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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

African American Lives on PBS

An unprecedented four-part series, AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES uncovers a new level personal discovery. Using genealogy, oral history, family stories, and DNA analysis to trace lineages through American history and back to Africa, the series provides life-changing journeys for a diverse group of highly accomplished African Americans including Dr. Ben Carson, Whoopi Goldberg, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Dr. Mae Jemison, Quincy Jones, Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Chris Tucker and Oprah Winfrey. Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois professor of the Humanities and chair of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES, an unprecedented four-part PBS series, takes Alex Haley's Roots saga to a whole new level through moving stories of personal discovery. Using genealogy, oral history, family stories and DNA analysis to trace lineage through American history and back to Africa, the series provides a life-changing journey for a diverse group of highly accomplished African Americans. The series works to restore the participants' lineages in reverse chronological order. Starting with the oral histories of the individuals' families, and drawing on photographs, film clips, music and early personal records, Professor Gates begins to trace their family trees back through the 20th century. Noted historians and expert genealogists around America help fill in missing branches, in the process explaining how such major events as Jim Crow segregation and the post-World War I "Great Migration" from the South to the North helped shape African-American families.Professor Gates' genealogical research becomes increasingly difficult as he works back through the Reconstruction, Civil War, Colonial and early slave trade periods in American history. When the genealogical road comes to an end, he turns to some of the country's leading scientists who are involved in cutting-edge work using DNA samples to trace ancestral roots to Africa. Finally, Professor Gates joins one series participant in the last leg of the journey, across the Atlantic to the western coast of Africa. There, they visit an area where genetic, historical and anthropological evidence suggests the participant's ancestors lived.For some Americans, the essential question -- "Where do I come from?" -- cannot be answered; their history has been lost or stolen. But through genealogical research and groundbreaking DNA analysis, AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES not only provides a transformational discovery for several prominent African Americans, but also serves as an example for all Americans of the empowerment derived from knowing their heritage.

A Full Partner in The Dream

Widow Quickly Found Own Voice for Change By Yvonne Shinhoster LambWashington Post Staff WriterWednesday, February 1, 2006; Page A01 Coretta Scott King, who with grace and determination kept her husband's legacy alive and emerged as one of America's most influential voices for social change and human rights, died yesterday at an alternative medical clinic in Mexico. She was 78. Mrs. King, who suffered a debilitating stroke and heart attack in August, went to Hospital Santa Monica in Rosarito Beach, a few miles south of San Diego in Baja California, Mexico, within the past two weeks for observation and treatment of ovarian cancer. Widowed by an assassin's bullet on April 4, 1968, Mrs. King did not grieve publicly. Instead, she immediately filled the void of leadership and continued to preach the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s philosophy of nonviolence, making it her own. To ensure that his dream of racial equality and justice remained etched in the collective consciousness of the nation and the world, Mrs. King founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in his home town of Atlanta. She also overcame persistent opposition to secure the establishment of a national federal holiday to honor her late husband, the only such holiday honoring an African American. Mrs. King did not simply inherit her husband's legacy; instead, she was a full partner in marriage and in the struggle for equality, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said yesterday. Full Story:

Sunday, January 29, 2006

'Uncle Tom's Cabin' may become Maryland historic site

Tuesday, January 17, 2006By Derrill Holly, The Associated Press BETHESDA, Md. -- State officials yesterday accepted the deed to the Maryland home of the former slave who inspired author Harriett Beecher Stowe when she wrote the abolitionist novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin." The home, located about 12 miles north of Washington, D.C., became available last year, following the death of Hildegarde Mallet-Prevost, 100, who owned the property. The state's purchase of the three-bedroom, wood-frame house for $1 million could lead to the home being established as an interpretive historical site. Full Story:

A city faces the slavery in its past

Portsmouth, N.H., plans a memorial and services By Michael Levenson, Globe Correspondent January 23, 2006 PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- All Portsmouth set out to do was dig a manhole on a two-lane street of clapboard homes. Then a city backhoe hit a slat of white pine in the russet mud. It was a coffin, soft, brown, and six-sided, the first remnant of a buried chapter in New England history.
About 200 coffins lay under the street near Choozy Shooz and the other shops that lend downtown Portsmouth a cosmopolitan air. No one knew much about this burial ground because the coffins held slaves, their unmarked graves paved over and mostly forgotten to make way for homes. Captured on West Africa's coast 300 years ago, slaves were used as rope-makers, shipwrights, potters, and cooks. Some were owned by the city's founders: William Whipple, a Revolutionary War commander who had a street and school named for him, kept a slave. Now, as the remains of eight slaves are stored in a locked public works building, this city that prides itself on progressivism is confronting its past. Several black residents have submitted DNA to determine if the remains are their ancestors, the city has voted to build a memorial, and officials are planning a proper funeral for the eight.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Post-Civil War archives on ex-slaves open to all

