently how growing up in the South, the colored schools in terms of school structures, books, supplies, lack of heating and transportation were far inferior to the white schools. In fact, she recalled that she never remembered having new books, pencils, or even chalk. She says that they always got the marked up books, broken pencils and chalks that the white school children had used years before.

Anyway, Fishburne should win an award for his amazing portral of Thurgood Marshall. The play reminds the audience of what an impact this great God-sent had on the lives of African Americans and other minorities in this county. I know the late Marshall is pleased with Fishburne's portrayal of him.

So, if you get a chance, I strongly recommend that you see it. Okay, I got to go now, I'm headed off to another play this evening, a musical called, "Passing Strange." I will let you know how it goes!