Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Dred Scott Decision: Impact on African American Citizenship in the United States

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

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In 1847 an enslaved African American, Dred Scott, went to trial to sue for his freedom.  This case, which later became known as Dred Scott v. Sanford, impacted the citizenship of all African Americans throughout the United States.

Dred Scott was born a slave in Southampton County, Virginia and was owned by Peter Blow.  Peter Blow was the great-nephew of Colonel Michael Blow who owned my ancestors before they were brought to Wessyngton Plantation by Joseph Washington.

Scott was taken to Alabama by the Blow family and later to St. Louis.  After Peter Blow’s death in 1832, Scott was bought by an army surgeon Dr. John Emerson who took him to Illinois and the Wisconsin Territory.

Scott’s stay in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited, gave him the legal standing to make a claim for his freedom.  The abolitionists  encouraged  him  to sue for his freedom.  The case and appeals took  ten years.  In March 1857, the United States Supreme Court declared that all blacks, slaves as well as free blacks, were not, and could never become, citizens of the United States.

The decision was a victory for southern slaveholders, while northerners were outraged at its outcome.  The Dred Scott case influenced the nomination of Abraham Lincoln to the Republican Party and his election that led to the South’s secession from the Union and ultimately the freedom of all African Americans.

Peter Blow’s sons, who had grown up with Dred Scott, helped him pay the legal fees for his lengthy case.  After the Supreme Court’s decision, they purchased Scott and his wife and then emancipated them.

Dred Scott died nine months later—a free man.

 

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A Century and Some Change: My Life Before the President Called My Name by Ann Nixon Cooper

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

On Tuesday November 4, 2008, President Barack Obama reflected on the life of Mrs. Ann Nixon Cooper: “she’s seen throughout her century in America─the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told we can’t; and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can.”

Empowered and energized by this history-making presidential campaign, Mrs. Cooper told her story in her own voice.  A Century and Some Change is the portrait of an American who lived a rewarding and culturally rich life.

Mrs. Cooper was raised in Nashville in the home of her aunt-in-law Joyce Washington Nixon, who was born a slave at Wessyngton Plantation during the last days of the Civil War. I  had the honor of interviewing Mrs. Cooper and recording her memories in my book The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation, which she mentioned in her book. 

A Century and Some Change: My Life Before the President Called My Name will be released on January 5, 2010 by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.  Mrs. Cooper passed away on December 21st at her home, nineteen days short of her 108th birthday.

Order A Century and Some Change by clicking the icon of her book cover

 

Use of Surnames Among African Americans Before Emanicaption

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009
Surnames of Wessyngton Slaves

Surnames of Wessyngton Slaves

Slaves were usually known by their first names, especially on small farms with few slaves.  Plantation owners rarely recorded their slaves with surnames unless they had several individuals with the same first names.  For that reason the use of surnames by slaves was far more common on large plantations where more people were likely to have the same given names.

Due to Wessyngton Plantation having such a large enslaved population many African Americans are  listed with their previous owners’ surnames as early as the 1820s.

Slave bills of sale and other documents in the Washington Family Papers collection details the origins of many of these African American families.

The list above documents the names African Americans on Wessyngton Plantation who used surnames prior to emancipation and the date of their arrival on the plantation.

International Black Genealogy Summit in Ft. Wayne, Indiana

Sunday, November 8th, 2009
Meet the Authors event, International Black Genealogy Summit

Meet the Authors event, International Black Genealogy Summit

I just returned from a very exciting event—The first International Black Genealogy Summit held in Ft. Wayne, Indiana on October 29-31, 2009.   Several hundred people participated.  Throughout the conference I shared my research experience with genealogists.  It was wonderful to speak with many people who had already read my book. The give and take of ideas illustrates that we are just at the beginning of a long and interesting journey to learn about our roots. 

At the Meet the Authors event everyone could talk to the authors of books related to African American genealogy. The authors posed together for this photo. (L-R) Tony Burroughs who wrote Black Roots: A Beginners Guide To Tracing the African American Family Tree; myself; Tim Pinnick, author of Finding and Using African American Newspapers; and (Seated) Frazine Taylor, with her book Researching African American Genealogy in Alabama.

Oral History Key to Tracing African American Roots

Sunday, October 18th, 2009
Joseph Washington 1895-2002

Joseph Washington 1895-2002

In more than thirty years of researching my ancestry and the lives of African Americans enslaved on Wessyngton Plantation, I have had the honor of interviewing more than twenty individuals whose parents or grandparents lived on the plantation.  These individuals ranged in age from eighty to 107 years old.

Although I found hundreds of documents about my ancestors from plantation records written by the owners of Wessyngton, I learned many personal things about my ancestors from conducting interviews with elder family members. 

In 1994, I visited my cousin Joseph Washington 1895-2002 (pictured above) at his home in Mansfield, Ohio on his one hundred second birthday.  As a child Joseph lived next door to my great-great-grandparents Emanuel and Henny Washington who were born at Wessyngton in the early 1800s.  He related many stories about them to me including ghost stories that my great-great-grandfather used to tell all the children on the plantation and songs he used to sing.  Joseph told me what life was like on the plantation when he grew up there and how many people on the plantation were related to one another.

Oral history is a vital key to tracing African American genealogy and  provides many details about our ancestors that can’t be found in records.

A Thank You Letter from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Letter from Queen Elizabeth

Letter from Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth acknowledged the receipt of a signed copy of my book. As is the custom, her lady-in-waiting wrote me.  The royal seal indicated that the Queen was at her summer residence, Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balmoral_Castle– for your info.

Terry Family to Tour Wessyngton Plantation for Bi-Annual Reunion

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

On Saturday August 8th the Terry family will tour Wessyngton Plantation as part of their bi-annual family reunion.  The group will tour the Wessyngton slave cemetery, the Washington family cemetery, the grounds around the mansion and a restored slave cabin.  Members of the National Black Arts Festival from Atlanta will also attend the reunion festivities.  Following the tour the group will dine at the Tennessee National Guard Armory.  I will also autograph copies of my new book The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of My Family’s Journey to Freedom.   The Terrys descend from Dick Terry 1818-1879 and Aggy Washington Terry born 1824.  Today there are more than 1,000 Terry family members.

Terry Family Tree

Terry Family Tree

Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation Featured on BlackPast.org

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Check out my article on BlackPast.org.   It is an excellent resource for African American history and genealogy.

Presentation for St. Louis African American History and Genealogy Society

Friday, June 5th, 2009
St. Louis African American History and Genealogy Society

St. Louis African American History and Genealogy Society

On May 23rd I gave a presentation about my book The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of My Family’s Journey to Freedom to  the St. Louis African American History and Genealogy Society at the Missouri History Museum.  I made many new friends among avid genealogical researchers.  I had a great time in St. Louis and look forward to visiting again.

Creating a Family Tree

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Washington Family Tree

Washington Family Tree

One of the most exciting things about genealogical research is meeting new family members.  In conducting research for more than thirty years I’ve found hundreds of relatives.  I created this tree which spans ten generations and includes more than 600 names of descendants from my great-great-grandparents Emanuel and Henny Washington.   I have genealogical information on all the families that came from Wessyngton including: Washington, Blow, Gardner, Terry, White, Williams, Lewis, Scott, Green and many others.