Sunday, January 15, 2006

By Jacqueline Trescott, The Washington Post WASHINGTON -- In the late 1860s James Kelley, a man living in Chicot County, Ark., wrote to the Freedmen's Bureau asking for help in finding his children. Like thousands of black families, they had been separated during the Civil War. The bureau found them on a plantation near Waco, Texas. The record of the Kelley family reunion and those of thousands of others can now be examined by scholars, amateur historians and descendants in the records of the Freedmen's Bureau at the National Archives and Records Administration. Those papers -- which had not been available for widespread study -- can be seen on microfilm by the public thanks to a five-year effort to preserve the bureau's original records, the National Archives announced Friday. The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, known as the Freedmen's Bureau, was established by the federal government in March 1865 as the Civil War was coming to a close, to help the almost 4 million former slaves begin their new lives. Its mandate was sprawling, including providing food, clothing and health care to former slaves, negotiating employment contracts and establishing schools. The agency was formally disbanded in June 1872. Its successes and failures have been debated ever since. Some saw it as a noble effort to help newly freed blacks. Others saw it as corrupt and flawed. The records are "a unique opportunity to gain insight into the black experience before and after the Civil War" and the federal government's role in that transition, said Reginald Washington, an African American genealogy specialist at the Archives. The project was undertaken by a multidisciplinary team within the Archives. Congress provided $3 million. Interest in all aspects of the Civil War continues, but the bureau's records have been accessible only to scholars and a few others since the Archives received them in the 1940s. The papers, gathered from dozens of local offices of the bureau, were disorganized. And some were just too fragile to handle.

Doors open to treasure of a hotel in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- One of the grand discoveries of the upcoming travel season is the Inn at Hunt Phelan, tucked away on 6 acres on historic Beale Street. Though when I told friends I was staying on Beale Street during a recent stopover in Memphis, they were concerned. They figured I was crashing among the voodoo candles at A. Schwab's Dry Goods Store (established 1876) or catching some z's in the kitchen after a catfish dinner at Blues City Cafe. After all, years ago I fell into a Rebel Yell-induced dreamland at Elvis Presley Campgrounds, across the street from Graceland. But the Inn at Hunt Phelan is the only antebellum home in Memphis open to the public. Built in 1828, it opened last month as a five-bedroom luxury inn with two restaurants. (A new replica condo building adjacent to the house opened in May with seven hotel rooms. Here, more than 600,000 handmade clay bricks were used from an 1840s South Carolina textile mill that was being torn down.) Robert Mills -- best known for designing the U.S. Treasury Building, the Washington Monument and part of the White House -- was architect for the original Hunt Phelan. The 20-room mansion is an all-masonry structure with wood only in the ceiling joists. The house originally was built by Eli Moore Driver. His daughter married Col. William Richardson Hunt, who was a Memphis attorney. Their daughter married Col. George Richardson Phelan, who was in the Union army, then changed his mind and joined the Confederates. In his memoirs he wrote he wanted to return to Tennessee and the best method was to arrive with his fellow troops. There are many more stories in this old house, which is, of course, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For instance, during the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant took over the property as his headquarters. The hosts will tell you that four presidents have stayed in the home and a fifth is on his way. (Hint: It's not Gerald Ford.) Other Hunt Phelan presidential guests were Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson and Confederate president Jefferson Davis. During my visit, I had to pretend Davis was a real president. You know how they are in the South. Upon Gen. Grant's departure, the home served as a hospital and lodge for Union soldiers. After the war, the house became the First Freedman's Bureau School to educate newly freed slaves. Beale Street itself was a harbor of freedom for blacks in the early 1900s.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Thomson Gale Offers Free Resources to Celebrate Black History Month

Thursday January 5, 10:40 am ET Access to Biographies, Quizzes and Teaching Tools Available at FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich., Jan. 5 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- In recognition of Black History Month, Thomson Gale, part of the Thomson Corporation (NYSE: TOC - News; TSX: TOC - News), is launching a free Web site full of historical facts and figures, biographies, relevant Web links and teaching tools. This site, accessible at, is designed to help students, teachers and families celebrate the month. Quizzes and Weekly Prizes Each week throughout February, Thomson Gale will post a new quiz to test knowledge of significant people and events in history as they relate to Black History Month. Weekly winners will receive Thomson Gale books for their library. Visit for questions similar to: President Reagan signed the bill that established January 20 a federal holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. on November 2 of what year? See below for the answer!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Doctor helped break racial barriers at hospitals

