Thursday, February 28, 2008

Clay Family

Click to changing of this tree through the generations!

At this point in time, I know very little about my Clay family Line. This line is different from my CLAYTON line. What I do know about the Clays is that my great-great-grandmother, Mary Clay, a former slave of South Carolina married my gg-grandpa, Levi Green also a former slave on September 24, 1872 in Bossier Parish. According to the 1870 census, she was born around 1830.

They resided in and around the Plain Dealing, LA area.

I know that she had two brothers, William and Hill Clay who also lived in the area.
There were other Clays living in that area and in the neighboring Caddo Parish but at this point I do not know if they were related.

I also do not know who their parents were but her parents must have been in Louisiana at some point because although she and her brother William were born in South Carolina, Hill Clay was born in Lousiana.

Mary Clay Green was the mother of at least 8 children, Rebecca Green Goodman, Julia, Antonio, Mary, Parthenia, Lucy Green Faye, John and Edward (My grandpa).

My grandpa Johnnie Greene told me that my grandma Mary Clay Green was at least part native american and very beautiful.

Anyway, my search continues in search of my Clay family roots.

Here are some of the records I have found on the Clays in Bossier

1880 Census

Relation Sex Marr Race Age Birthplace
William CLAY Self M M B 35 SC
Occ: Laborer Fa: SC Mo: SC
Jane CLAY Wife F M B 35 LA
Occ: Laborer Fa: KY Mo: VA
Young CLAY SSon M S B 16 LA
Occ: Laborer Fa: LA Mo: LA
Allice CLAY SDau F S B 14 LA
Occ: Laborer Fa: LA Mo: LA
Green WILLIAMS Other M S B 16 LA
Occ: Laborer Fa: --- Mo: TX
Jinny JEFFERSON Other F S B 30 LA
Occ: Laborer Fa: AL Mo: SC

Census Place: Township 22, Bossier, Louisiana
Source: FHL Film 1254448 National Archives Film T9-0448 Page 6C
Relation Sex Marr Race Age Birthplace
Hill CLAY Self M B 25 LA.
Occ: Laborer Fa: SC. Mo: SC.
Liny CLAY Wife F M B 20 LA.
Occ: Laborer Fa: KY. Mo: KY.
John CLAY Son M S B 7 LA.
Occ: At Home Fa: LA. Mo: LA.
Wash CLAY Son M S B 5 LA.
Occ: At Home Fa: LA. Mo: LA.
Elizabeth CLAY Dau F S B 4 LA.
Occ: At Home Fa: LA. Mo: LA.
Arch CLAY Son M S B 2 LA.
Occ: At Home Fa: LA. Mo: LA.


Buelah Campbell AND Wm Henry Clay MARRIED 13 Jun 1878

Arch Clay AND Charlotte Woodard MARRIED 26 Aug 1873

Henrietta Clay AND Tom Yates MARRIED 9 Aug 1875

Lena Clay AND Walter William MARRIED 19 May 1888

Mary Clay AND Levi Green MARRIED 24 Sep 1872

Tenny Clay AND Samuel Jones MARRIED 24 Jan 1882 Bossier


They are listed by Name, Death date, Birth yr, Parish and death date

Archie Clay 16 May 1931 1848 Bossier 83

Carrie Clay 24 Aug 1915 1902 Bossier 13

Henry Clay 23 May 1931 1895 Bossier 36

Jane Clay 18 Oct 1915 1850 Bossier 65

Mary Clay 1 Jan 1927 1872 Bossier 55

Odis Clay 13 Sep 1925 1916 Bossier 9

Rosie Clay 19 Nov 1942 1900 Bossier 42 Negro (Black)

Sweet D. Clay 5 Mar 1924 1919 Bossier 5

William Clay 31 Mar 1923 1853 Bossier 70

Biss Clay 12 Dec 1872 Black Not Stated, Bossier, LA

CLAY World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 IN BOSSIER PARISH

Finn Clay 10 Aug 1889 African (Black) Louisiana;United States of America Not Stated, Bossier, LA

Henry Clay 1896 Black Louisiana;United States of America Not Stated, Bossier, LA

Louis Clay 1880 Black Not Stated, Bossier, LA

Wes Clay 20 May 1882 Black Not Stated, Bossier, LA

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Slave marriages

During slavery, most slaves were not able to legally marry since they were considered property and therefore less than human. They were however, in many cases encouraged by slave-owners to informally marry since it was believed that married men was less likely to be rebellious or to run away. Also, the slavemaster felt that marriage meant the procreation of children and some even offered freedom to slaves who produced at least 15 children.

This is a sad and awful truth that our ancestors had to endure. In addition, since slave marriages had no legal standing, it meant no protection from the abuses and restrictions imposed on them by slaveowners. Slave husbands and wives, without legal recourse, could be separated or sold at their master's will.

Couples who resided on different plantations were often only allowed to visit with the consent of their owners. However, in some of the slave narratives that I have read, the men preferred it that way. As John Anderson explained: "I did not want to marry a girl belonging to my own place, because I knew I could not bear to see her ill-treated." Moses Grandy agreed he wrote: "no colored man wishes to live at the house where his wife lives, for he has to endure the continual misery of seeing her flogged and abused without daring to say a word in her defence." As Henry Bibb pointed out: "If my wife must be exposed to the insults and licentious passions of wicked slave-drivers and overseers. Heaven forbid that I should be compelled to witness the sight."

Most slaves married without the benefit of clergy but instead the marriage ceremony was often performed by other family members and only with the master's permission.

It also was not like the other traditional marriages that took place during that time. Instead, most slaves "jumped the broom." This was a practice in which the couple before being pronounced as man and wife, they literally jumped over one or in some cases 2 brooms, one for each person into the land of "holy matrimony."

These were the lucky ones, some marriages consisted only of the slaves simply getting the master's permission and moving into a cabin together." Hence, comes the term, "shacking up."

After emancipation, a lot of slaves became legally married even though by that time, they often already had a house full of kids.

The federal government also established the Freedmen's Bureau to help former slaves get established in the society as free men. One of the services provided by the Bureau was to record marriages that had taken place during slavery.

Several of my own ancestors did just that even though in a lot of cases, they already had grown kids.

These are some of the ones like became legally married after slavery ended:

1. Oliver and Edy Williams Clayton "re-married" 7/24/1869 in Caddo parish after slavery ended and they already at least 3 children at this time. The oldest known was 8 years old so they had been together at least that long.

2. Levi and Mary Clay Green renewed their vows on September 24, 1872 in Bossier Parish. At that time, they had about 8 kids.

3. David and Mariah Pressley Hines (Hinds) exchanged their vows again on April 1, 1873 in DeSoto Parish. They already had at least 3 children at that time and another (My g-grandpapa Isam) on the way.

We have definitely come a long way from back then and we are truly blessed for having come so far. It must have had so much meaning for these former slave couples as was the case for many others to legalize their marriages.

However, I believe that in the eyes of God, they were already bonded and their love and commitment to each other and their families are eternal!

Click on the image below to see a testimony of their joy!

Oliver Clayton and Family

According to census records, my ggg-grandfather, Oliver Clayton was born a slave around 1841 in Virginia as were both of his parents whose names I presently do not know.

He legally married my ggg-grandmother, Edy (Edie)Williams Clayton on July 24, 1869 in Caddo Parish after slavery ended. I indicated that he legally married her because like many other former slaves, they were previously unable to have legal marriages while they were held captive, rather they were only able to "jump the broom." Hence, once slavery ended, they like many other of my slave ancestors made it official even though they already had a house full of kids, the oldest being born in 1861 so they had been together at least that long.

Census records indicate that Grandma Edy was born in South Carolina and so were her parents.

Their children were Johnson, Rosa and my gg-grandpa John (Johnnie) Clayton. These were only the ones that I knew of but there could have been others.

The pair resided in Bossier Parish in and around the Plain Dealing area.

Oliver later married Harriett Clayton in 1895 as indicated on the 1900 census that they had been married 5 years. I'm not sure whether he and my ggg-greatmother had divorced or he proceeded her in death.

Oliver died on 12/30/1917 only 28 days after his wife died on 12/2/1917. His age is listed as 48 but he had to be at least 76 at that time.

1880 Census Records:

Oliver CLAYTON Self M M B 39 VA
Occ: Laborer Fa: VA Mo: VA
Edy CLAYTON Wife F M B 40 SC
Occ: Laborer Fa: SC Mo: SC
Johnson CLAYTON Son M S B 19 LA
Occ: Laborer Fa: VA Mo: SC
John CLAYTON Son M S B 12 LA
Occ: Laborer Fa: VA Mo: SC
Rosa CLAYTON Dau F S B 16 LA
Occ: Laborer Fa: VA Mo: SC
Mary HACKET Other F S B 15 LA
Occ: Boarder-Laborer Fa: LA Mo: LA
Titus ANDERSON Other M W B 56 SC
Occ: Laborer Fa: SC Mo: SC

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Superstitions, Old Wives Tales and Words of Wisdom

Below are some of the superstitions and Old Wives Tales I heard growing up from my mother, Lottie. Did you hear the same ones or different ones? Do tell.

1. When the sun is shining and it is raining and/or thunder and lightning at the same time: The devil is beating his wife.

2. If your hand is itching-That means that you are coming into some money

3. If your nose is itching-That means unexpected company is coming so start cleaning up.

4. Fish dreams means that someone is having a baby.

5. Don't go to the zoo when you are pregnant because the animals could "mock" your baby and it will come out looking like that animal-be it a monkey, giraffe or an elephant.

6. Animals know when you are pregnant, i.e. a bird or dog and they might try to attack you.

7. If you cut a baby's hair before his/her first birthday, they will have "bad" hair.

8. If you break a mirror, you will have 7 years of bad luck.

9. If you step on a crack, you can break your mother's back or have bad luck.

10. It bad luck to cross a black cat's path

11. Never open an umbrella up indoors because it will bring bad luck.

12. You will catch your death of cold by walking around with wet hair.

13.If you keep making funny faces, one day it will get stuck that way.

14. Rule for determining newborn's gender :Girls are carried high; boys are carried low

15. Don't talk on the phone or turn on the TV while it is thundering and lightning cause you can get struck by lightning.

My mother is a very wise woman but I don't know how valid these tales are but they have been passed down through the generations. Now, here are some passages that have been passed down throughout the generations a lot longer in fact since the beginning of time from one of the wisest men to walk the earth, King Solomon and I KNOW them to be true!

Proverbs 1:8-9

8 Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and
do not forsake your mother's teaching.
9 They will be a garland to grace your head and a
chain to adorn your neck.

Proverbs 10:4-9

4 Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.

5 He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son,
but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.

6 Blessings crown the head of the righteous,
but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.

7 The memory of the righteous will be a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot.

8 The wise in heart accept commands,
but a chattering fool comes to ruin.

9 The man of integrity walks securely,
but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Household Staples and Remedies

Growing up, I remember that in our household there were 3 staples that my parents always kept on hand. They were vaseline, peroxide and baking soda. These 3 items proved to be invaluable items to have around the house because of they could be used in a variety of ways. Here are some of the multipurpose uses that I remember.

1. An ointment for scrapes, burns, and cuts
2. An everyday skin mosturizer
3. A medicinal solution for chapped hands or lips, toenail fungus, nosebleeds, diaper rash, chest colds.
4. Makeup remover
5. Furniture stain remover
6. Hair pomade
7. Shoe shine
8. Personal lubricant

Baking Soda
1. As a powdered toothpaste or added to water, mouth wash
2. Refrigerator deordorizer
3. General deordorizer such as sink, pet box, tub
4. Cleaning agent-can be substituted for comet or ajax
5. Medicine to reduce or eliminate acid indigestion, reflux or upset stomach
6. Shoe deordorizer
7. For baking
8. Stain remover for grease and oil on clothing
9. Underarm deordorant
10. A baking soda bath to relieve general skin irritations such as measles and chicken pox or other minor skin irritations or itching
11. Carpet deordorizer

1. Anti-septic for cuts
2. Mouthwash for cuts in mouth-don't swallow
3. Personal hygiene
4. Gargle for a toothache
5. Foot fungus-50/50 water mix
6. Kills germs on countertops and tabletops
7. For blemishes/blackheads
8. Hair dye-bleacher/lightner
9. To clean exterior of electronic parts
10.A nasal spray when 1 tablespoon added to 1 cup of non-chlorinated water

Anyway, I still have these items around my own house at all times. For me, they are a necessity. I think it is the same for many other families and these uses have been utilized throughout the generations since their introduction.

