Thursday, December 29, 2011

Conducting Slave Era Research

Join Aaron Dorsey with host Bernice Bennett

December 29th at 9 pm eastern and 8 pm central time.

Conducting Slave Era Research Part II is a continuation of the discussion on strategic approaches to finding your enslaved ancestors. A majority of the show will respond to questions from the listening audience. Listeners are invited to post questions prior to the broadcast.

Aaron Dorsey, has been doing genealogical research for over 10 years. His undergraduate degree in U.S. History and graduate degree in Education Policy is from Stanford University. He began researching his family history after reading Jubilee by Margaret Walker-Alexander for a Survey of African American Literature at the College of Alameda. He has documented the history of his family in Alabama, California, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. However, the focus of his research has been concentrated in Texas where he has traced his ancestors to 1839. His Texas research has been featured in the ARK-LA-TEX Genealogical Association, Inc.’s The Genie. Aaron is currently working on two books one focusing on slave era research and the other pertaining to the 1868 voter registration in Leon County, Texas.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Honoring Our Enslaved Ancestors

On February 12, 2011, the Afro- American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc. Central Maryland Chapter in partnership with the St. John Baptist Church (SJBC) Heritage Cluster, hosted an African Libation Ceremony. Libation is a ritual pouring of a drink as an offering to a spirit or god or in memory of those who have died. In certain African cultures, the ritual of pouring libation is an essential ceremonial tradition and a way of giving homage to the ancestors. 

Joseph Ransom (1846-1916)
The ceremony was a tribute to our enslaved ancestors. In preparation, for the event members of the Central Maryland Chapter and SJBC Heritage Cluster were asked to submit the names, date and place of birth and death, slave owners names, and other significant information about their enslaved ancestors. The information was used to create a Slave Commemoration Scroll. The Scroll symbolized the struggles and significant sacrifice they made to their family, community and nation. In honoring them the hope is to focus the attention of the community on the importance of preserving African American heritage and on the role of slavery in American history. There were over 130 names on the scroll.
Henry Dorsey (1844-1943)

Omo Ama Safowah performed the libation ceremony in Twi and called out the names of the ancestors on the scroll as well as recognizing the names of those we will never know. She talked about their sacrifices, and achievement despite great obstacles. It was a very moving experience as the names of our ancestors were called out.

Following the libation ceremony, a pictorial tribute titled Tribute to Enslaved Ancestors which included pictures of individuals listed on the scroll, played. 

 The overall program was a wonderful tribute. I am sure that our ancestors were looking down on us.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Franklin & Armfield Slave Office

 One of the nation’s largest slave trading firms, Franklin & Armfield, operated from this townhouse on Duke Street from 1828-1836. Enslaved Africans awaiting shipment to slave markets in New Orleans and Natchez were imprisoned in walled pens behind the house. At night they slept in a two-story rear wing with grated doors and windows.

For enslaved Africans in Virginia, there were few fates worse than Duke Street. “Louisiana was considered by slaves a place of slaughter,” wrote emancipated slave Jacob Stroyer. With the same sentiment, Rev. Josiah Henson, thought to be the basis for Harriet Beecher Stowes’ fictional Uncle Tom, wrote in his autobiography that the fear of being sold south filled enslaved individuals of the upper South with “perpetual dread.”

Now known as Freedom House, the Franklin and Armfield Office was started by Isaac Franklin and John Armfield. The office was known to have been the largest slave trading firm in the antebellum south. At its height in the 1830s, the firm transported between 1,000 and 1,200 enslaved individuals from Alexandria to Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, Natchez and New Orleans each year.  In 1846 the Duke Street property was purchased by a Franklin & Armfield agent, George Kephart, and in 1858 to a third slave trading firm, Price, Birch, and Co. The Adamesque structure, built in 1812 for General Andrew Young, was used to jail Union army deserters and house freed “contraband” Blacks after Alexandria fell to Union troops in 1861. In 1863 the building provided the first meeting place for Shiloh Baptist Church, founded by former slaves housed there. The slave pens were demolished in the 1870s. The property was used by the Union to imprison Confederate soldiers and was then a hospital from 1878-1885.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Featured Speaker: Aaron Dorsey

It has definitely been awhile since my last post. After my aunt passed away, I kind of lost interest in doing genealogy. She was my genealogy buddy who I could share my challenges and successes with - no matter how big or small. For the past few months, I have been slowly getting back my passion for genealogy.

My aunt always felt that I needed to share my knowledge and skills of conducting slave era research since I have been somewhat successful.  In addition, my good friend Robyn at Reclaiming Kin, has been encouraging me to start presenting at local and national meetings for over a year now. So yesterday, January 22, 2011, I
took the plunge and conducted my first professional genealogy presentation on Slave Era Research at the bi-monthly meeting of the Central Maryland Chapter of the African American Historical & Genealogical Society in Columbia, Maryland. 
 Over fifty people, from novice to advance researchers, were in attendance for the 90 minute session.  Despite the fact that the subject matter is advance African American research, I was able to provide information and strategies for everyone. My friend, Angela Walton-Raji at My Ancestor’s Name, has provided an excellent summary of my presentation including a 90 second video of me discussing several books.
The session was well received by all who attended. And all I can say is what a great way to start off the New Year. I cannot wait until my next presentation.