I was blessed to be born into a family with a rich history and a deep sense of pride derived from the accomplishments of ancestors both remote and near. This family gave me more advantages than I can count. Among them included; along with pride in our heritage, a deeply in-grained sense of self-determination, a natural intellectual curiosity, a profound love of books and learning, and a desire to view the world with honesty, compassion and grace, and live in it accordingly. That last item is a difficult thing to do.
One issue in our history that no one in my family ever honestly acknowledged or dealt with, in my opinion, is the issue of slavery. As a child I was taught that my ancestors were slave owners. I was also taught that “We were good to our people”. When I was a child, I believed this. As I matured and my understanding of this “peculiar institution” became more fully informed, questions began to rise in my mind. How can you be “good” to a person in bondage? A Person who cannot exercise their free will? Slowly, cautiously, I began to seek out answers. I began to look for the truth. The real “Truth” is often a difficult thing to deal with. It often contradicts what we’ve been taught and makes liars out of our most beloved teachers.
Today I think I have a fairly well informed perspective on this notoriously “peculiar institution” which was in effect in Colonial America, later the United States, which led to a brutal Civil War, and which persisted through the Jim Crow era in the former Confederate states (and points northward) until well into the 20th century. This 400 year history was a 400 year long genocide in which families and the entire concept of stable nuclear family structure were destroyed, self-determination was destroyed; cultures, languages, customs, religions, myths, and legends were blotted out; and in which millions of Africans and African Americans – men, women, and children, who toiled anonymously, generation after generation, to make this nation rich beyond all others on the globe – were completely forgotten. Their graves were left unmarked. Their names left unrecorded in the history books, with precious few exceptions.
I have spent years resurrecting the dead among my white ancestors, and recording their life stories, the major and minor details of their lives, with the hope of passing the information along to posterity for the sake of future generations.
The people of African descent associated with my family and its many branches deserve the same respect and attention as my white ancestors. Their names, their families, their stories are difficult to locate and often vague and incomplete – but that won’t stop me from trying. This section of Stumbling in the Shadow of Giants is dedicated to “our people”, known and named, and as well to the many thousands more whose names and life stories are permanently, tragically lost to history.
Follow the links below to learn about the Slaves in My Family.
Crews Family Lore (white family stories passed down to the present generation)
Wyche Family Lore (white family stories passed down to the present generation)
Former Slave Narratives
– Sally Parham (of the Asa Parham Plantation, near Tabbs Creek in Granville County, North Carolina)
– Ida Adkins (of the Frank Jeffries Plantations in Franklin County, North Carolina)
– Rev. J.M. Taylor (of the James A. Crews “Tally Ho at Tar River” Plantation in Granville County, North Carolina)
– Isham Crews (of the James A. Crews “Tally Ho at Tar River” Plantation in Granville County, North Carolina)
PLEASE CONTACT ME through comments if you are or know of any descendants of any of these individuals. PLEASE CONTACT ME through comments if you can add new individuals, named or un-named, or can contribute any former slave narratives (or anything else) to this collection.