Iconic stories of slavery and the South leave out many black family histories

One day late in the summer of 1956, when I was an undergraduate, I walked a few blocks to my grandmother’s house and sat my father’s mother down at her round wooden table. I was born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., and her house at 106 Walnut St. had been a family home for generations. I asked Grandma to tell me about our family.

As she spoke, I took notes and began a detailed chart on a large sheet of paper. Names, places, relationships, personalities — I wrote it all down and marveled.

Grandma personally knew ancestors of ours whose lives reached back before 1850. She recalled that there was a white relative way back then — a woman who had lived in this house and spoke a language my grandmother did not understand. As she imitated the sound of the language, German, my grandmother told me about my great-great-grandmother, Katherine Gehring. Read More

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