Friday, October 9, 2015

Still, I Rise

Maya Angelou
Poet Maya Angelou (1928 - 2014)
Still, I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you? 
Why are you beset with gloom? 
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you? 
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Negro Mother

Wow!  What an awesome performance by six-year-old Promise Christoni in her recitation of "The Negro Mother" by Langston Hughes.

Video:  Recitation of The Negro Mother

Poem:  The Negro Mother by Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes
Poet Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
Children, I come back today
To tell you a story of the long dark way
That I had to climb, that I had to know
In order that the race might live and grow.
Look at my face - dark as the night -
Yet shining like the sun with love's true light.
I am the dark girl who crossed the red sea
Carrying in my body the seed of the free.
I am the woman who worked in the field
Bringing the cotton and the corn to yield.
I am the one who labored as a slave,
Beaten and mistreated for the work that I gave -
Children sold away from me, I'm husband sold, too.
No safety, no love, no respect was I due.

Three hundred years in the deepest South:
But God put a song and a prayer in my mouth.
God put a dream like steel in my soul.
Now, through my children, I'm reaching the goal.

Now, through my children, young and free,
I realized the blessing deed to me.
I couldn't read then. I couldn't write.
I had nothing, back there in the night.
Sometimes, the valley was filled with tears,
But I kept trudging on through the lonely years.
Sometimes, the road was hot with the sun,
But I had to keep on till my work was done:
I had to keep on! No stopping for me -
I was the seed of the coming Free.
I nourished the dream that nothing could smother
Deep in my breast - the Negro mother.
I had only hope then, but now through you,
Dark ones of today, my dreams must come true:
All you dark children in the world out there,
Remember my sweat, my pain, my despair.
Remember my years, heavy with sorrow -
And make of those years a torch for tomorrow.
Make of my pass a road to the light
Out of the darkness, the ignorance, the night.
Lift high my banner out of the dust.
Stand like free men supporting my trust.
Believe in the right, let none push you back.
Remember the whip and the slaver's track.
Remember how the strong in struggle and strife
Still bar you the way, and deny you life -
But march ever forward, breaking down bars.
Look ever upward at the sun and the stars.
Oh, my dark children, may my dreams and my prayers
Impel you forever up the great stairs -
For I will be with you till no white brother
Dares keep down the children

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Discovering the 81 Freedom Fighters, Part 1

On March 25, 2014, I purchased a monthly subscription to, and began searching and transcribing Richmond Virginia newspapers for runaway slave advertisements.  Perusing the newspapers from the Civil War period has been quite enlightening and one of the ads which caught my attention contained a long list of names.  Upon reading the ad, I saw that it contained not only the names of runaway slaves, but also the name and locations of their slave masters.  I felt it was my genealogy duty to not ignore this list, but to transcribe and analyze it although none of these men are my ancestors as far as I know. 

I began this new project by modifying the digital image using a drawing tool in Paint program to underline the names of the men in red.  This enabled me to more easily read and transcribe the names from this newspaper advertisement.

August 27, 1864 Slave Ad
Richmond Dispatch Newspaper, August 27, 1864, Page 1.

Further Research of Contents of Advertisement
In addition to transcribing and analyzing the advertisement, I have also been researching the mine explosion and other names, events, and places mentioned.  On Sunday afternoon, March 30, 2014, I sent the digital image to fellow genealogist Angela Walton-Raji and we spent some time on the phone discussing this gold mine of an ad and researching online clues to further research information which we gleaned from the ad. In less than an hour, Angela and I used various online databases to get answers to some of the research questions we had about the men, places, and events mentioned in this advertisement.  As a result of our afternoon collaborate session, Angela and I agreed to be a blogging “tag-team” to share our findings about this case.

Data Analysis (What’s in a Name?)
And so, I will begin this endeavor with sharing some of the results of my data analysis of this advertisement in which I used Microsoft Excel to create a table with the names of the 81 soldiers, their slave owners, and the locations of the slave owners.  
The first topic I want to address is the names of the 81 soldiers listed in this August 27, 1864 newspaper advertisement.  Two of the men named in the ad included a first and last name.  All of enslaved men except for “William Bowser, slave of William Peckham of Eastern Shore” were listed with only a first name.  The second person listed with both a first and last name was Henry Lynch, a free negro.  It was customary for free persons of color to be listed in records with both a first and last name and slaves listed either as a number or by first name only.  So why was William Bowser the only runaway slave listed with both names?  Did he say both names when he was asked by Confederates?  Did the other slaves only say their first name when they were questioned?  Surely when these men enlisted into the military, they used a first and last name.  Even if they had never really used a last name before, they may have arbitrarily chosen one at the time of their military enlistment.

First Names of Soldiers
There were 40 different first names used by the captured soldiers and several of them had the same first name.  Fourteen of the 81 men had the first name “John.”  A total of 54 men had the same first names as others captured in this group.

Samuel (Sam)

duplicate names of soldiers

Inquiring Minds Gotta Research Further

Search of the Civil War Soldier/Sailor database by the first name of one of the 81 soldiers with an uncommon first name in this advertisement indicated that this man did have a last name.  Further online genealogy database research resulted in additional records on this soldier as well as gave us another alias (first and last name) he was known by.  Our biggest research question was the fate of these soldiers after their capture.  Angela and I hit the genealogy record jackpot when we discovered an online record which gave us information as to this uncommon named soldier’s fate after his capture in 1864.  Although this finding is only for this one individual, the record gives us numerous clues to hopefully find out the fate of the other 80 Negro soldiers.  Stay tuned. 

Update:  April 7, 2014 Read follow up post to this story by genealogist and blogger, Angela Walton-Raji, "On the Trail of Yarmouth Cartwright", 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Slave Runaway: 24-Year-Old William

SEVENTY DOLLARS REWARD. -– Ran away from the Third Section of the James River and Kanawha Canal, about the middle of July last, a bright mulatto, named WILLIAM.  He has a bushy head of hair, a smiling countenance and polite manners; is about twenty-four-year old, and five feet ten or eleven inches in height.  He belongs to the estate of Dr. J. L. Trent, deceased or Cumberland, and may have gone to that county or to Richmond, where he has relations, or made his way to some military station, as he was last year in the service of General Longstreet, and acquired a fondness for camp life.  He had some military clothing with him.  He has a rupture, which may serve more readily to identify him.

The above reward and reasonable expenses will be paid for his delivery at the office of the James River and Kanawha Company in Richmond; at the plantation of J. Robertson, seven miles below Lynchburg; to the undersigned, or any agent of the Company; or half the sum for such information as may lead to his recovery.  A. MICHAELS
                                  Superintendent Third Section
   se 27 – 6t              James River and Kanawha Canal

Source:  “Runaways.” Richmond Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia) · Tuesday, September 27, 1864,·Page 1 Downloaded on Mar 25, 2014.