Friday, April 30, 2010

Negro Speaks of Rivers

I dedicate this poem to my ancestors and all the waterways that they traveled .

Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human rivers
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Latest Recipient of Ancestor Approved Award

I am honored to have received my first blog award from colleagues and genealogy friends The Family Griot, J-MAC JOURNEY, and My Ancestor’s Name. This award really means a lot since I was initially hesitant about blogging about my genealogy experience. It is good to know that individuals appreciate what I have to share about conducting African American genealogical research.

As a recipient of the Ancestor Approved Award, I must list ten things I learned about my ancestors that have surprised, humbled, or enlightened me.


1)My great great grandfather, Jefferson Haynes, was the parent of thirty-two children.

2)Learning that my maternal grandmother, Cosette Stanley, laid in front of a greyhound bus to protest segregation in Naples, Texas when she was 5 years old.

3)Discovering that an insurance policy was taken out on my great great great great father, Joseph Ransom in 1846.

4)Finding out that the slave owner’s son post a surety bond for my great great great grandfather Andy Perkins who was charged with attempted murder in 1873.

5)Being to locate my great great great grandfather’s sister Betsy (Ransom) Harris who was separated from the family in 1843.


6)That despite the hardships of enslavement and Jim Crow, my ancestors did not lose faith in the United States or the American Dream.

7)My great grandfather, R. Matthew Stanley, taught himself to read and write by candle light after working 12 hours days picking cotton.

8)By the assistance I have received from complete strangers over the years.


9)By the amount of information I have been able to obtain on my enslaved ancestors and the lives they created during slavery.

10)By the awesome history and legacy that my ancestors have given me.

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.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Walter and Iola (Simpson) Haynes

Today marks a very sad day for my family. On this day 33 years ago (2 April 1977), my great grandparent Walter and Iola (Simpson) Haynes were found murdered in their home located six miles south of Jewett, Leon County, Texas. Jadie Haynes (1909-1983), the younger brother of Walter, discovered their bodies. Law enforcement assumed that the murder was a result of a robbery gone bad as the house appeared to be ransacked. However my family has their own theories regarding the murder which included a century old struggle over land and mineral rights and racial hostilities. Despite the motives or theories the case was never solved.

Over the next several years following the incident, my grandmother, Luora Haynes-Patterson (1922-2008), sought the assistance of various organizations both nationally and locally to bring attention to the incident and apprehen the individual(s) responsible. Unfortunately, all the letters and phone calls did not produce any results. Eventually, her persistence and determination turned into frustration and helplessness with the passage of time. I remember talking with my grandmother many years later, after I started researching the family history, about the incident. In recounting this painful incident, she expressed frustration at the lack of assistance and interest the case was given. She felt that since the victims were an old African American couple that lived in a rural community in Texas, it wasn’t a priority.

Prior to researching my family history I knew very little about this incident outside of overhearing my mother telling a family member that my father’s grandparents were killed. Only after 15 years of researching would I feel ready to learn the details about my ancestors' death. So about six months ago, I started conducting my own investigation gathering information on the case. I have sent several inquiries to the Leon County 86th District Court, Sheriff Office, Justice of the Peace, Harris County Medical Examiner, and the Texas Department of Public Safety about the murders. On 7 January 2010, I received a letter and some documents pertaining to the case from the Leon County Sheriff's Office. In addition, I was informed that the case was being examined as a "cold case" due to my inquiry. I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement about the possibility of this case being solved after so many years. I immediately told my father of the news, he responded with “You have manifested the persistence and smarts that many of us have had depleted by the passage of time. Congratulations! I am very proud of you.” Although I do not know what the outcome will be of the re-opening of the case, I am hopeful that justice and peace will finally be rendered to my great grandparents Walter and Iola (Simpson) Haynes.

Walter and Iola passed away before I was able to meet them but their love for family and faith in God has been a constant presence in my life.