DETROIT -- Dr. Delford G. Williams Jr., who blazed medical trails for other blacks, including two sons, died of lung cancer Dec. 21, 2005, in Sinai-Grace Hospital. He was 85. The Wilmington, N.C., native, who was valedictorian of his high school and graduated cum laude from college, was an intern at a St. Louis hospital in 1946 -- a time when few minorities were training at majority institutions. He came to Detroit four years later to serve a surgical residency at Trinity Hospital and never left. He practiced medicine until 1997, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. His two sons, David and Delford III, also became doctors and followed their father into his private practice. "He was proud to tell you that he practiced medicine for 52 years," said David Williams. Dr. Williams, who served on the staff of six hospitals, was chief of staff at two of them: Boulevard General Hospital from 1969 to 1975 and Southwest Detroit Hospital from 1976 to 1991. He was a trustee at Southwest Detroit Hospital for more than a decade. Dr. Williams is survived by his wife, Eresteen; son David; daughter, Donna; and four grandchildren. Services were held. Arrangements were by the Fritz Funeral Home in Detroit. Memorial tributes may be sent to the Howard University College of Medicine, 520 W Street N.W., Washington, DC 20059. You can reach Frances X. Donnelly at (313) 223-4186 or

Maxwell, 100, exemplified achievement, graciousness

Posted: Dec. 7, 2005 For all her firsts - including serving as the first black president of both the Milwaukee Public Library Board and the YWCA - Hazel Maxwell did not find that cause for celebration. "You know, while I am very proud of all these things, I don't like being first for two reasons," she once explained in her soft-spoken way. "One, to which I object the most, is that by being the first woman and black it is like saying up to now there hasn't been one of us competent for the job. And that's wrong. "The other reason is that if it's taken this long for someone to reach it, it's taken too long," Maxwell firmly declared. "It's a double-edged thing and it's negative more than positive. I take pride in that there was some confidence in me. If I was the 10th, I wouldn't be any less proud, though." Maxwell died of natural causes Sunday at the Milwaukee Jewish Home. She celebrated her 100th birthday on Oct. 30. "She was a very unusual and very lovely person," said her daughter, Anna Diggs Taylor, a federal judge with the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit. "She amazed me forever." "She booked all the parties and danced until midnight, just like Mattiebelle Woods - they were friends," said grandson Tony Rhodes, speaking of journalist Woods, who died early this year at the age of 102. "My grandmother kept dancing until 98, when she broke her hip." The former Hazel Bramlette was born and raised in Chicago. "She was from a large family, and her mother had three sets of twins," Maxwell's daughter said. Hazel and her sister Helen were one set. Maxwell earned a teaching certificate before marrying her first husband, Virginius D. Johnston, in 1929. He became treasurer at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and that was where they raised two children. She also earned a bachelor's degree in education from Howard University, teaching business and math courses for 13 years at a junior high school in Washington, D.C. "I had 52 girls in my first class," she recalled, speaking in a 1977 interview. "The schools for blacks were so crowded then. The school I taught in was built for 1,200 kids, but we had 1,800. The school for whites - which was just three blocks away - was built for 1,500 and had 800 children in it." The Johnstons decided to send their own children away to better schools. Their son, Lowell Johnston, also became a lawyer and now works in New York. After the death of her husband in 1955, friends decided that she needed a new husband, beginning a nationwide search for the right man. The result was that John W. Maxwell, a doctor who was recently widowed in Milwaukee, came to Washington to meet her. It was a good match.

Family asserts right to profit from their land

Efforts to honor the historic Mitchelville site should focus on land that is already publicly owned to allow other residents in the area to develop property, said a family who owns much of the land. The White family, which owns about 20 acres in the vicinity of Mitchelville, the nation's first town for freed slaves, is looking to develop some of the land into low-density, single-family units, said Andre White, who is coordinating the development. Some preservationists and representatives of the native island community are starting to push for greater involvement in the protection of the Mitchelville site, which is composed of disparate parcels of land along Beach City Road near Port Royal Sound. Some of the properties have houses or trailers, while others are still undeveloped. The advocates fear that, without quick involvement of the town or other interest, the history of the area could be lost to development. "Our land is not in public trust. It's privately owned land," said Perry White, Andre's grandfather, who said his father began buying the land in 1943. "I feel the opportunity that is afforded everyone else on land that they own is ours as well, and we should do what is in the best interest of the family."