Free and public access to historic newspapers reporting about African Americans during those challenging reseach years — 1880 to the 1920s and beyond — is available thanks to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.
How to accomplish your new searches? It is straightforward:
You have to be somewhat of a detective to capture Black genealogy to share the best histories of our ancestors.
As we seek clues to establishing our black ancestry ties, always turn to the non-traditional sources such as this playlist from the nation’s first black-owned and operated radio station that was found in my hometown, KOWH-AM/FM.
This particular play list of February 1972 is more than a ranking of the top tunes among black radio listeners. It provides the first and last names, the titles and photos of the DJs and management involved in KOWH-AM/FM’s day-to-day operations.
There are a lot of themes and other nuisances associated with this playlist. For example, you can tell that there was a background sheet as the “Sound of Soul” and “Soul Men” are among the best placed graphics. The sheet was obviously placed in a typewriter as the strong impressions reveal the strength of the stroke keys.
You have to be somewhat of a detective to capture Black genealogy to share the best histories of our ancestors.
Family kudos: My Dad, Dr. Rodney S. Wead, was the initiator of KOWH-AM/FM. He was able to convince other folk to raise the $500K capital needed for the downpayment of the radio station in the early 1970s. The result was a world-class radio station that I loved.
Celebrating XiXiZeta’s annual Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Finer Womanhood Celebration at St. Paul AME Church, Lithonia, GA
On the 3rd Sunday morning in February 2021, when members of my sorority gathered for our annual “Finer Womanhood” worship service, special African American history lessons were delivered in song and sermon. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., XiXiZeta Chapter members, among the congregants in virtual settings and socially distanced vehicles, received valuable tips on life’s “chain breaking.”
When the Dr. (Medical) Rev. Marvin L. Crawford was a child, his grandmother would tell him a story about her father Joshua (pronounced Josh-u-ay) who was a slave in 1863 when the word was passed around that slaves are being set free.
The day after that announcement, Joshua was said to get up on a table and dance to the tune of a fiddler. When the year was coming to an end and New Year’s Eve arrived, gatherings of slaves “watched all night long” and at about 12:01 a.m., Pastor Crawford’s grandmother told him that the people shouted for they knew the Emancipation Proclamation would set them free from the chains of the enslaved.
“Let the chains fall off,” extoled Pastor Crawford, pastor, preacher and physician from atop his outdoors perch with the south DeKalb County (Ga) community landscape in the background.
This Sunday morning, I am visiting one of my favorite churches, greatest congregations and perhaps the hardest and smartest-working pastor in the metro Atlanta area. An Associate Professor, The Morehouse School of Medicine, who directs 3rd and 4th year students during their training at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, also ensures that his church operates a food pantry and serves the community in countless ways.
As vehicles traveled by and the cold day’s sunshine broke through, Pastor Crawford told the virtual and in-car congregants that they must be like the ancestors and Peter, whose story of jail bondage by King Herod is found in Acts 12. Peter was imprisoned by the King, who was a Jewish man, because Peter was a Christian.
“The Herods of our do the same thing” as King Herod, said Pastor Crawford. The persecution that Peter and other Christians received by the King was similar to voter suppression, quieting of voices of women, Blacks and others. It is found in the proposed laws to restrict absentee voting. The Herod affect is evidenced in the deaths of civil rights leaders, George Floyd and Ahmad Aubrey, Pastor Crawford asserted.
The goal of the chains is to “destroy movements … make voting hard and close the doors on you,” preached. Yet, watch, fight and pray.”
Peter’s prayers and those of his church members gathered at John Mark’s mother, Mary’s home,” freed Peter. The Bible reveals that angels appeared while he was asleep and removed the chains. They asked people to put on his own clothes and sandals, arise and walk out of the prison with them guarding him on each side. The prison guards did not touch him, the prison gate opened and he walked humbly and triumphantly to the place where the “saints” gathered in prayer.
Be like Peter and do not become jealous or revengeful for “that is not as God has made you. Those are not your clothes. Those are someone else’s clothes. Pull off the prison clothes ….”put on your own clothes and live,” Pastor Crawford emphasized.
He gave examples of what keeps individuals chained in their inward prisons, bondage-like.
We are marching in the light of God, We are marching in the light of God, We are marching in the light of God, We are marching in the light of, The light of God, We are marching, marching, We are marching, marching, We are marching in the light of, The light of God, We are marching, marching, We are marching, marching, We are marching in the light of God.
This picture strikes a perfect pitch for genealogists seeking accurate records about ancestors.
It’s my maternal side’s great-granduncle Ernest Wilks (name spelled incorrectly above) who is posing with his saxophone in this 1929 picture of the Pike’s Roamers Band. I happened upon this picture in the 7-volume “Blacks in the Ozarks.”
Here’s how Uncle Ernest’s photo broke through a long-term brick wall regarding his life outside of an outstanding military career:
The photo provides a date — sometime in 1929 — as indicated by the writing on the bottom right, near the drum skin. It also appears that the photography studio is listed nearby.
The name of the band is written on the picture along with the location of the photo — Springfield, Missouri. That is where Great-uncle Ernest was born in March 1909.
