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, April 30, 2006

Ex-slave ruled the horse world

'BROWN DICK' ENTHRALLS, EVEN AFTER 100 YEARS By Merlene Davis HERALD-LEADER COLUMNIST Although he died in 1906, a former slave's accomplishments continue to tantalize historians and the curious alike who are amazed at his success despite daunting odds. Edward Dudley Brown, also known as Brown Dick, was a winning thoroughbred jockey, a standardbred rider, trainer of a Kentucky Derby winner, and trainer and owner of two Kentucky Oaks winners. "He was the Michael Jordan of his time," said Lucien Royse, a volunteer at the Georgetown & Scott County History Museum. "He has been neglected, and what he did was phenomenal." Researchers at that museum discovered Brown after hosting a 2003 exhibit of paintings by Edward Troye, an equine artist who lived in Scott County and who painted all the famous horses of the mid-1800s. One painting featured Brown as the jockey of undefeated Asteroid. Woodford County, however, has laid claim to Brown. Jonelle Fisher, who has written five books about Woodford County and the Bluegrass, discovered Brown while researching a book about Woodburn Farm in the late 1990s. Fisher requested a historical marker for downtown Midway, the city where Brown is thought to be buried. Brown was born a slave in Fayette County in 1850. Around 1858, according to Danna Estridge, curator of the Woodford County Historical Society, he was bought in a slave sale at the Fayette County Courthouse by Robert A. Alexander, who owned Woodburn Farm. Brown began as a stable boy, but soon became the best jockey at Woodburn. "I think he was just a very athletic, bright kid, who could handle these high-strung thoroughbreds," said Ron Vance, who had researched Brown for the museum in Georgetown. Brown also won the Belmont Stakes in 1870 aboard Kingfisher, owned by Daniel Swigert of Elmendorf Farm. Full Story:

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Historic Madison: Freed slaves made mark

Historic Madison Inc. The July 7, 1903, the Wisconsin State Journal noted that there were a number of former slaves living in Madison. "Of Madison's estimated 20,000 population, probably 100 of that number are colored folk, several of whom have been slaves. Mr. Turner, although somewhat reluctant to talk about himself, can relate many heart-rending tales. His stories of the selling and buying of slaves in the public market is most pathetic, and includes numerous details never elaborated upon by history. He said that often slaves had left their wives and children in the morning to go into the fields to work and before nightfall would be sold and not even allowed to return and say goodbye to their little ones. In speaking of these slave auctions he said young girls in the bud of womanhood and boys in the same stage of life would be brought upon these auction stands, and stripped of their garments to be examined by coarse men in much the same manner as do the farmers size up horses on the local market." Several former slaves are buried at Forest Hill Cemetery: • William Anderson (1836-1919) was raised on a plantation near St. Louis. Though he said his master and mistress were kind, when their children took over the estate, William's life became harsh. At 15 he was sold to a planter at Humbolt, Tenn. He joined the 13th Wisconsin during the Civil War, serving as cook for quartermaster Andrew Sexton of Madison. He returned to Madison with the major commanding his unit. He farmed while attending school at night, was a coachman for Tim Brown, and then served on the house staff of J.C. Gregory. • Elisha Williams (1844-81) was a slave in Georgia. During Sherman's attack on Atlanta he sought refuge in the Union lines and was liberated by the 12th Wisconsin Regiment. He came to Madison after the war, where he worked for W.H. Fitch, W. Liddel, C.L. Williams and Gov. W.H. Smith. • Dennis Hughes (1850-1928) was born a slave near Tuscaloosa, Ala. At age 6 he was sold to a planter in southern Mississippi. He ran away at age 13 and was hostler for a northern general. Then he joined the Illinois Colored Infantry and was present at Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender. He was a janitor in Madison. Full Story:

Moravians issue apology for church's role in slavery

Synod's resolution also signals start of reconciliation program By Mary Giunca JOURNAL REPORTER After much soul-searching about its tangled record on race relations, the Synod of the Moravian Church, Southern Province, has passed a resolution apologizing for the Moravian Church's participation in slavery. In addition to apologizing for slavery, the resolution announced the establishment of a racial-reconciliation program between black and white Moravian congregations and endorsed a mandate for the Provincial Elders' Conference to expand its efforts to eliminate institutional racism. "What it means to me is, it suggests our church's determination to live up to its creed," said the Rev. Wayne Burkette, the new president of the Provincial Elders' Conference of the Moravian Church, Southern Province. Burkette said that the resolution was passed unanimously on Friday with about 240 votes. Racial harmony has often been discussed at the synod, Burkette said, but he didn't know if a resolution had ever been discussed. Members of the social-concerns ministry group brought the resolution forward. Roma Combs, a member of the group that introduced the resolution, said that the resolution was the result of discussions among local Moravians who had participated in training at the Institute for Dismantling Racism. "I do think there's a gulf between the African-American and Caucasian folks in town," he said, "and we've got to move forward." Full Story:!localnews&s=1037645509099

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

An American Faith’s 100th Birthday

With many religious sects, it’s hard to identify exactly when, where, and by whom they were founded. With the Pentecostal Church, the fastest-growing denomination in the United States, it’s not a problem. Pentecostalism was born in a simple church in Los Angeles exactly a hundred years ago this month. There an unusual man began preaching a revolutionary theology. Before his arrival in Los Angeles, William Joseph Seymour traveled throughout the American South and West. Born in Louisiana to freed slaves, he was a wandering preacher. In Texas he met a man who would change his life. Charles Parham, a Methodist evangelical, was a traveling minister not unlike Seymour himself, and was stirring up controversy in the Christian community. In 1901, preaching in Topeka, Kansas, Parham proclaimed that the true sign of salvation, the sign of what some would call “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” was the experience of speaking in tongues. Parham laid hands on a member of the congregation, a woman named Agnes Ozman, and she immediately burst out in incoherent, ecstatic speech. Parham’s assertion was unconventional and far from winning wide acceptance among American Christians. But when Seymour met Parham he was drawn to his radical idea. Glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, was not new at the turn of the twentieth century. It had a long tradition. However, Parham and Seymour advanced a new hypothesis about its importance to salvation. Passages in the New Testament served as evidence, especially one describing the Pentecost (the seventh Sunday after Easter, when the spirit of Jesus descended on his disciples), in which a group of listeners speaking various languages could miraculously all understand the words pronounced by the disciples. Other passages, too, could be read as describing the existence of a mystical, universal language, for instance a section in Paul’s letters in which he mentions “speaking in a tongue.” The theology of Pentecostalism’s founders met with fierce resistance from certain Christian quarters, but it was not without scriptural grounding. Leaving Houston, Seymour took his new idea west to Los Angeles. Los Angeles was then the fastest-growing city in America—and a good place for an enterprising young minister to find converts. There he began preaching in the storefront church of a woman he had met in Texas named Neely Terry. But he soon found the congregation turning against him and his radical theology, and eventually they literally locked him out of their church. In a strange city with no obvious place to go, he started showing up at private working-class prayer meetings. Many of the people at the meetings were African-American, like Seymour himself. As he met more and more people, he began to gather a following. With his ideas winning gradual acceptance and his meetings growing in size, Seymour decided to seek a hospitable space for his congregants. He chose a building on Azusa Street that had previously housed an African Methodist Episcopal Church, and moved his daily meetings there on April 14, 1906. In their new home he and his followers held lively prayer sessions in which a racially diverse group of Californians joined together in speaking in tongues. It was partly because of demonstrably superhuman forces, too, that Seymour’s budding Pentecostal church began to rapidly expand. On April 18, 1906, only days after the foundation of the Azusa Street congregation, San Francisco was devastated by its massive earthquake. The country at large and Californians in particular began to search for new ways to make sense of the tragedy. Growing numbers of them turned to Seymour’s iconoclastic, millenarian theology. Full Story:

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Slaves of N.Y.C. exhibit at library

History lesson in Jamaica BY HUGH SONDAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER The Cliffs Notes version of a blockbuster exhibit about the history of slavery in New York City opened to instant acclaim yesterday at Queens Library's central branch in Jamaica. The first stop of the traveling installation - a condensed version of the New-York Historical Society's extremely popular "Slavery in New York" exhibit - was celebrated by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans). "Queens County, America's most diverse borough, is a fitting and appropriate venue for this exhibition," Marshall said yesterday. "I encourage everyone to stop and see it." The exhibit - on display through June 17 in the lobby of the Merrick Blvd. library - will eventually move on to the Brooklyn Public Library system. "This is critical to understanding the history of New York, and we wanted to make sure as many people saw it as possible," said Louise Mirrer, president of the New-York Historical Society. "Queens is a really interesting case, because a lot of Queens and Brooklyn was farmland," Mirrer said. "If you look at census data, there were large numbers of slaves working those farms." According to some estimates, at its 1790 peak there were 2,309 slaves in Queens, as well as 1,036 freed blacks. The exhibit depicts, in nine illustrated panels, the path of slavery in New York from a 1659 letter from Dutch officials to colony governor Peter Stuyvesant encouraging the use of forced labor through the American Revolution and the end of slavery in New York in 1827. Full Story:

Councilor’s legislation would keep Freedmen from citizenship

By Donna Hales Phoenix Staff Writer Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Jackie Bob Martin is proposing legislation to amend the constitution that would keep Freedmen from being Cherokee citizens. The proposal calls for limiting citizenship in the Cherokee Nation to individuals:• Who appear on the Dawes Commission Rolls or their descendants, including the Delaware Cherokees of Article II of the Delaware Agreement of May 1967 and the Shawnee Cherokees as of Article III of the Shawnee Agreement of June 1869 and their descendants who can prove a certified degree of Indian blood.That would exclude the Freedmen, confirmed Todd Hembree, council attorney who authored the legislation at Martin’s request. Cherokee Freedmen are descendants of freed slaves who joined the Cherokees in the 1800s.Marilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen, said it would be a travesty of justice for the council to approve any proposed constitutional amendments in which very few of the Freedmen would be able to vote on.Tribal Communications Director Mike Miller said Freedmen would have every opportunity to vote in any special election, should one be called.The Freedmen have not voted in any tribal election since 1983, Vann said.The tribe’s highest court recently ruled under the prevailing constitution that Freedmen are eligible for tribal citizenship and allowed to vote in tribal elections.But even Freedmen who hold their tribal membership cards have been forced to reapply as tribal members and new voters since March 7, Vann said.“A backlog to process tribal membership cards is now seven months,” Vann said.There are reportedly as many as 25,000 Freedmen eligible to request tribal membership, according to David Cornsilk, Cherokee historian.Miller said Freedmen would be allowed to vote in any special election.Martin also is proposing legislation that would eliminate “by blood” as a requirement to hold elective office within the Cherokee Nation.As the constitution stands, Cherokee citizens who are Delaware, Shawnee or Freedmen may not be elected tribal officials because they are not Cherokee by blood, Hembree confirmed.“I find it appalling that at the very time that the Shawnee and Delaware tribal members will be restored to full citizenship rights, including the rights of holding office (if both proposed amendments pass), even the limited rights that the Cherokee Freedmen people have fought for so hard to be restored since 1983 are in danger of being taken away — again with little or no input from them, the affected people.” Full Story:

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

In a Pocket of Prince William

In a Pocket of Prince William Black Residents Find Comfort and Company in New Neighborhoods By Nikita StewartWashington Post Staff WriterWednesday, April 12, 2006; Page A01 When Toni and Ronald Moore were relocating from Georgia to the Washington area five years ago, they looked for a place similar to suburban DeKalb County, a popular, affluent, predominantly black community outside of Atlanta. Instead of choosing Prince George's County, the nation's wealthiest black-majority county, the Moores ended up in mostly white Prince William County. Yet they say they do not feel like outsiders. They are surrounded by other middle- and upper-middle-class blacks who have bought homes costing as much as $600,000 in new subdivisions dotting southeastern Prince William. "We have our own little back yard here," Toni Moore, a 37-year-old hospice nurse, said of the black residents of her neighborhood, called Southbridge. The Moores are part of a wave of African Americans moving to an area just off Interstate 95, south of the Potomac Mills shopping center and north of the Quantico Marine Corps Base. How this area turned into a black community almost overnight is partly a story of how hundreds of people from near and far discovered Prince William, transforming some of the county's schools, churches, stores, demographics and even its politics. The creation of majority minority communities such as Southbridge also shows how the diversity of Washington suburbs sometimes turns up in unexpected places. There are large numbers of Koreans in Annandale, Filipinos in Manassas, Salvadorans in Langley Park, Indians in Gaithersburg and Ethiopians in South Arlington. Full Story:

