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, May 29, 2005

Unknown president, early emancipator

By John M./Priscilla S. Taylor Benjamin Harrison is one of our least remembered presidents, for two reasons. The first is that was charisma-free to the point of seeming dull; the second is that he is one of the few presidents who were chosen by the electoral college while receiving a minority of the popular vote. To the extent that Harrison is remembered, it is as the president who held office between Grover Cleveland's two terms. At long last, however, Harrison receives his due from a professor of history at East Carolina University, Charles W. Calhoun in Benjamin Harrison (Times Books, $20, 192 pages). Harrison was an aspiring Indiana lawyer when the Civil War broke out in 1861. He rose to command a regiment that he led with some distinction; by the end of the war he was a brigadier general. He returned to his law practice in Indianapolis and entered politics as a Republican. But it was not an auspicious beginning; he was twice defeated for governor before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1880. There, he generally aligned himself with the more moderate faction of his party, supporting regulation of railroads, a protective tariff and generous pensions for veterans. Harrison's views were sufficiently mainstream, and his state sufficiently important, that the austere Hoosier became the Republican presidential nominee in 1888. To Democrats, Harrison's only claim to fame was that his grandfather, William Henry Harrison, had served briefly as president nearly five decades before. Full Story:

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Wal-Mart Sponsored Documentary Special to Air on TV One

CHICAGO, May 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. will commemorateMemorial Day with a reprise of a multi-dimensional educational programhonoring the Buffalo Soldiers. Premiering during Black History Month, the Wal-Mart sponsored project recognizes African Americans who served in segregatedunits of the American military from 1866 to 1948. The program's centerpiece is a documentary: The Invisible Men of Honor:The Legend of the Buffalo Soldiers, which will air on TV One Saturday, May28th at 12:00 p.m. EDT and Sunday, May 29th at 8:00 p.m. EDT. The film tells the story of the important yet unheralded role all-blackregiments played in the American expansion into the West as well as theirservice in numerous wars and conflicts including World War I, World War II andthe Korean Conflict. Narrated by actor Tim Reid, the story of the BuffaloSoldiers is enhanced with firsthand accounts of the experiences andobservations of 20th century veterans. The documentary is supported by a website( ) and study guide, designed for use bystudents in grades five through 12. Website visitors can download the studyguide and request a free frameable poster as well as participate in an on-lineregistry that allows visitors to access information helpful to genealogicalresearch. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. operates Wal-Mart Stores, Supercenters, NeighborhoodMarkets and SAM'S CLUB locations in the United States. Internationally, thecompany operates in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Mexico,Puerto Rico, South Korea and the United Kingdom. The company's securities arelisted on the New York and Pacific stock exchanges under the symbol WMT. Moreinformation about Wal-Mart can be found by visiting . Online merchandise sales are available at . SOURCE Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.Web Site: http://www.buffalosoldierstribute.com

Pair sign new Thurmond book

'Strom' examines life after revelationsBy Michael KerrThe Associated Press EDGEFIELD - Whenever Strom Thurmond attended a service at Edgefield's First Baptist Church, the choir would belt out a rousing rendition of "The King is Coming." The reason was simple. It's what Thurmond requested. "That's what we'd sing for him," choir member Mary Lou Brawner said with a laugh Sunday afternoon in Edgefield's Tompkins Library. Thurmond's song request was just one of many colorful stories told as authors Jack Bass and Marilyn W. Thompson came to the former senator's hometown to sign copies of their new biography, "Strom: The Complicated Personal and Political Life of Strom Thurmond." The event, sponsored the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society, was the first signing for the new book. It officially goes on sale Tuesday. "Strom" is Bass and Thompson's second joint work on the life and career of the late S.C. senator and governor. They wrote "Ol' Strom" together in 1998. But this is their first attempt at tackling the life of the legendary politician since Essie Mae Washington Williams confirmed she was the illegitimate daughter of Thurmond and a 16-year-old black maid who worked for his family. "It's a part of history," Brawner said. "Any books on Strom, whether they be real or not, I want to read them." Al Broni, who brought with him a 1966 edition of "Rebel Senator: Strom Thurmond of South Carolina" signed by Thurmond, said he followed Thurmond's career since the 1950s and that his son worked as an intern for the former senator in Washington. "He's amazing," Broni said. "What he has done for the state of South Carolina will never be matched." And news that Thurmond had fathered Williams and kept it a secret for decades didn't change his mind, Broni said. "It didn't change my attitude or opinion or anything," Broni said. "I look at Strom as what he did for South Carolina and the country." Williams' daughter, Wanda Terry, made a short visit to pick up a few signed copies of her grandfather's new biography. She said she reads everything about her mother and Thurmond to make sure it's factual and to see if there's any new information to gain. "It's very important, if you will, to correct history," she said. Full Story:

Chinese come from Africa, just like the rest of us

CNA , HONG KONG Thursday, May 12, 2005,Page 1 An international study has found that the Chinese people originated not from "Peking Man" in northern China, but from early humans in East Africa who moved through South Asia to China some 100,000 years ago, Hong Kong's Ming Pao daily reported yesterday in a finding that confirms the "single origin" theory in anthropology. According to the newspaper, a research team led by Jin Li (金力) of Fudan University in Shanghai has found that modern humans evolved from a single origin, not multiple origins as some experts believe. In China, school textbooks teach that the Chinese race evolved from "Peking Man," based on a theory that humans in Europe and Asia evolved from local species. But Jin and his fellow researchers found that early humans belonged to different species, of which only the East African species developed into modern humans. This new finding nullifies the theory that the ancestors of the Chinese people were "Peking Man" who lived in northern China 400,000 years ago. Based on DNA analyses of 100,000 samples gathered from around the world, a number of human families evolved in East Africa some 150,000 years ago, said Li Hui (李輝), a member of Jin's team. About 100,000 years ago, some of those humans began to leave Africa, with some people moving to China via South and Southeast Asia, Li said. According to the newspaper article, it has been proven that the "65 branches of the Chinese race" share similar DNA mutations with the peoples of East and Southeast Asia. It said that the Shanghai scientists were part of an international team comprised of researchers from Russia, India, Brazil and other nations in a five-year project studying the geographic and genealogical routes related to the spread and settlement of modern humans. Source:

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Slavery focus of 'Known World'

"The Known World: a Novel" by Edward P. Jones, Amistad, $24.95. OAS_AD('x25'); "The Known World" by Edward P. Jones is a fictional story about the lives of slaves and freed slaves in the antebellum South. It takes place in and around fictional Manchester County, Va., in the 1850s. The story, however fictional, reads like an oral history of slavery in the United States. The plot, the characters and the setting have been created by the author, but the narrative depicts what history tells us about the despicable fact of human slavery the United States. The central character, besides the Townsend Plantation itself, is Henry Townsend, a former slave, who becomes a farmer, then landowner and finally a slave owner. When Henry dies, his wife, Caledonia, cannot manage the plantation sufficiently to stop slaves from running away or cheating her. Things fall apart in the small world that is the Townsend Plantation just as they are beginning to fall apart in the "known world" where slaves are running away, free blacks are sold back into slavery by unscrupulous bounty hunters, and whites are becoming more and more distrustful of their formerly predictable slaves. The language in which the story is told is fairly dispassionate. Jones' voice is plain and straightforward, without emotion. For example, the author talks about the racial make-up of Manchester County, quoting a fictional 1840 U.S. Census in such a way that we truly believe in its existence. In fact, I looked up Manchester County on a pre-Civil War map of Virginia and could not find it. Only then did I delve more and realize that this county is fictional! The black women in this novel are often strong and even powerful. Fern Elston, a free black woman, inspires the joy of learning in her black students; she is admired by all, black and white. But her voice is always emotionless, even when confronted with a gambler husband who is noted for constant absence, unfaithful and who squanders their money. In an interview in Publisher's Weekly (Aug. 11, 2003), Jones explained that his calm voice, even when describing the many acts of brutality in the book, was purposeful: "I didn't want to preach ... it was my goal to be objective, to not put a lot of emotion in this, to show it all in a matter-of-fact manner ... you just state the case and that is more than enough." Indeed. I listened to the talking book edition of "The Known World" while commuting. I had to stop the CD player a number of times while listening in order to collect myself because of a particularly sorrowful scene in the story. Most upsetting to me was the fate of Henry Townsend's parents, both freed slaves, who are treated, at the end of their lives, like chattel. Jones received a National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2004 for "The Known World." Check the book out at your local Timberland Regional Library in regular or large print or talking book. Review written by Jean D. Barnett, a collection development specialist at Timberland Regional Library. Source:

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Mission restores Wahoo cemetery

By NIKKI YOUNG The Times Headstones decapitated by fallen trees lay next to sunken graves, the owners' names barely readable by running a finger across the handcarved letters. Yet a bouquet of white silk flowers miraculously survives in the Wahoo cemetery dirt. A small clapboard church, Wahoo Baptist, once stood across from the fire station on Nancy Creek Road, just outside the Gainesville city limits. A prominent landowner deeded the land to freed slaves in 1876. With the church long gone, a new mission took up the responsibility of tending the cemetery. Anderson Flen found the debilitated Wahoo cemetery a couple of years ago. As chairman of Gainesville's Restoration and Preservation Mission, Flen put Wahoo on his list of burial sites in sore need of attention. Then he waited. Now, some funding is available to clear the trees and restore more than 100 African-American graves that date back to the early 1800s. The mission still lacks the $10,000 necessary to clean up the entire lot and hire an archaeologist to oversee the restoration. A tree service started the dig on Monday, and Hall County sent a prison detail to help haul limbs on Wednesday. Full Story:

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Remembering a Painful Yet Precious Time

Alumni Gather For First Reunion Of Black School By Rosalind S. HeldermanWashington Post Staff WriterSunday, May 15, 2005; Page LZ01 The textbooks read by the children of Banneker Elementary School were castoffs, discarded by white children at other Loudoun County schools. The school had no library -- there was no need because the county provided too few books to fill one. The daily planners issued to teachers had a place on the cover, next to the line where they wrote their names, where they were to note whether they were teaching at a "Negro" or "white" school. But those aren't the things the children who attended Banneker before it was integrated in 1968 remember most about the school. Instead, they remember the family atmosphere and how teachers knew every child and kept them all in line. They remember the May Day celebration each spring, so popular with the community that people would crowd the surrounding fields to watch the children perform dances they had been practicing for months. To reminisce about those kinds of memories, and to make sure the others are not forgotten, students, staff members and parents who were connected with Banneker between the school's opening in 1948 and its integration in 1968 were to hold their first reunion last night. "If you don't know where you were, you don't know where you're going," said Janet Hagan, 55, of Middleburg, who attended the school from 1959 to 1963. The idea of a reunion has been bouncing around for years, but it took the help of a beloved community member and a dedicated teacher -- along with some friends on the Equity Team, which works for cultural diversity at the school -- to make the event happen. Full Story:

Cashing Out Their History

Descendants of Slave Settlers Sell Prince William Enclave By Nikita Stewart, Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, May 15, 2005; Page A01 An acre of land in Gainesville wasn't worth much in 1865. It was worth so little, in fact, that white landowners were willing to rent it to freed slaves who had traveled there in search of land. In a flurry of sales during the 1880s, many of the former slaves bought property for $10 an acre or even less. They called the land, which lies roughly along Routes 29 and 15, the Settlement. It became one of Northern Virginia's most significant, and most stable, black communities. The original settlers believed land was power. They held on to it tightly, parting with bits only when they were desperate for cash. They educated their children on the value of a dollar and the greater value of land. But time and circumstance have altered those lessons. Pursued by developers offering as much as $300,000 an acre, dozens of families -- many of them descendants of those original pioneers -- are opting to sell their property, and a part of Prince William County's African American history is being transformed into hundreds of luxury houses. For the sellers, there are regrets, but there is also a conviction that they are being true to their ancestors' original purpose: to provide economic security for their families. The founders "probably wouldn't be very happy that the land was being sold and great big houses were going on it," said Maxine Thomas, 74, a descendant of an original resident whose family has 15 acres under contract with a $4.5 million price tag. "What would I tell them? Well, I would just tell them that we have to move on," she said. "We can't hold on to it forever." Full Story:

Slave cabin in Maryland to be restored

Will be surrounded by affluent African-American community Tuesday, May 10, 2005 Posted: 8:25 PM EDT UPPER MARLBORO, Maryland (AP) -- A tumbledown shack believed to be the only slave cabin left in Prince George's County will be restored in the field where it was found. And surrounding it will be a neighborhood of million-dollar homes, most of which will probably be owned by African-Americans. The shack, which dates to the mid-19th century and is known as the Molly Berry Cabin, was hidden until recently in a whorl of brush. Local historians and planners say slaves who worked the surrounding tobacco fields may have lived and toiled there. Prince George's County, just southeast of Washington, D.C., was once home to thousands of slaves. As part of a plan to build 20 upscale homes on the site, a developer has agreed to restore it. Full Story:

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Region's Fringes Draw a 'New White Flight'

Calvert's Black Residents Feel Pushed Out by Newcomers By Amit R. Paley, Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, May 11, 2005; Page A01 Doris J. Spencer decided to move to Calvert County because it seemed to have everything. Taxes were low, the countryside was beautiful and every spot on this tiny Southern Maryland peninsula was just minutes from the water. But she quickly noticed something different from her old home in Alexandria: not many African Americans. "I spent days traveling around the county when I didn't see a single minority," said Spencer, 65, an African American who moved to Calvert five years ago. "I was in total cultural shock." It wasn't always like this. A century ago, Calvert was a majority-black outpost of freed slaves who farmed tobacco and harvested oysters. But over the past three decades, tens of thousands of whites have moved in, quadrupling Calvert's population and making it the fastest-growing county in Maryland. Today, blacks make up 12 percent of the population -- down from 22 percent in 1980. The percentage of white residents has risen from 63 percent in 1970 to 77 percent in 1980, to almost 86 percent today. The racial shift positions Calvert to rival Frederick County, which is almost 90 percent white, as one of the region's most racially homogeneous jurisdictions. Most of the Washington region has become increasingly diverse, with Asians, Latinos and other minorities making up two-thirds of the area's recent population growth. But some counties such as Calvert on the region's periphery are experiencing a different trend: They are becoming whiter. The demographic shift is transforming the map of the Washington region into something like a misshapen pizza, with counties such as Calvert, Anne Arundel and St. Mary's in Maryland and Fauquier and Culpeper in Virginia forming an increasingly white crust around the region's multicolored inner counties. In each of those five majority-white outer counties, the proportion of white residents has increased at least slightly in recent years. Full Story:

Monday, May 09, 2005

Preserving thier history

By Reed Williams / Daily Progress staff writer May 8, 2005 BARBOURSVILLE Tamika Carey remembers Careytown the way it was when she was 5 years old. It was a quiet residential area of a dozen unassuming homes with two dusty gravel roads. She recalls how she and her cousins gathered at the tree every morning to catch the school bus and how the smell of charcoal meant that everyone in the neighborhood was invited to a cookout. The little creek down the road was where her brothers went fishing, and where her aunt fell through the ice one winter. These are Carey’s earliest memories of her home. The lay of the land is much the same 21 years later in the tiny community off U.S. 33 behind Horton Vineyards in Barboursville. Most of the residents are related. Oral history traces their roots back to freed slaves who settled in the area after the Civil War, but an effort to establish Careytown’s beginnings through historical records began only recently. The old houses and mobile homes and the two “driveways” passing through Careytown make it seem like time has passed it by. But Careytown can surprise you. A major threat to the community’s lifestyle gave residents of this quiet hamlet a booming voice. General Shale, a multimillion-dollar brick-making giant, hadn’t expected such fierce opposition when it sought to move mining operations from Somerset to within 75 feet of Careytown. The Virginia Supreme Court ruled against the move after the company’s four-year legal battle with Friends of Barboursville, a grassroots group that includes some Careytown residents. Friends of Barboursville portrayed Careytown as one of few remaining communities of its kind. Opponents of the Barboursville mine feared it would ruin the rural area with environmental and noise pollution and damage Careytown’s water supply. Although the state Supreme Court’s decision against General Shale was based on a zoning technicality, the legal victory has given Careytown residents a new sense of pride and prompted creation of a project to trace the settlement back to its earliest days. “We took it all the way to the [Virginia] Supreme Court,” boasts William Waters, a long-time Careytown resident. “We had to do a lot of back scratching and begging and borrowing, but we did it. We had a whole lot to say. I think it kind of shocked their pants off.” Full Story:!news

Friday, May 06, 2005

Laurel Grove Rebuilds, Remembers

Members of Laurel Grove Baptist plan to rebuild the church, which was destroyed by fire in December. By Glenn McCarty May 4, 2005 Driving through the fields and farms of 1970s-era Franconia, Dolores Comer Frye instantly felt a bond to the North Carolina town where she was raised. "I saw some ladies out in this field, cutting hay and putting it in the wagon. That really interested me," said Frye, who also was intrigued by the small, white church building on Beulah Street which was Laurel Grove Baptist Church. Following her children's lead, Frye joined Laurel Grove in 1976 and found a community of people from many other parts of the country, all looking for the same kind of church atmosphere."A lot of us have a history of small churches in our hometowns, and that is one of the things that attracts a lot of people to that particular location," said Frye. "It's always been a small, family-oriented church."Over a century after the church was built by freed slaves on a 1-acre patch of land, tragedy struck the Laurel Grove congregation on Dec. 20, 2004. Just a few hours after the annual Christmas production, fire swept through the building and gutted it. Fire investigators determined the two-alarm blaze was caused by an electrical malfunction in the attic. After 120 years of history, the Laurel Grove building was gone in a matter of minutes. "Everybody left on an up note, and then to go back to that. It was just devastating. I was wondering the effect it would have on other members. I just had to be there. It was just like your house was on fire," said Frye, who many years ago had used her love of history to begin compiling the history of Laurel Grove. Luckily, she said, she had taken all those books home a few weeks before the fire. Full Story:

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Ashe's legacy growing stronger tennis

BY CHARLES BRICKERSouth Florida Sun-Sentinel FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - (KRT) - It has been nearly 30 years since Arthur Ashe defeated Jimmy Connors in the final at Wimbledon and forever changed the complexion of professional tennis. But only now, more than a generation later, is the game feeling the full force of Ashe's racial impact. There have never been more blacks in organized tennis than there are today, and there's every reason to believe the numbers will rise in the years to come. When Althea Gibson won the U.S. Open in 1957 and 1958, she was the only black American woman in the game. During Ashe's 12-year career, from 1968 to1979, he was virtually the only black American man in the game. Today, not only is the number of blacks on the pro tours at an all-time high, so is the small army of teenagers preparing to exit the junior ranks. Venus and Serena Williams, James Blake, Mashona Washington, Angela Haynes, Chanda Rubin and Shenay Perry have established careers. Behind them is the next wave - Jamea Jackson, Jewel Peterson, Timothy Neilly, Donald Young, Scoville Jenkins, Phillip Simmonds and Marcus Fugate. And behind them, just emerging as juniors, are three more major prospects - Asia Muhammad, 14, of Henderson, Nev.; Brittany Augustine, 13, of Northridge, Calif.; and Evan King, 13, of Chicago. There is finally a black pipeline in tennis, and it's flowing freely for three major reasons: _The profound influence Ashe had on the parents of the players that are out there today. _The commitment from the United States Tennis Association to reach out to inner-city children with the financial support to train them and fund their travel. _And, perhaps the greatest motivator, the prize money to be had in professional tennis. ``It's a revolution,'' said former pro Kim Sands, who was on Key Biscayne in December to watch Neilly defeat Young in the final of the Orange Bowl junior tournament, the first time black teenagers have faced each other for a major junior championship. ``I'm still shaking. To see that match . . . to see those two guys out there. It was a spiritual experience,'' said Sands, who was the University of Miami's first black player before embarking on a 10-year pro career that ended in 1987. Full Story:

Actor pays tribute to his inspiration

By DON KRAUSE Of the Courier-Post As a youngster growing up on the "rough side" of Chicago, Robert Townsend would come to Hannibal to visit relatives and get away from the big city. The visits were a chance for him to be a kid. He remembers his first time riding a horse was in Hannibal, his first time fishing was also here. As he put it, "I learned a lot" in Hannibal. Some of that learning came from his cousin Howard M. Jackson Jr. Ten years older than Townsend, Jackson provided inspiration for a boy who saw his cousin as a role model. "Howard was really, really, really charismatic," said Townsend, who was in town Tuesday to attend Jackson's funeral. "You see this guy and know he's going for the world, and it makes you want to go for the world." Some of that "going for the world" rubbed off, and Townsend became a successful actor, producer, director and businessman - a man who worked with the likes of Eddie Murphy, and discovered talent such as Beyonce and Chris Tucker. Townsend recalls Howard as a person who was on the "cutting edge." Full Story:

Urban League: Progress slows for blacks

By Hazel Trice EdneyNNPA Washington Correspondent WASHINGTON (NNPA)— Despite civil rights gains since the 1960s, socioeconomic progress in black America appears to be on a “blackslide,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial said in recenet remarks recently coinciding with the annual release of the organization’s annual State of Black America report. “We see that when it comes to the unemployment rate between black America and white America, the gap grows wider. When it comes to the number of long-term unemployed African Americans, the gap grows wider,” said Morial. “And, when it comes to African American families building wealth and savings, the gap grows wider still. And as this gap grows wider and the road grows longer, we see that 40 years later we are in danger of erasing all the gains we have made thus far. I’ve come to think of this danger as the Great blackslide.” The annual black progress report, first issued in 1976 under then Executive Secretary Vernon Jordan, paints a grim picture: “In 2005, America commemorates the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as the height of the civil rights movement, and yet, this year’s State of Black America Report’s Equality Index reveals despite societal gains, the overall status of blacks is just 73 percent of their white counterparts, marginally unchanged from the 2004 report,” the report said. “More significantly, the widest disparity for blacks remain in economics, revealing an economic status for African Americans of 57 percent compared to their white counterparts. Although slight improvements are noted, the equality gap is getting worse in unemployment, building wealth and savings reversing many of the employment and income gains made in the 1990s. The median net worth for blacks is 10 [times] less than it is for whites.” Full Story: