Relatives of OKC resident documented in Depression-era slave narrative share more family history

What’s it like to be raised by an ex-slave? Ask Frank Luster. The Oklahoma City resident was born 89 years ago as the grandson of emancipated slave Bert Luster. After the death of Frank’s birth father — who was the former slave’s biological son — Bert took in the boy to take the hardship off his mother. “(Bert) taught me and raised me —everything I know,” said Frank Luster, who joined his grandfather at age 3 in OKC. Bert Luster was mentioned in Oklahoma Gazette’s Feb. 24, 2010, cover story titled “Ex-slaves” during Black History Month. Following publication, Luster’s … [Read more...]

Preserving black history, with Smithsonian help

Like so many black Americans before him, Marvin Greer figured slavery and migration had hopelessly scattered the heirlooms of his family's past. Now he's found some of them, but and he's not sure how to keep them intact. The 23-year-old history buff looked on anxiously recently as a Smithsonian Institution worker catalogued and inspected his personal trove of portraits and military discharge papers, part of a museum-led push to help families like his save their history. Years after author Alex Haley first encouraged blacks to research their roots, many are digging into attics and … [Read more...]

Kansas State Archives Exoduster Reconnection IV Conference

Votaw Colony Museum, Inc. announces Reconnection IV Conference which highlights the history and heritage of African American settlements in Kansas. This years event will be held at the Kansas State History Center, 6425 SW 6th Street, Topeka, Kansas 66615 on Thursday,April 22 and end with a tour of Tennesseetown, Redmondsville and Mudtown in Shawnee County on Friday, April 23, 2010. Luncheon keynote speaker for the conference is the noted author, Dr. Thomas C. Cox, from the University of Southern California, author of Blacks in Topeka, Kansas 1865-1915: A Social History. In addition to … [Read more...]

70% African, 30% European: Who am I now?

I have spent a lot of time over the past few days ruminating on racial identity. My thoughts were sparked by a confluence of events: Last week, PBS aired the final episode of Dr. Henry Louis Gates' "Faces of America"--the one where participants including comedian Stephen Colbert, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and poet Elizabeth Alexander learned the results of autosomal DNA tests designed to uncover their "racial" lineage. I received a link to a study being conducted by the University of British Columbia, seeking to determine if and how similar DNA tests have influenced participants' identities. And I also … [Read more...]

Gift preserves rare history

Frank W. Davis Sr. was an ordinary man. He ran a business, raised a family and was dedicated to his church and his Masonic lodge, said his granddaughter, Josie Davis, who was 5 when he died in 1948 at age 86. She remembers a few details, such as he used to wear a leather cap and jacket, exercised after retiring by walking daily to downtown and his favorite hymn was “I’ll Fly Away.” “He would sit me on his lap and sing that to me,” said Josie Davis, 66, of Rocky Mount. Now, she is sharing her grandfather with the world. A ceremony held Thursday at Braswell Memorial Library honored her … [Read more...]

An Ancestry of African-Native Americans

Angela Walton-Raji has been researching African-Native American genealogy for nearly 20 years and is the author of the book Black Indian Genealogy Research: African-American Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes. She recently presented a series of genealogy workshops at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the exhibit IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas. Walton-Raji’s ancestors are Freedmen, African-Americans who were slaves of the Five Civilized Tribes – the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Nations – in … [Read more...]

Pardons pushed for Kentuckians convicted of helping slaves escape

The Rev. Calvin Fairbank spent 17 years in a Kentucky prison — suffering beatings and brutal labor — for committing the felony of helping slaves escape to freedom. Released in 1864, a broken man, he kissed the dirt of Ohio upon reaching that free state. "Out of the jaws of Hell!" Fairbank cried, according to his autobiography. In the 19th century, Kentucky convicted at least 58 people for "seducing or enticing slaves to leave their lawful owners." Defendants faced 20 years in the Kentucky State Penitentiary, where some died. One, David C. McDonald, was forgotten and languished in prison until … [Read more...]

Freedom papers reveal Berks’ past

Sixty years before Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, John Teysher of Oley Township felt the spirit of independence and freed two slaves. "From motives of benevolence and humanity, I manumit, set free from slavery, my Negro man Michael," Teysher wrote in a declaration of freedom filed with the Berks County recorder of deeds on Oct. 15, 1802. Two months later, around Christmas, Teysher freed a female slave named Betts. The papers that granted freedom to Teysher's slaves went unnoticed for more than 200 years in deed books stored in the county archives. But … [Read more...]

National Archives Hosts 6th Genealogy Fair, April 14-15, 2010

WASHINGTON, March 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being issued by the National Archives: Free two-day genealogy fair to focus on "The World of Genealogy" WHAT: The National Archives will host its sixth annual Genealogy Fair: The World of Genealogy on April 14 and 15, 2010, from 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. This year's two-day program will showcase the diversity of Federal records located at the National Archives as resources for family history research. Speakers include National Archives staff, historians, and genealogy professionals. The fair will provide information and … [Read more...]