The recorder of the photograph is also a first cousin, twice removed, Alberta Renfro Duncan. She has an interesting notation that indicates the band in the picture is an outgrowth of another band by another name.
I started researching Uncle Ernest’s musical talents and learned that he is among the jazz trombonists chronicled in historical documents. In fact, one of my Florida water aerobics’ classmates recognized the name and he told me a lot about the bands that Uncle Ernest played in and his great musical abilities.
Uncle Ernest in Hawaii in an unknown year
I started researching my great-grandmother, Edna Wilks Robinson’s brothers after her death in 1989. I relied on what I recalled about each uncle and also consulted my mother, Angie Owen Wead. However, Mom only knew that Uncle Ernest was quite content with living in Hawaii. She knew that he retired there after a great military. That was it.
Sometimes when relatives end their knowledge of an ancestor, it may appear to be a brick wall. Yet, with Uncle Ernest’s military record and musical interests, the opportunities increased for me to learn more about him. My first Cousin Mark Owen, also my partner in our genealogical services business, located great photos of Uncle Ernest from the files of other ancestors.
That’s what made it even more rewarding to locate Uncle Ernest in his hometown playing in a band. I also found him in Honolulu playing in a band. From all indications, this permanent bachelor lived his best life.
Dr. Ann Lineve Wead Kimbrough is a certified genealogist interested in reconstructing her family’s histories. Beginning in February 2021, she will begin offering workshops and other Black Genealogy Services along with her partner and cousin, Mark Owen.
One of my favorite government sources for genealogy research is the Library of Congress. The listing of library media is dated, to be sure. However, the information about our ancestors is relevant.
“The following publications include several pictures from our files and can thus be of help in locating images. Please note that only pictures credited specifically to the Library of Congress can be ordered from us. In requesting copies of these pictures, we suggest that you send a xerox of the image as well as a complete citation for the book from which it was taken (including page number).” – Library of Congress
Let’s get started
The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture. Edited by Debra Newman Ham. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1993. [LC call number: Z1361.N39L47 1993 P&P Afr-Amer]
Boime, Albert. The Art of Exclusion: Representing Blacks in the Nineteenth Century. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989. [LC call number: N8232.B57 1989 P&P Afr-Amer]
Campbell, Edward D.C. Before Freedom Came: African-American Life in the Antebellum South: To Accompany an Exhibition Organized by the Museum of the Confederacy. Richmond: The Museum of the Confederacy; Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991. [LC call number: E443.B44 1991 P&P Afr- Amer]
Cashman, Sean Dennis. African-Americans and the Quest for Civil Rights, 1900-1990. New York: New York University Press, 1991. [LC call number: E185.61.C292 1991 P&P Afr-Amer]
Christopher, Maurine. Black Americans in Congress. Revised ed. New York: T.Y. Crowell, 1976. [LC call number: E185.96.C5 1976]
Creative Fire. By the editors of Time-Life Books. (African Americans, Voices of Triumph). Alexandria, Va.: Time-Life Books, 1994. [LC call number: NX512.3.A35.A37 1994 P&P Afr-Amer]
Crew, Spencer R. Field to Factory: Afro-American Migration, 1915- 1940. Washington, D.C.: Dept. of Public Programs, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, 1987. [LC call number: E185.6.C92 1987 P&P Afr- Amer]
Dornfeld, Margaret. The Turning Tide: From the Desegregation of the Armed Forces to the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1948-1956). New York and Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1995. [LC call number: E185.615.D654 1995 P&P Afr-Amer]
Dumond, Dwight Lowell. Antislavery: The Crusade for Freedom in America. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1961. [LC call number: E441.D84 P&P Afr-Amer]
Ebony Pictorial History of Black America. 4 vols. Chicago: Johnson Pub., 1971- . [LC call number: E185.E23 P&P Afr-Amer]
Harley, Sharon. The Timetables of African-American History: A Chronology of the Most Important People and Events in African-American History. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. [LC call number: E185.H295 1995 P&P Afr-Amer]
Horton, James Oliver and Lois E. Horton, eds. A History of the African American People: The History, Traditions & Culture of African Americans. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997. [LC call number: E185.H56 1997 P&P Afr-Amer]
Hughes, Langston, Milton Meltzer, and C. Eric Lincoln. A Pictorial History of Blackamericans. 4th rev. ed. of A Pictorial History of the Negro in America. New York: Crown Publishers, . [LC call number: E185.H83 1973 P&P Afr-Amer] (Many of the same images also published in: African American History: Four Centuries of Black Life. New York: Scholastic, 1990.) [LC call number: E185.H83 1990 P&P Afr- Amer]
Kaplan, Sidney. The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution, 1770-1800. Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, 1973. [LC call number: E185.96.K36 1973 P&P Afr-Amer]
Leadership. By the editors of Time-Life Books. (African Americans, Voices of Triumph). Alexandria, Va.: Time-Life Books, 1993. [LC call number: E185.A2585 1994 P&P Afr-Amer]
Low, W. Augustus, ed. Encyclopedia of Black America. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981. [LC call number: E185.E55]
Lucas, Eileen. Civil Rights: The Long Struggle. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1996. [LC call number: JC599.U5L78 1996 P&P Afr-Amer]
Natanson, Nicholas. The Black Image in the New Deal: the Politics of FSA Photography. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992. [LC call number: E185.6.N245 1992 P&P Afr-Amer]
Pederson, Jay P. and Kenneth Estell, eds. African American Almanac. [Detroit]: U X L, 1994. 3 vols. [LC call number: E185.A2515 1994 P&P Afr-Amer]
Patterson, Charles. The Civil Rights Movement. New York: Facts on File, 1995. [LC call number: E185.61.P32 1995 P&P Afr-Amer]
Perseverance. By the editors of Time-Life Books. (African Americans, Voices of Triumph). Alexandria, Va.: Time-Life Books, 1993. [LC call number: E185.A259 1993 P&P Afr-Amer]
Some Time Ago: A Historical Portrait of Black Americans from 1850-1950. Selected by Chester Higgins; text by Orde Coombs. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1980. [LC call number: E185.S593 1980 P&P Afr- Amer]
Smith, C. Carter, ed. The Black Experience. (American historical images on file). New York: Facts on File, 1990. [LC call number: E185.B573 1990 P&P Afr- Amer]
Smith, Edward D. Climbing Jacob’s Ladder: The Rise of Black Churches in Eastern American Cities, 1740- 1877. Washington, D.C.: Published for the Anacostia Museum of the Smithsonian Institution by the Smithsonian Instituion Press, 1988. [LC call number: BR563.N4S573 1988 P&P Afr-Amer]
Vlach, John Michael. Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993. [LC call number: E443.V58 1993 P&P Afr-Amer]
Wright, Richard. 12 Million Black Voices. New York: Viking Press, 1941. [LC call number: E185.6.W9 P&P Ref]
Year’s Pictorial History of the American Negro. Maplewood, N.J.: C.S. Hammond & Company, 1965. [LC call number: E185.Y4 P&P]
Yetman, Norman R. Life Under the “Peculiar Institution”: Selections from the Slave Narrative Collection. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1970. [LC call number: E444.Y4 P&P Afr- Amer]
The Young Oxford history of African Americans. New York : Oxford University Press, 1995-1997. 11 vols. [LC call number: E185.Y68 1995 P&P – Afr-Amer]
Several Library of Congress exhibitions have drawn on Prints and Photographs holdings relating to African American history. Recent exhibitions include an “object list” that cites reproduction numbers needed for ordering photographic copies of materials through the Library of Congress Duplication Services:
Reproductions may be ordered through the Library of Congress Duplication Services when adequate identifying information (a reproduction number or, if none exists, the call number of the original) is provided. Requests for identifying information should be addressed to: Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540-4730. Such requests are subject to the fifteen item search limit mentioned above.
Prepared by: Barbara Orbach Natanson, Reference Specialist, August, 1 998. Last revised: March 2001.
She offered a story behind just about every piece of jewelry. It is why I am to piece together so many connecting points in her life and that of our family. Her pearl necklaces from Asia, Native American pieces from Mexico and Harlem Renaissance-era bracelets and necklaces, are among the several pieces in her jewelry collection that tell me how she lived. Mama Helen continued to collect jewelry until about a month before her passing in 2008.
What she left behind and what you may locate in your relatives’ jewelry boxes is more valuable in genealogy research.
If you wish to know more about how to turn your ancestor’s home into a genealogical treasure hunt for “Road Show”-style results and for successful ancestral purposes, plan to join us for three workshops Family Genealogy Workshop – Hillside International Truth Center in February 2021. The workshops are tax deductible and all proceeds will benefit the Sankofa Hillside International Truth Center, Atlanta, GA.
“Those are the breakthrough moments in the collection of Black genealogy. Seek out those special times when generations blend. Take a few notes or record some of the conversations.”
By Dr. Ann Wead Kimbrough
Clockwise: My mother, Angeline Cecil Owen Wead (left); her great-grandson, Kingston Apollo Kimbrough; his sister, Kaidence Aurora Kimbrough; and my son, John Charles Kimbrough
One of the best ways to glean information from family members across the generations is to enjoy a meal together or play games, especially during the holidays.
In December 2019 in Tallahassee, FL, my mother, Angie Wead, made her annual trek from Atlanta to enjoy the holidays with my grandchildren, son and wife, close friends and me. During that Christmas season, my youngest son, John, also visited us. It was a full house.
John is blind and partially deaf. The cards, including UNO cards (his favorite game) include Braille. Most of the games that we purchase include the Braille language.
During such times, my grandchildren learn from their great-grandmother about her childhood and she listens to accounts of their lives. There are often a lot of “I didn’t know” moments.
Those are the breakthrough moments in the collection of Black genealogy. Seek out those special times when generations blend. Take a few notes or record some of the conversations.
For instance, I did not know that my mother grew up with an aunt who became blind. When my son, John, lost his sight at age 8, it was my mother who recalled independent tasks that Aunt Ada would perform including cooking , sewing and playing the piano. Her husband, my great-uncle Cecil was also very supportive.