Monday, April 19, 2010
Paul Lewis Ransom: Bearer of Family Tradition
After noticing how individuals from the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements were ashamed and embarrassed of their ancestors’ enslaved heritage, Paul Lewis Ransom (1885-1980), the youngest son of enslaved parents Joseph and Betsy (McGill) Ransom, sat down and wrote the “History of the Ransom Family” in 1974. The History was based on the lives of his parents , paternal grandfather (Joseph Ransom, Sr.) and maternal grandmother (Jane King) during slavery and post-emancipation.
Uncle Paul felt that “it is very important and necessary for everyone regardless of whose family, to know something about his or her family background.” He also understood the impact of slavery on African American family history. “It is virtually impossible, especially for the Black race, in the United States to know what he should know because he was brought here as slaves, and throughout the slave period, the Blacks reproduced, and were sold to different slave owners, traded, etc., many never seen nor heard from their children, parents again after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, and they were freed.”
By taking the time to record the family history he would ensure future generations would know the history and legacy of the Ransom Family. In 1991, I received a copy of the Ransom Family, from Uncle Paul’s daughter Adelle Martin (1915-2004). At the time, she mentioned that she was working on documenting the history using census records only. In between attending college, working, and travelling through Southern Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, I worked on substantiating the family history especially identifying the last slave owner(s). In addition, I would share my findings with Cousin Adelle. I remember sending her copies of the 1860 U.S. Federal Census - Slave Schedules for Freestone County, Texas which listed a J. H. Moody as a slave owner. She was so excited to see this information, since her father had told her that the family was once owned by the Moody. He stated that “the slave master who owned our father was named Moody and the master who owned his father was named Ransom so naturally the family could have easily gone in the name Moody and would have done so, if father had not been introduced to his father after slavery.”
Although the slave schedule did not confirm whether or not our ancestors were owned by J. H. Moody, it was enough information for Cousin Adelle to march over to the descendants of the Moody family in Ft. Worth, Texas, who doubted that their family ever owned slaves. She later told me that she received a very cold reception from the descendants but that she was determine to prove her father was correct.
It would be another five years before I would be able to substantiate that my family were owned by the Moody Family out of Chesterfield County, Virginia. They would eventually move to Fairfield, Freestone County, Texas. My ancestors would be a part of this migration west to the Lone Star State.
I am far from done on researching my Ransom heritage, however I feel very honor and thankful to have a relative who understood the important of family and history.