'Slave driver' of a businessman helped send blacks to Africa

You mentioned Montgomery Bell. I know there is a private school as well as a state park named for him. Could you tell who he was and what he meant to Nashville/Middle Tennessee? — Brian Gentry, Nashville. Montgomery Bell remains something of a "man of mystery," as Nashville Banner writer Ed Huddleston characterized him in a 10-part newspaper profile published in 1955, a century after his April 1, 1855, death at age 86. Arriving here in 1802 from Lexington, Ky., the Pennsylvania native became one of Middle Tennessee's largest slaveholders. He bought Nashville founder James Robertson's interest in the Cumberland Iron Works. His various iron production facilities in Dickson, Cheatham and Montgomery counties, worked by many of his 300-400 slaves in addition to hired white immigrants, made him successful and wealthy. The grandest home of his three was in Brentwood. Some of his production went into cannonballs sold to the U.S. Army and reportedly used by Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. He didn't hesitate to "get the greatest amount of labor from the slave even if the whip was necessary" at his forges and furnaces, historian Robert E. Corlew wrote in the Tennessee Historical Quarterly. But in his later life, after his iron manufacturing declined in the 1840s, he began to favor emancipation. Bell was among Tennessee's most prominent supporters of a national movement to send slaves to Africa to start a colony where they might prosper in freedom. He was willing to pay their transportation and give them six months of provisions to help establish what he hoped could be their own ironworks in Liberia, on the western coast. Nashville tradition has it that his freed slaves who agreed to the plan assembled on the steps of the still-standing Downtown Presbyterian Church (then First Presbyterian, dedicated Easter Sunday 1851) on Church Street to leave by riverboat on the first leg of their journey, Huddleston wrote. The church pastor was a friend of Bell. An agent for the colonization effort had spoken during a meeting at the church in 1831, Nashville historian Bobby L. Lovett wrote. Among the two groups Bell sent, 38 in December 1853 and 50 more in May 1854, was a slave named Worley. Worley, named Elijah or James in varying accounts, was so talented in iron production and so trusted by Bell that his owner named a Dickson County furnace and mine for him and relied heavily on his business advice. Full Story:

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Razing a Trail

Groundbreaking for historic Lumpkin's Jail survey took place Monday Richmond.comWednesday, April 05, 2006It's not about vengeance. It's about redemption. It's not about division. It's about the past and the future. That's how officials involved in the Lumpkin's Jail archeological survey see the project. On April 3 the Richmond Slave Trail Commission kicked off the survey with a groundbreaking ceremony held behind the old Seaboard Building, on the corner of 15th and Franklin streets. The site was once a major slave-trading block, which later became a school for newly freed blacks. It is where Virginia Union University held its first classes."It's mixed emotions, you know, because its one of the things with these types of events there's a certain presence and there's certain spirit there," said Delores L. McQuinn, chairwoman of the Richmond Slave Trail Commission and Richmond City Councilwoman for the Seventh District. "And you feel that it's almost an opportunity to redeem some of the atrocities of the past."The survey is the work of several area Richmond groups. The Richmond Slave Trail Commission, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods (A.C.O.R.N.) have partnered with the City of Richmond to conduct the archeological project. "It's really about bringing history to the forefront and then moving forward and using that as a tool to reconcile some of the differences and the division, things that have kept us so divided, particularly in the City of Richmond," McQuinn said. Jennie Dotts, A.C.O.R.N. executive director, said securing the project has been a long process. And throughout that process the project has grown and expanded, becoming an educational project, she added. "Now we realize how much it has to tell us about how the City of Richmond was and has become," said Dotts, calling the project hugely significant because of the slave trade's impact on Richmond. "It was the cornerstone of the Richmond economy for decades and as a result it helped shape the City," Dotts said. "So much of what we think of when we think of Richmond was built through slave labor."Dotts also noted the effort that has gone into getting the survey started. She said it has not been easy, noting A.C.O.R.N.'s ballpark battle. The discussion of the Richmond Braves relocating to the Bottom would have would have negatively impacted efforts to investigate and memorialize the slave trade including the Lumpkin's site, she said. "The footprint of the stadium was going to be right in the middle of the slave trail," Dotts said. The effort to memorialize the slave trade has not been easy for the commission either. The 12-year-old organization has worked to mark areas of the city to memorialize the slave trade and at the survey groundbreaking McQuinn was elated. Full Story:

Parking lot giving up clues to Richmond's slave-era history

It's believed people were held captive at the site before being sold to toil in the Deep South. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS April 5, 2006 RICHMOND -- Archaeologists are digging up a parking lot believed to have been the site of a slave holding pen whose artifacts could expose new facets of Richmond's slave past.Researchers with the James River Institute for Archaeology will spend this week digging into a 90-by-90-foot patch of land behind the restored Main Street train station in Shockoe Bottom, one of the oldest sections of this former capital of the Confederacy.The dig beneath an elevated section of Interstate 95 is seeking remnants of Lumpkin's Jail, named after a slave trader. The building later became a school for freed blacks.Tuesday, Ziploc bags full of iron pieces, broken bottles and pottery jags lined the sides of the pits. Below, workers tussled with gravel, sewage pipes and old bricks.The dig, if successful, could lead to a full-scale excavation of the area, said senior researcher Matt Laird. Success, he explained, is measured by the discovery of either the 19th-century jail's building foundation or a layer of soil from that era - both likely rich in the type of pottery, animal bones and household goods archaeologists treasure.Such items would be turned over to the city for possible inclusion in a museum, he said.The initial dig is funded by the city and grants orchestrated by the Richmond Slave Trail Commission, said its chairwoman Delores McQuinn."This is the capital of the Confederacy," she said. "(But) it's more sides to the history of the city."We want this story to be told."That story starts in 1844, with Robert Lumpkin, a businessman who trafficked in slaves, and during an agricultural shift in Virginia to crops that required few field hands but the beginning of the cotton boom in the Deep South."Many people (in Virginia) found themselves with more slaves than they had a need for," Laird said. "In the deep South, the opposite was happening."Men like Lumpkin bought excess Virginia slaves and held them in "jails" until they could be sold down South. Full Story:,0,5572666.story?coll=dp-news-local-final

When the push for black vote got violent

By Merlene Davis HERALD-LEADER COLUMNIST There are many questions about the accomplishments and travels of Robert Charles O'Hara Benjamin, but his death is well-documented. Benjamin was shot in the back at what was then the corner of Spring and Water streets in Lexington on October 2, 1900, by Michael Moynahan. Moynahan, a white Democrat and precinct worker, was challenging black voters who were trying to register. Benjamin, a black Republican lawyer, newspaper editor, poet, minister, and traveler, was determined to help blacks cast a ballot. Benjamin spoke out when Moynahan asked questions of the black people trying to register at a local precinct. On a second visit to the precinct, the two men argued and Moynahan followed Benjamin outside and shot him. "There was an inquest," said Lexington native George Wright, president of Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas. "Benjamin's death was ruled justifiable homicide even though he was shot in the back. ... Black life had very little value back in that time when whites made certain allegations. "It (Benjamin's death) just had no meaning," Wright continued. "They were lynched for any reason or no reason. Benjamin's death reflects that." Wright has been researching Benjamin's life for a book, although his responsibilities as president of a university have slowed that research a lot. Full Story:

The indigo dye of slavery

SILVER DONALD CAMERON ON A CHILLY, windy day, Magnus turned off the Intracoastal Waterway into the Fort George River, not far north of Jacksonville. Her destination was the Kingsley Plantation, the oldest plantation house in Florida, now part of a large National Park. Like the adjoining sections of Georgia and South Carolina, this part of Florida is a maze of shallow, twisting creeks, mudbanks and islets. We found the plantation standing on a bluff overlooking the narrow river, with an extensive view across the endless grassy brown marshes to other wooded bluffs and islands. The plantation gets its name from Zephaniah Kingsley, who owned it from 1814 to 1837, when Florida was a royal Spanish colony. The commercial crops raised here included cotton, sugar cane and indigo, which yielded a prized blue dye. To produce it, slaves crushed and fermented the indigo plant in wooden vats, then added catalysts like limewater and urine. Once the water evaporated from this nasty brew, the caked dye remained. The same is true of slavery. Zephaniah Kingsley, for instance, was an unusually benevolent slave owner. In 1806, in Cuba, he had purchased a 13-year-old Senegalese slave girl named Anta Madgigine Jai, known as "Anna," with whom he eventually had four children. After Anna turned 18, he freed her and their children, and married her. His plantation was worked on the "task" system; after each day’s assigned tasks were done, the slaves were free to hunt, fish, sew or tend the kitchen gardens in which they grew African foods like yams, okra and eggplant. He ultimately freed all his slaves. Full Story:

Freedom trail sites recognized

Sunday, April 09, 2006 By MARY ELLEN SPRINGFIELD - One hundred fifty years ago, Springfield was a small city with a population of just under 14,000. Franklin Pierce was president, the Civil War was five years away, and slavery was legal in the South. At the same time, Springfield had become well-established as a critical link along the Underground Railroad, with key local citizens helping runaway slaves make their way, traveling by night along woodsy paths, to freedom in Canada. The city will soon have trail markers at 13 of those downtown spots where escaped slaves were able to stop, rest and get nourishment and support from supporters, both black and white, who were committed to the cause. "Black people played an important role in the history of this country, and this city. For so many years, there's been this veil of silence," said Cecelia Gross, chairwoman of the history and political science department at Springfield Technical Community College. "It's very important that people remember this," she said. During the past two decades, Gross and her students past and present have been researching the city's role in the movement, and their work will be the cornerstone of the sidewalk history project. The African-American Heritage Trail will be on the streets next year, in time to celebrate STCC's 40th anniversary. Full Story:

Cherokees accept black freedmen

The descendants of freed slaves who joined the Cherokees in the 1800s must be recognized as citizens of the tribe, the Cherokee Nation's highest court has ruled. The decision by the Judicial Appeals Tribunal sets aside a previous opinion against the so-called freedmen and strikes down a 1992 Cherokee Nation Council law limiting citizensip to those who are "Cherokee by blood."Black freedmen included free blacks and former slaves who settled in the lands of the Five Civilized Tribes after the Trail of Tears. Those freedmen were listed with the Cherokees in an 1866 treaty with the U. S. government.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Richmond dig could reveal more on slave trade in Virginia

By DIONNE WALKER Associated Press Writer April 4, 2006 RICHMOND, Va. -- Archaeologists are digging up a parking lot believed to be the former site of a slave holding pen whose artifacts could expose new facets of Richmond's slave past. Researchers with the James River Institute for Archaeology will spend this week digging into a 90-by-90-foot patch of land behind the restored Main Street train station in Shockoe Bottom, one of the oldest sections of this former capital of the Confederacy. The dig beneath an elevated section of Interstate 95 is seeking remnants of Lumpkin's Jail, named after a slave trader. The jail later became a school for freed blacks. Tuesday, Ziploc bags full of iron pieces, broken bottles and pottery jags lined the sides of the pits. Below, workers tussled with gravel, sewage pipes and old bricks. The dig, if successful, could lead to a full-scale excavation of the area, said senior researcher Matt Laird. Success, he explained, is measured by the discovery of either the 19th century jail's building foundation or a layer of soil from that era--both likely rich in the type of pottery, animal bones and household goods archaeologists treasure. Such items would be turned over to the city for possible inclusion in a museum, he said. The initial dig is funded by the city and grants orchestrated by the Richmond Slave Trail Commission, said its chairwoman Delores McQuinn. "This is the capital of the Confederacy," she said. "(But) it's more sides to the history of the city. "We want this story to be told." Full Story:,0,5276441.story?coll=dp-headlines-virginia

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Our towns

Princeville before and after the flood, and Nuestro Barrio wraps its first season


Those attending next week's Full Frame Festival will have an opportunity to see the first documentaries to emerge in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. However, there is a locally produced documentary that, although not in Full Frame, is shedding important light on a disastrous hurricane much closer to home. This film is called This Side of the River, and it concerns the historically black town of Princeville, N.C. Princeville, you may recall, entered the news in 1999 in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd. While the news was dominated by images of spilled hog waste and dead livestock, we also learned that the Edgecombe County town was essentially wiped off the map. Eventually the town's residents would resist the buyout inducements of FEMA, opting instead to rebuild on their low-lying land, which had suffered severe floods previously in 1919 and 1958. Located across the Tar River from Tarboro, Princeville was first settled by newly freed slaves who had flocked to the Union Army camp located in Tarboro. Initially, the settlement was called Freedom Hill, which was somewhat of a misnomer given the town's later recurrent misfortunes. In 1885, Princeville became the first town in America to be incorporated by African Americans. This film from Ryan Rowe and Drew Grimes, produced under the aegis of NCSU's North Carolina Life and Language Project, is heartfelt, exhaustively researched and ably executed. It began circulating on Feb. 28, when it premiered before a capacity crowd at Durham's Hayti Heritage Center. Several dozen Princeville residents attended the screening, which was preceded by a performance by Eastern N.C. bluesman George Higgs and followed by a panel discussion. Full Story: