African American News and Genealogy

This site was developed to provide you with news that relates to African American Genealogy, History and News. Please feel free to forward this link to others. I hope you enjoy this site and good luck with your research! Cheers, Kenyatta D. Berry Managing Director

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Mystique surrounds African-American quilt heritage

Certain quilt patterns may have been used to signal run-away slaves and direct their escape Thursday, December 23, 2004 One of the most exciting aspects about African-American quilts is the continually unfolding information about them. Until the 1980s little was known about them, and in fact, author/African quilt expert Cuesta Benberry said, "I have not seen any quilts having an African influence during my 40 years of research." She went on to say that in the case of slave-produced quilts, their talents depended on the skills of their mistress, who instructed them. A lot has changed since then. Now, not only have many African-American quilts been identified, along with distinctive patterns, but how they were possibly used as signals to slaves escaping via the underground railway. Full Story:

Book club maintains its social conscience

Wednesday, December 15, 2004By M. Ferguson Tinsley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Rachel M. Lovett Jones' life centered on her daughter. Back in 1880, her Logan Street neighbors probably noticed the 24-year-old mulatto woman from Winchester, Va., hurrying past with Maude, who was then 5. Lovett Jones, her hair tucked neatly into a chignon, her taffeta petticoats swishing, strode with purpose. That was 14 years before Lovett Jones founded what she is known for across Pittsburgh: the Aurora Reading Club, a 110-year-old institution in Western Pennsylvania. Many believe it is the oldest women's organization in this half of the state. Full Story:

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Kids' Book Puts Slavery In Perspective

By: By Leonard Pitts Jr.Tribune Media Services Granted, it is not the sexiest subject in the world, not the kind of thing that gets people het up enough to write letters to the editor. Yet there are few things more vitally important to understanding the world and our role in it. I'm talking about history and the teaching thereof. And if you keep rolling your eyes, your face is going to freeze like that. Not that I'm surprised. We are a historical people, a nation of short memories and cherished myths. For us, history doesn't matter -- right up until it does Right up until someone says the Holocaust didn't happen. Or that Sen. Joseph McCarthy was an American hero. Or that the Civil War was fought over so-called "state's rights." At which point you -- by which I mean I -- start to wonder what children are being taught about the nation they will someday inherit. For my money, not nearly enough. We don't do a very good job of teaching history in this country. And no history is more ineptly taught than African-American history. It has usually been my experience that that history is either ignored or glossed over lightly with an emphasis on the achievements of a few inventors and scholars. There is little evocation of the context that made the achievements more noteworthy, the litany of lynchings and beatings, chains and cheatings, toughness and triumph that define African America's story. It's as if those things are regarded -- even during Black History Month -- as too difficult for tender ears to hear. So you can understand why I am pleased with Diane McWhorter's new book. More information:

Activists select their burial ground design

By KAREN MATTHEWS, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK -- Federal officials have not yet selected an African Burial Ground memorial design, but activists said Tuesday they have made their choice from among the five finalists _ the sole scheme that is mostly open space. "We don't want our ancestors disrespected twice," said City Councilman Charles Barron, who identified himself as a member of the Committee of the Descendants of the African Burial Ground. "We want a burial ground, not a museum."

More information:

Labors of love produce histories of churches

Photos, archives, interviews yield gems on communities' pastBy Christina Lee KnaussKnight Ridder COLUMBIA - The book with the bright red cover is big and heavy enough to be used as a doorstop. Its cover reads in bright gold letters, "A History of St. Luke's Lutheran Church Within the Olympia-Pacific Community ... 1904-2004, One-Hundred Years." At more than 500 pages, this massive book, full of photographs, testimonials and membership rosters, is the result of more than five years of work by one woman: Merlene Byars. Byars, a lifelong resident of West Columbia, is the church historian for St. Luke's Lutheran, a congregation of about 100 people nestled in the midst of the historical Olympia community on the west side of Columbia. More information:

Plans for black history museum move forward

By Michael Kilian, Chicago Tribune WASHINGTON — Plans for an African-American history museum on the National Mall moved closer to reality this week as the project received its first federal money, enabling it to move ahead. The Smithsonian Institution also appointed a board for the museum that includes Oprah Winfrey and magazine magnate Linda Johnson Rice, among other prominent African-American leaders. More information:

Crew starts clearing site of slavery museum

Work begins on the tract for U.S. National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg's Celebrate Virginia project. By PAMELA GOULD Date published: 12/22/2004 Work officially began at the U.S. National Slavery Museum site yesterday, meeting the organization's deadline of starting construction by the end of this year. By day's end, a Hydro-Ax 670 machine had removed scores of trees from the 38-acre site near Interstate 95. Eight to nine acres need to be cleared as the first step of building the museum. "From here, we're going to be moving rapidly to a 2007 date," museum spokesman James Damron said during a tour of the site yesterday. Museum officials have said the facility will open in February 2007, and Damron said the work is "on target." Yesterday's work is the first major step in building what is to be a three-level structure stretching over 250,000 square feet. Additional information:

Fire Claims Historic Church

Electrical Problem Blamed in Blaze at Fairfax Sanctuary Built by Freed Slaves By Tara BahrampourWashington Post Staff WriterTuesday, December 21, 2004; Page B01 Sunday night, the children at Laurel Grove Baptist Church in Fairfax County staged a Christmas nativity play and collected toys for a nearby children's hospital. Hours later, the blackened ruins of the 120-year-old white clapboard church stood jaggedly against the winter sky after it was destroyed by fire early yesterday morning. The fire, which was reported by a passing motorist at 4:11 a.m., was caused by an electrical malfunction in the attic, said Lt. Raul G. Castillo of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. High winds fanned the flames, he said, adding that more than 50 firefighters fought the blaze. Two were treated for minor injuries at a hospital after slipping on ice that formed around the building. More information:

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Book uncovers city's black heritage

Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African-American Heritage, chronicles black history in the seaside town, which has traditionally had the highest percentage of African-American residents in the state. Although the focus is on Portsmouth, the book draws parallels between what was happening in the small New Hampshire port town and what was going on in New England and the rest of the country. It details everything from life for African-Americans in colonial times to the state's 1999 adoption of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It covers the social and activist groups that evolved among African-American residents and the struggle they faced in making sure the Civil Rights Act was enforced. More Information:

Genealogy in a cancer prevention curriculum for high school students

A team of researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University are using an old tool to teach new information about cancer: the family tree. “A Bridge to Better Health” is the first program to incorporate genealogy in a cancer prevention curriculum for high school students. In six weeks, students learn how to gather family health histories, among other activities, and early results show that the program’s impact is dramatic. More information:

Sunday, December 19, 2004

History: The Joiners

The Joiners have been in The Gambia for about 200 years. The first person to have the name was Thomas Henry Joiner, who arrived back to these shores in 1808 after 40 years of slavery in America and possibly the West Indies. Joiner is said to have been captured around the late 1760’s at 15 or 16 (no one really knows) on the shores of the River Gambia and taken to the American Colony of Virginia and later Georgia. It is reported that this was where he was given his christian name and where he spent the bulk of his years as a slave. Today, in the United States, Joiners of black African ancestry can be found in large numbers in Georgia, Florida and Virginia.

Full Story:

Saturday, December 18, 2004

S.C. plantation’s story written in black and white

By WAYNE WASHINGTONSenior Writer MOUNT PLEASANT — There is a gleam in Martha Gaillard’s eyes when she talks about Boone Hall Plantation. A smile breaks over her face. Home. That’s how Gaillard remembers the plantation, where more than 200 slaves once toiled to pick pecans and cotton, and make bricks. Today, more than 86,000 tourists a year visit Boone Hall. Part of the working plantation’s story — the history of the white families that have owned Boone Hall — is clear through its journals and official records. The plantation's black histor is less clear

Full Story:

Ex-slave was early Marquette settler

By FRANCES PORTER, Marquette County History Museum MARQUETTE - Now that the oil tanks in South Marquette are gone and Founders Landing is under development, residents and visitors can view a rather large granite outcrop on the Lake Superior shoreline, near the mouth of Whetstone Brook, known as Gaines Rock. The rock was named for the Gaines family, who called it home from 1855 until 1917. William Gaines came to Marquette to work for the Herman Ely family in 1855 as a coachman and groundskeeper. He was born a slave and freed by his father, Pitt Gaines, an aristocratic ship builder from Virginia. William purchased another slave, Mary, from his father and married her before sailing to Houghton to work in the copper mines. He was injured by falling ore shortly after being hired. William and Mary Gaines moved to Marquette following his recuperation. Full Story:

Thursday, December 16, 2004

White Wash

For black Saints, forgetting the LDS Church's racist heritage is easier said than done Darron Smith, author and adjunct sociology professor at Brigham Young University, recently appeared on a local TV station to promote Black and Mormon, a collection of essays he co-wrote and edited about the black experience in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The next day, Smith says BYU’s sociology department received a phone call from an irate woman “calling me all kinds of niggas.” Full Story:

Book club maintains its social conscience

Wednesday, December 15, 2004By M. Ferguson Tinsley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Rachel M. Lovett Jones' life centered on her daughter. Back in 1880, her Logan Street neighbors probably noticed the 24-year-old mulatto woman from Winchester, Va., hurrying past with Maude, who was then 5. Lovett Jones, her hair tucked neatly into a chignon, her taffeta petticoats swishing, strode with purpose. More information:

Florida's African-American Library Draws Big Crowds

NPR's Ari Shapiro reports on one of the country's few public libraries devoted to African-American culture and history. The Broward County African-American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has been attracting growing crowds ever since it opened two years ago. More information:

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Thurmond's Daughter Tells Story in Book

By AMY GEIER EDGAR, Associated Press Writer COLUMBIA, S.C. - "I always thought I had a fairly normal childhood, until I found out my parents weren't who I thought they were." So begins the autobiography of Essie Mae Washington Williams, the daughter of longtime U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond and a 16-year-old black maid who worked at his family's home. Williams, now 79, came forward a year ago, after Thurmond's death, with the secret she had held for more than 70 years. Her upcoming book, "Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond," deals frankly with her relationship with the one-time segregationist who privately acknowledged her as his child but never spoke of her publicly. Williams confronted Thurmond about his support of segregation, but watched with disappointment as his political star rose in the 1940s and '50s. "He became an outright racist, cloaked in the ancient doctrine of states' rights," she wrote. The book, co-written with William Stadiem, is set to be released Jan. 27 by ReganBooks, a division of HarperCollins Publishers. Williams was raised in Coatesville, Pa., by Mary and John Washington. Her world changed at age 13 when Mary Washington's sister, Carrie Butler, told Essie Mae that she was her biological mother Complete Story:

Michael Eric Dyson: Everyday Resistance to Slavery

The Tavis Smiley Show, December 9, 2004 · Commentator Michael Eric Dyson talks with NPR's Tavis Smiley about the book Closer To Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South. Dyson says the new book gives focus to the subtle ways African-American women resisted slavery. Source:

Reparations Selective Buying Project

Black Buying Blackout Dec. 11 and 18 Dec. 11 and 18 will be the days on which those who support Reparations will move their Christmas shopping dollars from the mainstream stores and venues to buy from Black stores and retailers, according to Los Angeles attorney Barbara Ratliff. “The Black Buying Blackout” was launched to demonstrate the level of support for the struggle for reparations for descendants of African slaves. Read More:

Monday, December 13, 2004

Book Chronicles Life of Blacklisted Horse Jockey

African-American jockey Jimmy Winkfield won the Kentucky Derby twice by the time he was 23 years old. He was known as "Wink" in the horse-racing circuit and led an incredible life in the early 1900s. When Winkfield was blacklisted in America, he raced in Russia and later moved to France, where he had a run-in with the Nazis in Germany. NPR's Tavis Smiley talks to Ed Hotaling, author of Wink: The Incredible Life and Epic of Jimmy Winkfield, and John Lee, director of broadcasting for the New York Racing Association (NYRA). Source:

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Internships in Research -- African American Cultural History

Intern assists with various research projects, including the history and memory of civil rights movements, African American history since World War II, biracial and multiracial identities, and African American history in Maryland.Supervisor: Alonzo Smith, Research HistorianQualifications: Interest in African American history or multicultural studies. For more information:

Friday, December 10, 2004

America's Black Indians Celebrate Two Cultural Heritages

By Susan Logue Washington, D.C.10 December 2004

Black Americans can trace their roots to Africa, but millions of them share another heritage, as well: American Indian ancestry. Jerry Monroe is one of them. Mr. Monroe was born in New York City in 1960 to a father who was both Apache and Mohawk, and to a mother whose ancestors were African American, Irish and Cherokee. He knew at a young age that he was American Indian, but the more interested he became in that heritage, the more he realized that most people only saw him as African American. "In the 1980s," he says, "I grew my hair long and a lot of my Indian friends and my father's friends accepted me as Native American. But I knew that whenever an African American mixes with another nationality, you see that predominant gene of the African American."

Read More: