As I sit quietly processing episode 2 of the 6 part series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, I’m still deeply moved by how tonight’s episode The Age of Slavery, spoke so clearly to historical events impacting my Ancestors of the past and my research today.
I’m anxious to enjoy a second [or third] viewing! Not tweeting or chatting… just taking it all in through the lens of a student. Tonight’s lesson, delivered MANY insights I’ll use as catalyst to chart NEW research next steps.
I know my Uncle Jake the Rev. Ronald JACKSON, Sr. is sporting his wide jolly grin at me being schooled on the legacy of Richard ALLEN and his 1816 founding of the African Methodist Episcopal Church! A feat Uncle Jake spent MANY vacation bible school summers trying to accomplish!:)
There were nuggets in the King Cotton and Underground Railroad commentaries that will fuel my ability to tell Grandpa Philip CARTER’s story in the near future and possibly aid me in answering how/why my Ancestors eventually found a home in Cincinnati, Ohio. Did they travel the Ohio River Freedom Walk too?
Equally moving — albeit it for different reasons — is the online response of black and white genealogy bloggers/tweeters to the Many Rivers to Cross narrative.
For the most part, on one side of the community, there’s an almost palatable sense of shame [mixed with guilt] present; manifesting as a “let’s just ignore this temporary distraction until it goes away” type of approach. Certainly tweets are fewer and feel somewhat awkward? There’s little mention of the historic timeline being discussed or dialogue pertaining to the present-day impacts of our shared history. I get the feeling it’s an uncomfortable 60 minutes to sit through and one many are relieved to see pass.
As tragic as our Ancestors American experience was, and painful for us their descendants to witness, undeniable pride resonates from the online black community as Henry Gates Jr. recounts in impeccable detail, the struggle and the strength of the Ancestors who journeyed before us. The exchange happening online is soul edifying; a community discourse so naturally open, easy and uplifting that we linger long after the episode ends. We are left hungry, still wanting more.
If not before, when Many Rivers to Cross airs, there’s a HUGE, weighty [historical] elephant sitting in the room that for me is troubling.
This is a dialogue we (the genealogy community as a whole) need to be comfortable having. There’s no tip-toeing around its ugliness or impacts. The blow of history doesn’t lessen over time.
Whether we encourage conversations with our diverse family and friends or initiate them with the descendants of those who owned our Ancestors, I do hope we find the courage to have them.
Ultimately our pre-1865 history rests in the hands of descendants whose Ancestors are long gone. And this history and our societal failure to pro-actively acknowledge it, is the root of our present day race/culture challenges.
I carry no shame of my Slave Ancestored lineage, just the honor of righting the aspects of it I have the ability to restore TODAY.
I certainly encourage the broader genealogy community to join in the learning and growth happening via this series.
It’s time to move forward. The elephant needs to exit the room so collective progress can take its place!