Thursday, October 13, 2005

Family Reunion

My family owned slaves.
There is no getting around that fact. We have the documentation to prove it.
In fact some of my ancestors were instrumental in getting legislation passed that would make the enslavement of Native Americans legal.
For more years than I recall I have wanted to find the descendants of my family's slaves. But I had so many questions. In our family wills, they didn't even bother to put last names.

"The slave woman, Mary

The boy, Raphe"

Last night I was standing in line to sign my name and an African-American couple were in front of me. As they stepped away I looked at the name they had signed and stopped in my tracks.

It was my maiden name.

My maiden name is not a common one.

I touched the woman on the arm and drew her to the side. I pointed to her signature because even though I had watched her sign it with my own eyes, I couldn't believe it. I asked her, "Is that your name?" She said yes.
I told her that was my maiden name. I asked her if I could get her information so that I could contact her. I stammered and paused not knowing quite how to say the words. They caught in my throat.
"My family owned slaves."

We spoke very little, but understood each other perfectly. I couldn't believe how sweet and gracious she was to me. I told her how this had been a prayer of mine. Knowing my family history, and the rarity of my maiden name, I said in an awed whisper, "It has to be."

She looked at me and said "Yes."


madcapmum said...

That's an incredible opportunity. What a gracious lady indeed.

Stephen Bess said...

Hello and thanks for stopping by. Two years ago, I actually found the website of the family who owned my ancestors in North Carolina. I think that it's great that you are trying to visit that part of you. I feel that it would do a lot of good for you and those that you come in contact with. It is my belief that most Black people would be relieved that not all descendants of slave owners agree with what their ancestors took part in. Anyway, I left a post on their website and this is what it read:

Stephen Bess Tuesday, 12/23/03, 8:07 AM

Happy holidays!! I am a descendant of Ezekiel Roberson who was a slave on the Cross Roads plantation. I feel that your website is really important because it gives me a sense of connection to my ancestors in Martin County, NC. I am fortunate because there are many African-Americans in this country who have no idea what land their ancestors worked and tilled. My grandmother Eunice Roberson Best grew up in Robersonville and she taught me all that I know about that area and our family. She joined our ancestors in April of 1999. Her memory will live on forever along with the memory of those who preceded her.

From: Washington, D.C.

voixdange said...

Thank you Stephen for the encouragement. I am facing this with a lot of trepidation as I have no idea what to expect. I deeply appreciate your comments.
Also I like your writing style on your blog. I appreciate writing that is very concise yet holds a deep impact.

MCM - Yes she was.

Stephen Bess said...

Your words are very kind. Thank you so much. Writing is a challenge and something that I love dearly. I'll be visiting your blog from time to time. I can appreciate your views on life and God. Peace~

Sarah Elaine said...

Very cool that you had the courage even to ask them. Just think of it in this way... In a way, these people could be part of your family -- "adopted" family, in a way. :-)

The "trepidation" you speak of is in some ways similar to that which those of us who have been through adoption reunions have felt. It's normal. Hopefully, it will all work out.