1 Corinthians 13-The true definition of Love

I know Valentines Day has already passed and I already did a story on that occassion but I am compelled to share this with you if you have not ever heard it. It is a bible scripture that I recited and won a prize for when I was about 10 years old. It is one of my favorite scriptures and is a good rule to live by and the message holds true for generations and transcends time since it teaches you about true love. It is applicable for love between a man and woman, a family or a friend.

1 Corinthians 13
1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love*, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.

3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

4Love suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

*Love is also interchanged with the word charity in some translations

1 Chronicles 16:28

1 Chronicles 16:28
Give unto the LORD, ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mother Wit

Mother Wit. What is it? The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as n.Innate intelligence or common sense.

This is a term that my southern-born and reared mother and a lot of other mothers like her used to describe common sense ways of doing things. This is differentiated from formal institutional training that takes years to acquire. It requires that you basically use the sense your mama taught you and that God gave you to get the job done. Be it cooking, cleaning, trying to obtain a job or whatever the case may be, you just got to go for what you know and use your "Mother Wit."

People have been using it since the beginning of time. African Americans and especially those that were former slaves used their "Mother Wit" to get ahead because more often than not, that is all they had since they had no formal education or training.

I recently read an article about a former slave named John Claybrook who was born on an Alabama cotton patch who over many years slowly became one of the most affluent members of his race in the South. He owned a large tenant farm, a bank and general store in his Negro settlement of 300, a fortune estimated at $100,000 and a colored baseball team. He lived in Memphis in the height of comfort. Claybrook who never went to school credited all this worldly success, to his "mother wit."

Now, that is not to say that education does not play a valuable role in furthering our careers and knowledge in general but good old common sense or "mother wit" is also crucial.

This is a term that my own mother, Lottie often used. She offered it up as advice and a solution to dealing with and overcoming everyday problems and obstacles. It was the same advice given to her by her mother, Johnnie Pearl Lee and her grandmother, Anne Bell Johnson Green which probably came down from her mother. It has stood the test of time and been handed down through the generations.

So, when it doubt, use your "Mother Wit!"

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

President's Day and Black History Month Salute to Barrack Obama

I have another tribute and salute to pay to Presidential Hopeful, Barrack Obama in honor of President's Day and Black History Month.

Although, he has not yet been elected President, it is the first time in history, an African American has been a major contender for the office so in light of that, I was would to honor Barrack Obama and commend him on running his campaign with dignity, respect and honor especially with the negativity being thrown his way by his opponents.

Barrack Obama has demonstrated courage under pressure and his high-road ethics makes you proud to be not only an African-American but an American period. He is a candidate for the people and ALL people.

In the last blog, I honored Abraham Lincoln and credited him as being pivotal figure in the struggle for racial equality and there have been many since him. I believe Barrack Obama is the next chapter in the War against racial divide. I believe under his leadership, we can begin just being people and one United Nation under God, indivisable.

I cannot predict the future so I do not know what the outcome will be but I do know that whatever plan God has for this Country and whoever he has ordained to lead it, it will be so.

Whatever, the outcome of the 2008 Presidential Election, I admire Barrack Obama for running an outstanding campaign!

President's Day & Black History Month Tribute to Abraham Lincoln

Yesterday, was President's Day so I'm a day late and a dollar short in writing this. Also, this month is Black History Month. In honor of these 2 occasions, I would like to pay tribute to Abraham Lincoln who is on the top rung for heroes in both categories.

Abraham Lincoln was born Feb. 12, 1809, in a log cabin in Hardin (now Larue) County, Kentucky to Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. His mother was a distant cousin of the current and popular actor, Tom Hanks. Do you notice his resemblance to Abraham? His father was a carpenter. Abraham was one of 3 children as he had an older sister, Sarah, and a younger brother, Thomas, who died in infancy.

In 1816, the Lincolns relocated to the wilderness of Indiana near Little Pigeon Creek, in Perry (now Spencer) County. It is said that their move was in part because of slavery, since his parents belonged to a faction of the Baptist church that disapproved of slavery.

Lincoln's mother died in 1818 when he was 9 years old and the following year his father married a Kentucky widow, Sarah Bush Johnston who proved a good and kind mother according to Lincoln.

In 1830, the Lincolns left Indiana for Illinois and in 1831, Abraham left home for New Salem, in Sangamon County near Springfield. After trying several different occupations, Lincoln ran unsuccessfully for the Illinois legislature in 1832. Two years later he was elected to the lower house for the first of four successive terms (until 1841) as a Whig. He later became a lawyer in 1836, and in 1837 he moved to Springfield.

He met and married Mary Todd on Nov. 4, 1842.

Lincoln served one term (1847-49) as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act which opened lands previously closed to slavery to the possibility of its spread by local option (popular sovereignty) and Lincoln viewed the provisions of the act as immoral.

In 1856, he joined the newly formed Republican Party, and two years later he campaigned for the Senate against Douglas. In his speech at Springfield he expressed the view that the nation would become either all slave or all free: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Lincoln was elected to the presidency in 1860, defeating the Northern Democrat Douglas, the Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge, and the Constitutional Union candidate John Bell.

By the time of Lincoln's inauguration in March 1861, seven states had seceded from the Union. As a commander in chief, although the Constitution protected slavery in peace, in war, Lincoln came to believe that the commander in chief could abolish slavery as a military necessity. The preliminary Emancipation Proclamation of Sept. 22, 1862, bore this military justification, as did all of Lincoln's racial measures, including and especially his decision in the final proclamation of Jan. 1, 1863 to accept blacks in the army.

By 1864, Lincoln endorsed the 13TH Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery.
He was re-elected that year. On Apr. 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee, the South's Confederate General surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant's Union forces at Appomattox Court House.

Lincoln was gunned down by John Wilkes Booth 5 days late on Apr. 14, 1865 while attending a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre in Washington. Booth entered the presidential box and shot Lincoln. He died the following morning at 7:22am.

