“Roll, Jordan, Roll” and other great slave songs coded with freedom terms

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“Roll, Jordan, Roll” was was coded for escaped slaves

The coded song for escaped slaves, “Roll, Jordan, Roll,” was one of many notable works captured by a young musicologist and published in 1867.

Lucy McKim was 19-years-old when she traveled with her abolitionist father in 1862 to the Sea Islands of Georgia for a three-week visit to check on the conditions of recently freed slaves. The piano teacher was naturally drawn to the songs being sung in different quarters by the newly freed people.

She began to chronicle their songs and in 1867, the then-wife of Wendell Phillip Garrison, published her work with two collaborators. The compelling story of her life and work is found in many journals and books.

Lucy McKim Garrison

Truly “Songs of Sorrow” as viewed by Lucy McKim Garrison, yet freedom songs for slaves

Courtesy of “Documenting the American South,” UNC-Chapel Hill LibraryLucy McKim Garrison was a musicologist born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 30, 1842.

She was born to James Miller and Sarah Allibone McKim. Her parents and other family members were known throughout the abolitionist community and had connections to Quakerism. Garrison received her education in Philadelphia but later moved to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to attend the Eaglewood School. At the time that Garrison attended Eaglewood, the Grimke sisters were managing it and the school was attended by many abolitionists. She taught piano in Philadelphia and at the Eaglewood School.

During the Civil War in 1862, Garrison traveled with her father, who worked for the Port Royal Relief Committee, to South Carolina to investigate conditions of recently freed slaves. For three weeks, they stayed in the Sea Islands where she listened to the songs of the freedmen and attempted to put the songs into musical notation. The public did not receive her work well upon some of her first publications, so the project was put on hold.

Lucy and Wendell Phillips Garrison, William Lloyd Garrison’s third son, became engaged in 1864 and married on December 6, 1865. In 1867, Garrison gave birth to their first son, Lloyd, and also created Slave Songs of the United States in collaboration with William Francis Allen and Charles Pickard Ware. The publication is considered one of the best sources of slave songs. The couple’s son Philip was born in 1869, followed by their daughter, Katherine, in 1873. Garrison died on May 11, 1877, following a paralytic stroke at age 34. She is buried in Rosedale Cemetery in Orange, New Jersey.

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Here’s another great work about this great lady.

https://udayton.edu/magazine/2020/02/power-of-a-song-in-a-strange-land.php

#2 Peek: Out of Sight e-book for beginning Black Genealogists

During your early discoveries of family ancestry, it is likely that you will find words, phrases, photographs and other documents that may trigger emotions and reactions that you may have long ago forgiven.

PART I: Out of Our Gloomy Past

Slavery’s Impact Upon Black Genealogical Research

  Slavery’s far-reaching effect upon the lives of African Americans is the single-most reason why it is challenging to easily research involving our Black ancestors. Records of names, places of origin, accurate ages and other important data were not kept for slaves or if kept, are likely long ago destroyed or lost. In rare instances, some of the basic passenger information was retained by the Atlantic Ocean ship’s captain or slave holders. In the records born from slave holders, it is likely that the surnames are the same as the persons who took possession of our ancestors.

The estimates vary on when the first slaves were shipped across the Atlantic to the North and South American soil. Some reports suggest that the first slaves arrived on U.S. shores somewhere between 1525 and 1619. It is well documented that in 1619, slaves were unloaded from ships at Port Comfort, VA., near Jamestown. Between 1619 and 1866, approximately 13 million Africans were packed into ships headed for the “New World.” Of that, an estimated two million slaves perished by disease, suicides and other means, making their graves the Atlantic Ocean. That left an approximate 10.7 million Africans who survived the brutal slave ships’ conditions across the Atlantic Ocean. It is estimated 388,000 black ancestors arrived along North American shores through 1866, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database (edited by Profs. David Eltis and David Richardson). The remainder of the precious “cargo” was delivered to South American and Caribbean countries.

Sometimes in the pursuit of African American ancestors, the inquiries or checklists do not take into consideration that not U.S. residents arrived on these shores with passenger lists to identify them. One case in point is found in a test that I took to a complete a genealogy course. I missed the correct answer on one question because I responded based on my African American family history.   The question on the examination was: “Which immigration records are the best sources for determining if someone’s ancestor arrived in the United States from an international country. The instructor’s answer was “Passenger lists.”  The answer choices did not include one for my ancestors. This is an example of the importance of remaining flexible and open to the workarounds and delays in retrieving records related to your family’s ancestors.

 When searching for ancestors not all potential information is included in general inquiries. Many records unique to Black, Native Americans, Afro-Caribbean ancestors are not integrated into traditional family ancestry searches. For instance, “Slave Schedules” is not included in an ancestry site query for a relative. Therefore, it is important to review all categories of detailed listings such as the Sumter County, Alabama, U.S., Circuit Court Files, 1840-1950 and Americus times-recorder NEW.  It is advisable to rely on more than one on-line genealogy site to expand the ancestral search and build family trees.

Pre- and Post-Civil War Searches

The important benchmarks that are integral to effectively and efficiently researching African American ancestry are divided in two major categories:

  1. Slave families before the Civil War.
  2. Black and African American families beginning with the 1870 Census.

Prior to the Civil War, information and data about African American ancestors is sparse and vastly different than that of others. Slaves’ surnames were often the same as their owners and not of their African-given names.  In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau developed separate listings known as “Slave Schedules” in 1850 and 1860. While not providing the names of slaves, the Slave Schedules provide the owners’ names. In many cases, the identifiers for slaves included the ages, sex and varying notations such as “deaf …dumb.”

However, after the war and beginning with the 1870 Census, the official recordkeeping involving Blacks was similar to that of U.S. Whites and immigrants. While some former slaves maintained the slave owners’ surnames given to them, others changed their last names. That is why the family Bible is so important as it was a historical recorder of the important events in the lives of freed slaves. The family Bible also served as an official legal document in the courthouse where African Americans sought official birth records. Usually, the births of our family members occurred with the help of midwives. The midwives were also principally responsible for reporting births to the respective county court houses.

Making the most of “Brick walls”

Between 1920 and 1930, my Great-Grandmother Carrie changed the spelling of our surname to “Wead” and my grandfather followed her lead when applied for his social security card in 1936.  My father, Rodney Wead, never learned why the spelling change in our surname. The Census Bureau and other government sources frequently contain errors in ages, relationships to the heads of households, racial classification, employment, literacy, name spellings, real estate and other categories involving the documentation of African American families. This e-book will offer recommendations on how to confirm the demographic data and thereby move around the “brick wall” effects. “The wall” or “the brick wall” is a phrase often used in genealogy to describe what it feels like when after several hours or even years of sorting through delicate historical information, the researcher is not able to breakthrough with accurate information about their ancestor.

You do not have to get used to the wall’s reality. Approach your research by thinking new thoughts and seek opportunities in the historical challenges to keep walls in our ways.  Combine the “old school” with new ways. See value in the centuries ago inscribed family Bibles while trusting the technology to locate grave markers and passports of your ancestors. Invest your time and resources into learning more about your ancestors for personal, professional, mental and physical health benefits. It will be worth it.

Mental, Psychological, Spiritual Walls

“Why can’t I know my birthday?” asked Frederick Douglass, born a slave around 1817.  Think about that statement by the great statesman, Douglass. It was rare for slaves and any indentured black servants to know the details of their lives. Think about how difficult it may be for you to learn the same about your ancestors.

There are many more terms or single words that are triggers for deep-seeded and some surface matters that my cousin and I had not fully resolved. The same may be true for others who embark on the black genealogy path.  For some of the topics and situations we encountered during our research, Mark and I had to take a break after discovering something that was a breakthrough while also being a burden to our souls. We exhaled whenever those temporary “moments” of anxiety and questions flooded our thoughts and words such as the time we dealt with the meaning of word “property” to slave holders and traders. For instance, the reality that slaves were considered “property” by their owners meant that being bought and sold in exchange for land, cash, or another material matter, remains disheartening. It meant that slave families were ripped apart and the scars and outward behaviors would likely be passed through the generations.

Each time, we hit those bumps in the road, Mark and I successfully emerged from our unplanned research breaks with fresh outlooks and words of encouragement about our brave and smart ancestors. After all, if our ancestors had not endured the pain, suffering and the glorious moments, none of us would be on this earth. We are sharing our tribulations to help others who are deeply connected to their pasts to advance their present and future journeys.

 During your early discoveries of family ancestry, it is likely that you will find words, phrases, photographs and other documents that may trigger emotions and reactions that you may have long ago forgiven. For Mark and me, our triggers included the following words, phrases and digits:

During your early discoveries of family ancestry, it is likely that you will find words, phrases, photographs and other documents that may trigger emotions and reactions that you may have long ago forgiven. For Mark and me, our triggers included the following words, phrases and digits:

1525                                                                Land deeds                                         Slave owners

1619                                                                Lynching                                             Slave schedules

1919                                                                Middle Passage                                   Slavery                       

Branding                                                         Missing names of slaves                     Status of black women           

‘Death over foreign servitude’                        Mutilation                                           Whippings      

Fugitive                                                           Property                                 

“Gator Babies”                                                Probated wills                                    

Imprisonment                                                  “Slave for life”                                   

Illustration of slaves in chains, from the August 1838 edition of the American Antislavery Alamanac.

Illustration of slaves in chains. From Southern, N., American Antislavery Almanac (August 1838). Boston: Isaac Knapp, Publisher. https://archive.org/details/americanantislav1838chil/page/20/mode/2up

Slaves under the overseer's whip, illustration from the American Antislavery Almananc, 1838.

Illustration of slaves under the overseer’s whip. From Southern, N., American Antislavery Almanac (August 1838). Boston: Isaac Knapp, Publisher. https://archive.org/details/americanantislav1838chil/page/20/mode/2up

With many more expressions and reminders of our ‘gloomy past,’ Mark and I continued our path as overcomers. We focus on the ‘the white gleam of our bright star is cast,’ as penned by James Weldon Johnson in the poem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” It was written during a time when Jim Crow replaced slavery. His brother, John Rosamond Johnson, composed the song that is sung today and affectionately known as the “National Negro Anthem.”  The words to this anthem are a go-to song of comfort, faith and hope for the future. ­

Lift Every Voice and Sing

James Weldon Johnson – 1871-1938

Lift every voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast’ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

From Saint Peter Relates an Incident by James Weldon Johnson. Copyright © 1917, 1921, 1935 James Weldon Johnson, renewed 1963 by Grace Nail Johnson.

Let’s get started.

Out of Sight: An Introduction to Unearthing Your African American and Afro-Caribbean Genealogy

A complimentary copy of portions of an e-book written by First Cousins Dr. Ann Wead Kimbrough and Mark S. Owen, MS

Awaiting Final Editing and Proof from Publisher.

© Copy right (2021) by Dr. Ann Lineve Wead and Mark S. Owen, MS, Good Genes Genealogy Services – All rights reserved.

It is not legal to reproduce, duplicate, or transmit any part of this document in either electronic means or printed format. Recording of this publication is strictly prohibited.

This book is dedicated to our collective family. The winding, twisting, inspiring, troubling, confusing, and often rewarding stories from our family have inspired us –
 first cousins, maternal side – and we now present our first joint work.

The book is primarily written by Ann with help from Cousin Mark.

Thank you, ancestors and living family for giving us life.

Mark (in memory of Mom Lyla Owen) Owen

and

Ann Lineve (in honor of Lyla’s oldest sister and my Mom, Angeline Owen) Wead

January 20, 2021


Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 5

Part I: Out of Our Gloomy Past       

Slavery’s Impact Upon Black Genealogical Research ……………………………………………………………………. 6

Pre- and Post-Civil War Searches ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 8

Making the most of “Brick Walls” ……………………………………………………………………………………………… 9

Mental, Psychological, Spiritual Walls ………………………………………………………………………………………. 10

Find a Way or Make One ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 15

Treasure Hunts ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 16

“Use What You Got” ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 18

1930 United States Federal Census …………………………………………………………………………………………… 34

Questions to get you started with family history interviews …………………………………………………………… 44

Childhood …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 44

Marriage ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 44

Parents and Family …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 45

Holidays and Celebrations ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 45

Major and Historical Events …………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 45

Part II: The Workbook – The Game Changers in Black Genealogy

Sharing Your Story ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 46

Top Black Genealogy Sources …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 48

Other resources­­ ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 50

Hidden Figures in Your Family – House Hunting ………………………………………………………………………… 58

Introduction

Thank you for investing in your future by learning tried-and-true techniques that will help to unlock your family’s rich history.

The goal of this e-book is to help you efficiently navigate through the challenging and lengthy genealogy searches for African American ancestors.  Patience is a virtue for researchers on this journey. The intriguing stories about our ancestors who overcame huge obstacles to allow us to thrive will surely inspire you as a researcher. 

It is a good time to be a researcher of African American genealogy. When I restarted my interest in family genealogy, it was 2007 and the African American genealogical records were limited. Nearly 15 years later, an abundance of materials is available through government websites, Internet links and private sources that include professional genealogy researchers. 

African American genealogy discoveries typically include Native American, European and sometimes, West Indian or Afro-American. My cousin and genealogy collaborator, Mark Owen, recognized that our family composition fits the typical African American bloodline. Our family also share a common tortured history as that of our African American and to a lesser extent, Afro-Caribbean brethren and that is explained in one word: Slavery.

Gems from Ancestry Gems


A few jewelry pieces gifted to me from my maternal grandmother, Helen “Mama Helen” Wilkes Owen Douthy.

Mama Helen, my maternal grandmother, had the most extensive jewelry collection with pieces from the 1920s – 1960s https://hobbylark.com/collecting/antique-jewelry3 that remain rare finds. She bought some jewelry in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, yet she really valued her collectables.

She offered a story behind just about every piece of jewelry. It is why I am able to piece together so many connecting points in her life and that of our family. Her pearl necklaces from Asia, Native American pieces from Mexico and Harlem Renaissance-era bracelets and necklaces, are among the several pieces in her jewelry collection that give a glimpse into how this mother of six really lived. As an aside, my mother, Angie Wead, who is now in her 80s, is Mama Helen’s oldest child.

What she left behind and what you may locate in your relatives’ jewelry boxes is more valuable in genealogy research.

If you wish to know more about how to turn your ancestor’s home into a genealogical treasure hunt for “Road Show”-style results and for successful ancestral purposes, plan to join us for three workshops Family Genealogy Workshop – Hillside International Truth Center in February 2021. The workshops are tax deductible and all proceeds will benefit the Sankofa Hillside International Truth Center, Atlanta, GA.

Liggins Legacy-building in ‘this life’

Omaha, Nebraska’s Woods-Hughes-Liggins family is very special to the Owen-Wead family.

My Dad, Dr. Rodney S. Wead, https://northomahahistory.com/2019/12/11/a-biography-of-rodney-wead/considers Media Maven Cathy Hughes https://www.omahamagazine.com/2018/11/21/301576/cathy-hughes his “little sis.”

Dad and Cathy met as youthful residents in the Logan Fontenelle Housing Development “The ‘jects” https://northomahahistory.com/2015/08/20/a-history-of-the-logan-fontenelle-housing-projects/. Cathy’s Dad, William Alfred Woods, attended Creighton University and became the first African American to earn an accounting degree at the Omaha institution. https://leoadambiga.com/2010/04/29/His family moved out of Logan Fontenelle for a better life for his children (4th child is Cathy), wife, Helen Jones Woods, world-renowned founder and glass ceiling breaker of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&ei=UTF-8&p=Helen+Jones+Woods&type=E211US1494G0#id=2&vid=d01749fc55514eb606b68e2a725136ec&action=click.


It is no surprise that the legacy of the Woods-Liggins-Hughes lives on. Spend 8 minutes watching this exciting video!

https://www.instagram.com/tv/CMdc94rHSuU/?igshid=1my9jvqrxqky7

Alfred Liggins, CEO, TV/RadioONE,https://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/alfred-liggins-iii announced a significant project to benefit Richmond, Virginia and beyond.

The celebration of our ancestor’s history begins right now with visionary folk. I can see and feel the future in African American economic, ecological, social, educational, health and wellness, et al.

Congrats to the principal visionary of this empire, Cathy Hughes!

She remains our Omaha, Nebraska native powerhouse!

Breaking through the Ice: First Black Ice Figure Skater could not compete during tragic Jim Crow era

Honored now posthumously by Ice Skating organizations, young black women

Mabel Fairbanks

Mabel Fairbanks was born in Jacksonville, Florida in the early 1920s. Life there was subjugated by abject poverty, bigotry, and Jim Crow laws. In the early 1930s, there was a great migration north in which Fairbanks’ brothers and sisters moved to New York City. She herself followed along. There, at an early age, she was drawn to the sport of figure skating. During the cold winters of the city, she would curiously watch from afar the twirling and gliding skaters in Central Park. But it was after seeing Sonja Henie’s movie “One In A Million” that she was determined to learn to skate. She took herself to the north end of Harlem with a pair of used, oversize skates, and on small frozen ponds and rivulets, she started to teach herself to skate. In her continued desire to practice her skills on ice, she ventured out into the city to find a proper ice rink facility. Time after time she was denied entrance to skate at many of the city’s coveted rinks because of her color, but she did not let that deter her. The manager of the Gay Blades Ice Rink on West 52nd St. noted her persistence and finally let her in, only to request that she could only skate the last 30 minutes of the evening session. As a result, with her enthusiasm and dazzling spirit she caught the eye of the legendary 9 time U.S. Ladies Champion, Maribel Vinson Owen, who helped refine Fairbanks’ skating technique with tips and pointers. Fairbanks was finally shattering the race barrier in the city. Because she was not allowed to compete due to race and bigotry of the skating community in the city, Owen encouraged her to create her own shows and events. Taking that suggestion to heart, she soon was producing her own shows at the Gay Blades Ice Rink after their closing hours, as well shows in the Supper Clubs, the Apollo Theatre, and other social venues in and around Harlem. In the late 40s Fairbanks left the east coast for California. She quickly gained fame and respect first becoming the coach of the children of Hollywood’s elite — Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Ozzie and Harriet’s Ricky Nelson, and Otto Preminger. She made guest appearances on the popular KTLA TV show “Frosty Frolics.” But eventually her deep desire was to become the coach of young competitive skaters of all races with her primary focus in helping nurture and support African American figure skaters. The list of some of those talented students includes: Atoy Wilson, Richard Ewell and Michelle McCladdie, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, Bobby Beauchamp, Leslie Robinson, and many others. Along with inspiring, mentoring, and knowing champions — Peggy Fleming, Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi, Rudy Galindo and Debi Thomas — her coaching style helped her students to become not only great champions but also upstanding individuals. Even though she herself never stood on a podium as a champion, she took great pride and satisfaction in her students who did. And with that, her vision and goals were accomplished and fulfilled. Fairbanks coached until she was 79 years young. In 1997, Fairbanks was the first African American to be inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame. In October of 2001 she was posthumously inducted into the Women’s Sports Foundation Hall of Fame. Mabel Fairbanks quietly passed in Sept of 2001 in Burbank, California, leaving a bright legacy as a trailblazer and the Grand Dame of African American figure skaters.

Celebrate the life and accomplishments of Mabel Fairbanks at the 2021 Champions in Life Virtual Benefit Gala!

She walked 2,000 miles: Bridget “Biddy” Mason (U.S. National Park Service)

https://www.nps.gov/people/biddymason.htm

Perhaps the earliest Black woman to amass wealth and settle in Los Angeles