Abraham Lincoln was an Almighty God-sent angel. God used him and worked through him and others to free a people and a nation from the evils of slavery. He may or may not have known at the time that this was the case but God definitely had a plan for him at an early age and also worked through his parents who were God abiding people and anti-slavery activists to prepare him for his destiny.

African Americans have a lot be thankful for and first and foremost we should drop to our knees and thank God. However, we also need to be grateful for men and women like Abraham Lincoln who when God gave him a mission, he answered the call and went with what was in his gut and heart and did what he thought was right.

So in honor of both President's Day and Black History Month, I salute Abraham Lincoln because he ranks on the top in regards to both of the events.

He was "hands down" one of the best presidents in US History and his actions forever changed Black History because without his contribution and efforts Black History could very well still be one of slavery and oppression.

Below are just some of my own ancestors who were liberated by the Civil War (Holy War) and the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Lincoln:

Levi and Mary Clay Green
Henry and Effie Johnson
Jane Green,
Harry and Mary Gay
Monroe and Sophia Brittentine
Nat and Sarah Hill
Pompey and Mary Hines
David and Mariah Pressly Hines
Stephen and Phyllis Pressley
William and Phoebe Brayboy
Issac and Jane Jefferson
Betsey Taylor
Prince and Jennie Burney
William and Louisa Knox
Anthony and Betty Banks Brown Smith
Adam and Sallie Brown
Richard Clyde "Papa Dickie" Lee

On behalf of my ancestors and their descendant's past and present, We thank, God for you, Abe!

Friday, February 15, 2008



There are varying opinions as to the origin of Valentine's Day. Some experts state that it originated from St. Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died on February 14, 269 A.D., the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. Legend also says that St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer's daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it "From Your Valentine".

Other aspects of the story say that Saint Valentine served as a priest at the temple during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius then had Valentine jailed for defying him. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honour St. Valentine.
Gradually, February 14 became the date for exchanging love messages and St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers. The date was marked by sending poems and simple gifts such as flowers. There was often a social gathering or a ball.

In the United States, Miss Esther Howland is given credit for sending the first valentine cards. Commercial valentines were introduced in the 1800's and now the date is very commercialised. The town of Loveland, Colorado, does a large post office business around February 14. The spirit of good continues as valentines are sent out with sentimental verses and children exchange valentine cards at school.

Here is an advertisment from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 2/14/1892

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Runaway Slave-A case study

It is so sad and hard to believe that less than 150 years ago, most african american people in this country were held as slaves. They were treated as property of others and when lost(purposely because they often ran away), reward ads were put in the paper in an attempt to get them back.

Here is one such ad that I found regarding a young man named Adam.

TWENTY DOLLARS REWARD-Ranaway from the subscriber, on
the morning of the 1st December. the negro boy ADAM, aged about 14 years,of usual size for his age,a front tooth out,stutters when spoken to;a smooth black face,a scar on the right eye; had on a tweed coat,with plaid lining,with old striped shirt;don't walk straight.The above reward will be paid for his arrest and delivery to me.
New Levae
Source: The Daily Picayune, December 9, 1849

This poor young man was only 14 years old. By today's standard's, he would be in Middle school, possibly listening to R and B or rap music, playing video games or sports and flirting with the young girls his age or working hard in school to get grades so that he can someday become a doctor or a lawyer or maybe even president! The ad says that he was of usual size for his age, a front tooth out, stutters when talked to, a smooth black face except for a scar on his eye. These are tale-tell signs that this young man had been beaten and mistreated which may explain why his tooth was out and a scar was on his eye. Did this young man stutter because he was talked to so harshly his voiced trembled from fear to the point his words did not come out right? Plus, the article said he did not walk straight. Was this also due to a brutal beating? I can't say for sure but there was a definite reason the young man felt the need to run away in the dead of winter, December 1st. It had to have been cold outside.

The article ran in 1849. The owner of this young man was listed as a Leopold Dalshiemer. I looked him up on the 1850 census and discovered that he owned a Clothing Store and was from France.His net worth was $5,000. A lot in those days.
(I wonder if that is why Mr. Dalsheimer could describe so well what young Adam was wearing. Was it because his clothes came Dalsheimer's clothing store?)By 1860, Leopold Dalsheimer aged 53 (born 1807) and his wife Adel and their 6 children had relocated to Baton Rouge.

I also found Leopold Dalshiemer on the 1850 slave schedule from when he was still in in New Orleans with 2 black female slaves, one 30 year old and the other 8 years old. He also appears on the 1860 slave schedule with 2 slave slaves, a 17 yr old mulatto female and a 12 year old mulatto girl. None of these slaves appear to be young Adam which means either he was successful in his getaway, he was returned and sold, or he could have been murdered.

Unfortunately, I was not able to locate Adam on the census after slavery ended because I did not know his last name. I even tried looking under the Slaveowner's last name, Dalsheimer on the chance he could have been wearing his name but with no success. Even if he had worn it at one time, if he was able to escape safely, he probably would have changed his name.

Anyway, what I can say is that we are so fortunate that God delivered us as a people and a nation from this kind of life of brutality on mankind. We should be grateful that our own children today are not subjected to this kind of brutality. In reading this, it is my hope that this young made a successful getaway or lived to see freedom in 1865. If neither was the case, by now, he has passed on to glory and made his permanent escape to the freedom of heaven!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Johnson Family Line of Bossier Parish

This is my Johnson line from the Plain Dealing area of Bossier Parish. Henry Johnson was the patriarch. According to the 1900 census below, he was born around 1824 in Virginia while the 1880 census have him being born in Alabama which is correct, I do not know at the present time. I do know from an article that ran in May 1902 issue of Confederate Veteran magazine that he fought in the civil war on the front lines at the 2nd mannassas (Battle of Bullrun)on the Confederate side alongside his former Master, John Little Hodges's son. According to the article, the son, Joseph Hodges was shot and my grandfather carried him for 4 miles on his back to try to save his life but the young man died anyway on 8/29/1862. I actually found the grave of Joseph Hodges and he did in fact die on 8/29/1862, the date of the Battle of Bullrun in Virginia.

I also found information the Slaveowner, John Little Hodges. He is listed in the 1860census with his family in Bossier Parish and on the 1860 slave schedule as owning 128
slaves. I also found out that he was the son of Edmond and Patience Hodges. He was originally from Houston County, Georgia which is not either of the states that census records indicate my grandpa Henry was from. However, Grandpa Henry could have been acquired by the Hodges when they arrived in Bossier Parish, Louisiana.

The article said that my grandfather, Henry was the only black person to show up for the reunion. At the time according to the article, my grandfather was an "upstanding citzen" and owned 320 acres of land.

I know that my grandpa Henry married was married to Effie Johnson. I do not know her married name but she had a son from a previous marriage named Dick Carter so Carter may or may not have been her maiden name. She was a teacher at the Antrim school in the Plain Dealing area according to another article in the Bossier Banner. Her birthplace is listed as Tennessee on the 1880 census but the 1900 says Louisiana and the 1910 says North Carolina so the correct birthplace is still unknown.

The 2 were the parents of my grandfather, Troy Johnson. They also had at least 4 other children, Nancy Johnson, Mary Johnson, Calvin Johnson and Dick Carter who was Effie's son from a previous marriage.

Troy's daughter was my "Big Mama", Annie Bell Johnson that I did a previous tribute to. She was a great woman in every since of the word. That being said, she must have come from good stock!

1900 census

Henry Johnson
Home in 1900: Police Jury Ward 5, Bossier, Louisiana
Age: 76
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1824
Birthplace: Virginia
Relationship to head-of-house: Head
Spouse's Name: Effie
Race: Black
Household Members: Name Age
Henry Johnson 76
Effie Johnson 60
Calvin Johnson 24

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Familial Terms of Endearment

In every family, besides their given name, we all have different kinship titles that we refer to our relatives as. It varies in every family and often times from person to person within an individual family.

Here are some of the ones that appear in my family and more than likely some of yours.

Father-Dad, Daddy, Father, Pa, Papa, Paw-Paw, Big Daddy, Papere, sir

Mother-Mama, Mother, Ma, Mommy, Madear, Mammie, Mom, Mamere, Big Mama, mum, mame, moms, mummy, Mimi

Sister-Sis, Sister, Sissy, Sistah

Brother-Bro, Brother, Bubba, Bruh

Aunt-Auntie, Aunt, Ant, Ain't, Tia

Uncle-Unc, Uncle, Theo

Grandmother-Grandma, Grandmother, Grandmama, Granny, Big Mama, Grandmom, Grandmommie, Nana, Nanna, Uma, Mimi, grammy

Grandfather-Grandpa, Gramps, Grandfather, Grandpa, Big Daddy, Big Papa, Grandpapa, Granddad, Grand-daddy

If you have some others, let me know.

A tribute to Ella Fitzgerald

My ladies of jazz tribute would not be complete without the inclusion of the late great Ella Fitzgerald.

Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Va. on April 25, 1917 to William and Temperance (Tempie) Fitzgerald.

Her parents separated early on and Tempie and Ella moved to Yonkers, N.Y. where they lived with her mother's longtime boyfriend, Joseph Da Silva, a laborer and part-time chauffeur.

Ella grew up in a hard-working family in a racially mixed neighborhood. Her mother worked at a laundromat and did some catering. Even young Ella took on small jobs to contribute money which sometimes included being a runner in a gambling ring. Asides from that she enjoyed dancing and singing with her friends, and some evenings they would take the train into Harlem and watch various acts at the Apollo Theater.

Tragedy struck when her mother passed away in 1932 as a result of a car accident. Ella took the loss very hard. She and her younger sister, Frances remained for a time with her stepfather, Joe but eventually relocated back to Virginia with one of her mother's sister. Her stepfather, Joe soon thereafter suffered a heart attack and died.

Back in Virginia, Ella now a troubled youth, started doing poorly in school and getting into trouble with the police. This led to her being taken into custody and being sent to a reform school.

The Reform school was very harsh since she suffered many beatings at the hands of her caretakers which eventually led Ella to escape. The then 15-year-old found herself broke and alone during the Great Depression so she struggled just to survive but the Lord was on her side.

In 1934, Ella's name was pulled in a weekly drawing at the Apollo and she won the opportunity to compete in Amateur Night. Ella had planned to dance but was intimated by the previous act and facing boos from the crowd, she made the choice to sing instead. And "Oh Boy" was that the right choice. Her performance earned her a standing ovation and was the catalyst for something far bigger than she could have ever imagined.

In the band that night was saxophonist and arranger Benny Carter. Impressed with her natural talent, he began introducing Ella to people who could help launch her career. In the process he and Ella became lifelong friends, often working together.

Fueled by enthusiastic supporters, Ella began entering - and winning - every talent show she could find. In January 1935 she won the chance to perform for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House. It was there that Ella first met drummer and bandleader Chick Webb. Although her voice impressed him, Chick had already hired male singer Charlie Linton for the band. He offered Ella the opportunity to test with his band when they played a dance at Yale University. Lets just say, she passed the test with "flying colors". The audience and the band loved her so she was hired to travel with the band for $12.50 a week.

In 1936, Ella made her first recording. "Love and Kisses" was released under the Decca label, with moderate success. By this time she was performing with Chick's band at the prestigious Harlem's Savoy Ballroom, often referred to as "The World's Most Famous Ballroom."

Shortly afterward, Ella began singing a rendition of the song, "(If You Can't Sing It) You Have to Swing It," once of my personal favorites.

In 1938, at the age of 21, Ella recorded a playful version of the nursery rhyme, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket." The album sold 1 million copies, hit number one, and stayed on the pop charts for 17 weeks. This catapulted Ella Fitzgerald to national fame.

On June 16, 1939, Ella mourned the loss of her mentor Chick Webb. In his absence the
band was renamed "Ella Fitzgerald and Her Famous Band," and she took on the overwhelming task of bandleader.

Ellas also married, bassist Ray Brown. The two were married and eventually adopted a son, whom they named Ray, Jr. Unfortunately, the two divorced in 1952, but remained good friends for the rest of their lives.

Ella continued to work hard despite obtstacles including discrimination and it brought her international fame.

She worked with some of the best of the best including Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman or should I say, they worked with her.

She received many esteemed awards, was inducted into Hall of Fame and received Kennedy Center Honors for her continuing contributions to the arts.

Outside of the arts, Ella had a deep concern for child welfare. Though this aspect of her life was rarely publicized, she frequently made generous donations to organizations for disadvantaged youths, and the continuation of these contributions was part of the driving force that prevented her from slowing down.

In 1987, United States President Ronald Reagan awarded Ella the National Medal of Arts. It was one of her most prized moments. France followed suit several years later, presenting her with their Commander of Arts and Letters award, while Yale, Dartmouth and several other universities bestowed Ella with honorary doctorates.

By the 1990s, Ella had recorded over 200 albums. In 1991, she gave her final concert at New York's renowned Carnegie Hall. It was the 26th time she performed there.

On June 15, 1996, Ella Fitzgerald died in her Beverly Hills home. The end of her mortal life on earth but her music still lives on and is legendary.

She is remembered as "The First Lady of Song." Her wide-ranging, sultry, sophisticated and angelic voice is timeless and ageless. She could sing sultry ballads, sweet jazz and imitate every instrument in an orchestra.

My personal favorites are, "Lullaby of Birdland," "Sophisticated Lady," "Miss Otis Regrets," "Shiny Stocking" and "A Night In Tunisia."

I will end this with the words to her song "A Night In Tunisia" but ask that as you read it replace the word Tunisia with the word, "heaven" because that is where I know she is and Oh what a choir they have going on up there with Ella as one of the lead vocalists!

The moon is the same moon above you
Aglow with it's cool evening light
But shining at night, in tunisia (heaven)
Never does it shine so bright

The stars are aglow in the heavens
But only the wise understand
That shining at night in tunisia (heaven)
They guide you through the desert sand

Words fail, to tell a tale
Too exotic to be told
Each night's a deeper night
In a world, ages old

The cares of the day seem to vanish
The ending of day brings release
Each wonderful night in tunisia (heaven)
Where the nights are filled with peace

Can wait to meet you Ella and enjoy each wonderful night in Tunisia (Heaven).

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Tribute to Billie Holiday

I'm continuing my tributes for Black History month. In this blog, I would like to pay a very special tribute to one of my favorite and America's legendary ladies of song and jazz, the late Billie Holiday.

I love jazz and she is was at the top of the game when it came to jazz vocalists.

I would like to honor Billie Holiday who was also fondly known as "Lady Day." Famous for her flower she wore in her hair, Billie was born Eleanora Fagan on April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

She spent her early childhood years being shuffled back and forth between various relatives but later moved to New York with her mother Sadie.

In 1930s, Holiday began singing in local clubs and renamed herself “Billie” after the film star Billie Dove. She was discovered by a producer named John Hammond while she was performing in a Harlem jazz club in 1933 who struck a recording deal for her to record with bandleader Benny Goodman. She also met saxophonist Lester Young around this time and the two became longtime friends and collaborated on many songs. Young was the one who gave her the nickname “Lady Day."

She became known and cherished for her heartfelt,soulful, soft and melodious songs.
She went on to record with some of the best in the industry including Louis Armstrong and Count Basie and his Orchestra.

Some of her many fabulous hits include “God Bless the Child” (1939) and “Strange Fruit."

Despite her soaring career success and fame, her personal life was troubled. It included problems with drugs and alcohol and related arrests on narcotics-related charges. She even spent a year in a federal rehabilitation center, but she was unable to end her substance abuse.

Despite her personal problems, Holiday continued to tour and record in the 1950s.

Sadly, she passed awayin a New York City hospital on July 17, 1959, from alcohol- and drug-related complications.

Her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues (1956), starring Diana Ross was one of the best movies of all time.

Despite her stormy life, her music has stood the test of time and remains some of the best in this history of jazz. Her music touched millions many years ago in my grandmother's day and it still provides entertainment and listening pleasure to countless generations of jazz fans today. I listen to her music still at least once a week!

So in honor of Black History month, I salute you Miss Billie Holiday.!

Rest in peace.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

My mama used to say.....

These of some of the words of wisdom, some biblical, that my mother, Lottie used to spill on her kids growing up. Which ones did your mother say?

1. A hard head makes a soft behind.
Translation: If you don't listen and learn your rear end will be hurting all the time from the many spankings.

2. Children obey your parents so your days will be lengthened on the earth.
Translation: If you follow the advice of your parents, God will grant you a long life. (True)

3. Root, hog or die po (poor)
Translation: Work hard or you die an impoverished man or woman.

4. You reap what you sow.
Translation: How you treat people is how people will treat you.

5. Its enough you don't know to make another world
Translation: You amount of knowledge in the universe that you are not aware is enough to create another universe

6. You would argue with and think you know more than a sign board.
Translation: If a billboard on the side of the road said, TAKE THE NEXT LEFT, you would go right since you think you are more knowledgeable than whoever wrote the sign.

7. You are slower than "Little Beck's Watch"
Translation: Your pace is slower than than the unknown Little Beck's watch which must not keep good time.

8. Wait, I'll be there direcla!
Translation: Give me a minute, I will be there "directly"

9. You're scared of every little "Hee Hant"
Translation: You afraid of every little sound that may resemble a ghost?

10. You're gonna heed my words but you gotta learn things the hard way.
Translation: Someday, you're gonna remember the things I've tried to teach you and follow my advice but right now you are determined to rebel against what I say so you will suffer before you follow my advice.

11. Charity starts at home and spreads abroad.
Translation: You have to love and show good will to those closest to you first, i.e. those in your own home and it will eventually extend to others outside your home, your community, town and the world.

12. Bought sense is better than told.
Translation: Wisdom gained through your own personal experiences is more valuable and meaningful than that gained from the advice of others.

My mothers words turned out to be true and I stand corrected and humbled for not listening to her sooner.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A salute to Anne Lou Bell Johnson Green

I would like to give a very special salute and tribute to my Great-Grandmother,
Anne Lou Bell Johnson Green. She was an incredibly special lady to most that knew her.

She was fondly known to her grand and great-grandchildren as "Big Mama." Her heart though was the biggest part about her.

Anne Lou Johnson was born on July 24, 1900. She was the daughter of Elizabeth Green and Troy Johnson and sister to Johnnie Johnson. She was born and raised in and around Gilliam, Louisiana in Caddo parish. Her mother remarried a former slave by the name of Alfred Brown who became a loving stepfather but like a 2nd father to Annie Lou.

At at early age, Annie Lou changed her name to Annie Bell Johnson although many close to her continued to call her Annie Lou.

At age 17, she met and married Robert Edward Lee, the son of Richard Clyde Lee and Margery Brittentine Lee. To this union was born her only child, Johnnie Pearl Lee.
The pair resided in the Rocky Mount settlement of Plain Dealing, Louisiana in Bossier parish. The 1920 census shows the couple and their young daughter living along side his parents, Richard and Margery and his paternal grandparents, Anthony and Betty Smith. That was 3 generations living alongside each other.

Although, their marriage ended in divorce, the 2 remained friends.

Annie Bell found love again in Timothy Green who was the son of Edward and Laura Lewis Green. She was very much in love with her new husband and the 2 made their home in Plain Dealing, Louisiana. Anne Bell became mother in every sense of the word to Tim's daughter, Irene who has shared very fond memories of her mother.

Anne Bell was an excellent provider and homemaker. She sewed, knitted, gardened and was just a "Jill" of all trades.

Even more remarkable about her was the fact that she was so generous and loving. She reached out to and helped so many people, be it her children, grandchildren, cousins nieces and friends. She was the one to turn to in time of need, be it financial or emotional, she was a friend indeed. She provided a place to stay for many people until they were able to get on their feet, lent her time and ear to those who needed it, provided food and clothing to those less fortunate and provided love unconditionally.

Her home was also the place to be for Sunday Dinner. I have heard so many stories of the wonderful meals that she cooked up just because. Everything from down-home smoked hams, Smothered Pork chops with cabbage, Southern Fried Chicken, Fried Catfish, hot water cornbread, dressing, potato salad and her specialty was melt-in your mouth desserts.

She and her husband Tim had a smokehouse on their property which was always stocked with all kind of meats. In addition, she canned so her cupboards were always fully stocked in case company came.

She helped raise my mother, Lottie and well as some of her other grandchildren. My mother has the fondest memories of her "Big Mama." She taught her how to cook and be a homemaker but most of all she taught her how to love and how to reach out to others and those lessons stuck because my mother inherited many of her loving ways.

My late Cousin Lizzie Neal Bagley who was actually a younger 1st cousin to "Big mama" shared many memories about "Big mama's humanitarian ways. She just loved her and considered her like a 2nd mother too.

"Big Mama" was a christian woman too. She worshipped God with conviction and tried to live her life according to the "Good Book" and tried to teach her family to do likewise.

Tragically, her husband, Tim died in February, 1946 when a large tree he was cutting in the woods fell on him. It broke his neck but it broke her heart.

Now a widow woman, she turned to her faith and picked herself up and started over again. She and her grand-daughter, Lottie began working multiple jobs such as housekeeping, taking in ironing, picking cotton and other odd jobs and saved up enough money to buy another house on a large piece of land. There she made a new home with some of her other family.

In 1966, tragedy stuck and she lost her home and all its contents to a fire. Again, her faith was tested but again she got back up and commenced the building of another home on the property. She put up a temporary small home until a larger home like the one before could be constructed. However, God had other plans, he called her home to her final and Largest Indestructible home in Heaven on August 23, 1967.

Her parting was traumatic for many but the sadness diminished with the comfort of knowing the she was in the presence of the Lord. What we are left with is the memory of a incredibly loving human being. I too was the benefactor of that love. I have very special memories of my "Big Mama." I could see and feel her love whenever she looked at me, smiled at me or put her arms around me. Even today, whenever I am feeling down I remember that feeling and I don't feel down anymore.

"Big Mama", I will always love you and I can't wait to see you again in Heaven!

A poem for you:

Anne Bell, Anne Bell, I heard Heaven's bells, ringing
And harps, violins and angelic voices singing

They were playing a tune to welcome you in
To your home in the sky with the rest of your kin

Who had journeyed before you to that resting place
And beheld the Glory of God's Glorious face

I know you felt awe when He said to you
Well, done Anne your burden is through

You served me, well dear Anne and with all your heart
And you left my word on earth though you had to depart

So rest now, servant, it is here that you will reside
Forever and an eternity with God by your side

Love, Karen Burney 2/8/08

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Tribute to Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori

In honor of Black History Month, I would like to pay Tribute to Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori. His story has always been one of the saddest yet inspirational slavery accounts for me.

Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori (a.k.a. Abdul Rahman) who was a former prince from West Africa who was captured and brought to America and made a slave.

He was born in Timbo, West Africa, which is present day Guinea. He was a Fulbe from the land of Futa Jallon and his father was a wealthy King who sent Abrahim to study in 1774 to study in Mali at Timbuktu. Timbuktu is a city in Tombouctou Region, in the West African nation of Mali and is home to the prestigious Sankore University an intellectual and spiritual capital and centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries but is believed to have been established in the 10th century. Its 3 great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahya are representative of its awe and golden age.

Abrahim was captured by warring tribes and sold to slave traders in 1788 at the age of 26. He was bought by a Natchez, Mississippi, cotton and tobacco farmer, named Thomas Foster.

He spent many years as Foster's slave but never forgot his royal past. God set a plan in motion that would eventually alter his circumstances. God enabled him to cross paths with a European white man and former friend from his past in Africa.

The gentlemen was so amazed and outraged that this former Prince was being held a slave, he offered to buy Ibrahim but his mean and surly master, Thomas Foster refused to sell or grant him freedom.

In 1794 he married Isabella, another slave of Foster’s, and eventually fathered a large family.

In 1826 he wrote a letter to his relatives in Africa. A local newspaperman sent a copy to Senator Thomas Reed in Washington, who forwarded it to the U.S. Consulate in Morocco. After the Sultan of Morocco read the letter, he asked President Adams and Secretary of State Henry Clay to release Abrahim Abdul Rahman.

He eventually returned to Africa after spending 40 years as a slave but died before reaching his actual homeland.

In 1977, history professor Terry Alford documented the life of Ibn Sori in "Prince Among Slaves", the first full account of his life, pieced together from first-person accounts and historical documents.

PBS is currently airing a documentary titled "Prince among Slaves", portraying the life of Abdul Rahman Ibrahim. It is a must see.

To Ibrahim:

Your struggle is over; your battle is done
You sit now in the Royal Court of the "Anointed One"
But your story remains as a lesson for all
With faith comes freedom til the Master calls

Rest in peace:

Karen Burney 2/7/08

Fruitful family scriptures

Genesis 1:28
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Genesis 8:17
Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.

Genesis 9:7
And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.

Genesis 17:6
And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.

Genesis 22:17
That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea s

Genesis 28:3
And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;

Genesis 35:11
And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;

Genesis 48:4
..... Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Issac "Tooke" Jefferson

This is in memory of Issac "Tooke" Jefferson, my paternal gg-grandfather.

He was born a slave in Louisiana in around 1850. He was the son of Betsy Taylor also a former slave originally from Darlington, South Carolina. (*Newly updated information-They were owned by Henry Marshall & his wife Maria Taylor Marshall. Accordingly to an inventory sheet at the time of Henry's death in 1864, Issac was valued at $1700 at the age of 16 yrs old while his mother, Betsey Taylor was valued at $1100 at the age of 47. On the document, Issac's complexion was listed as "cooper" while his mother's was listed as "black."

His father is rumored to have been a white man and former Master of his mother Betsy Taylor but I have not yet determined who that was. As well, at present, I do not know where he got the name Jefferson since his mother wore the name, Taylor. I'm not sure if her name came from a subsequent marriage or not. However, his owner Henry Marshall's wife Maria Taylor Marshall's father was named Thomas Jefferson Taylor and he did will slaves to his daughter.

What I do know about Issac, "Tooke" Jefferson is that he was a strong black man. He was 15 years old at the time slavery ended and bound and determined to live the rest of his life to its fullest.

He started by marrying the beautiful young Jane Brayboy, the daughter of Jim (*newly corrrected info) and Phoebe Brayboy also former slaves of african/native american heritage and also originally from South Carolina. Mrs. Jane Brayboy Jefferson was a midwife and helped bring into the world many bouncing babies for both african american and white families.

Grandpa Issac Jefferson was in the farming industry. He owned many acres of land and thrived in his business especially amongst african americans. As well, he had a brilliant mind. He served as a Judge during reconstuction. This began a long legacy that has continued throughout the generations as they are many of his seed past and present that have choosen the field of law as their profession.

The Jeffersons were also Christian people. They worhipped God and gave thanks continually for their many blessings including their new found freedom. They were good and faithful servants and when the Lord said, "Be fruitful and multiply,", they listened. Issac and Jane had 12 children, they include, Margaret, Sallie, Cornelia, Charlotte, Ella, Mary, Henry, Pearley, Isaac, Rufus, Willie and Chestnut Jefferson.

So in honor of Black history Month 2008, I salute you grandfather for being a great husband, father, christian and role model for generations to come.

Phyllis Wheatley

February is black history month so in honor of it, I have decided to do some biographies on some famous and some not so famous african/african americans. I hope you enjoy them.

This one is on Phyllis Wheatley. Phillis Wheatley was born in 1753 somewhere in the Gambia which is modern day, Senegal. She was captured as a slave at the tender age of 7 and brought to America. How frightened she must have been and how devastating it must have been for her parents to lose their precious baby girl.

She was brought to Boston, Massachusetts on 7/11/1761 and purchased as a slave by John Wheatley, a prominent Boston Tailor and merchant. She was named for the slave ship Phillis that brought her to this land. Timothy Fitch, a Medford Slave Trader owned the schooner,"Phillis" and conducted business in several New England towns, including Boston, Salem, Nantucket and Medford. Fitch used his schooners in the Atlantic slave trade (the "Triangular Trade") to transport slaves, rum, molasses, and various other items which were taken to West Africa and used to buy African slaves for transport back to the Americas.

Click on map to see where Boston is located in proximity to the Atlantic ocean where the slave ship made its long journey from Africa with its precious human cargo.

His wife was Susannah Wheatley. Phyllis became her domestic servant. Mrs. Wheatley soon realized how bright young Phillis was and began teaching her to read and write. She excelled so much that Mrs. Wheatley and her daughter, Mary began teaching her foreign languages such as Latin, as well as history, geography, religion, and the Bible.

In 1773, "Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral", was published with the help of the Wheatleys which brought her fame but not so much fortune. She toured England and was praised in a poem by fellow African American poet, Jupiter Hammon.

Phillis’ poetry became known in the United States and abroad ultimately brought her freedom from slavery on October 18, 1773. She appeared before General Washington in March, 1776 for her poetry and was a strong supporter of independence during the Revolutionary War.

After the death of the Wheatley family, she married a free black grocer named John Peters. This marriage resulted in three children, two of whom soon died. Sadly, her husband left her and Wheatley was forced to earn a living as a servant.

By 1784, she was living in a boarding house and, in December of that year, she and her remaining child died and were buried in an unmarked grave.

She died in poverty at the age of 31. Wheatley's third child died only a few hours after her death. At the time of her death, there was a second volume of poetry but neither it nor any other works of hers have ever been seen.

A sad end to a brillant mind. But we, must remember the legacy that Phyllis Wheatley left for both African American and young people in general. The lesson that should be learned is that no matter what obstacles that are presented before you, be it poverty, handicaps or whatever, you can rise above them and become the person that you were meant to be.

Here is a poem for you, Ms. Phyllis from me:

Long ago and in a distant land
Tragedy came and grabbed your hand

You were taken away in a blink of an eye
You were loaded on a ship and forced to lie

In the bowel of a ship so dark and gloom
Filled with tears & horror in a hope-starved room

An angel accompanied you as you were stolen away
And traveled across the ocean to a land far away

The angel put you in the care of those
Who taught you history, language, poetry and prose

It was this that brought you freedom and refuge from
The dark side of slavery that had fallen upon some

In the midst of darkness, a bright star will shine
With the aid of a God-sent angel and a brilliant mind

Alas, your angel has guided your soul to its final fate
In the presence of God Almighty via Heaven's Pearly Gates

Thine soul lives on, dear Phyllis in blissful and eternal peace
Lest your mortal memory and legacy, No, shall ever cease

Written by Karen Burney 02/05/08
(copyrighted material)