Saturday, August 27, 2011

Legacy Family Tree Offers African American Webinar

Legacy Family Tree will offers it’s first African American focused webinar on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at (2:00 PM Eastern U.S., 1:00 PM Central, 12:00 PM Mountain, 11:00 AM Pacific, 6:00 PM GMT). This free webinar, Best Internet Resources for African American Genealogy, will be facilitated by Afrigeneas member, Ms. Angela Walton Raji. This webinar examines resources that provide guidance for the unique problems facing descendants of slaves and will include information on the usage and resources of the Afrigeneas website. Register now for this FREE webinar at

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Melvin Collier’s "150 Years Later" Book

I am currently reading the book, 150 Years Later, Broken Ties Mended ( by Melvin J. Collier, which is a first person account from the family researcher’s point of view. I love this style of writing where the author takes you on the research journey explaining along the way the who, what, when, where, and how of the research process. Throughout this book, you get into the mind and logic of the researcher.

One of my favorite lines so far from the book is the opening of one of the chapters which reads:

“Going back into the past and uncovering my ancestor’s story had now become an addiction, and I did not desire any form of rehabilitation whatsoever.”

Family historians around the world all understand this addiction which Melvin speaks of, and like him, we DO NOT desire any rehabilitation either.

This book reads like a historical mystery or family historian memoir and chronicles how Melvin discovered the whereabouts of the family and descendants of his great grandfather Bill Reed, who was a slave in Abbeville, SC. Although Bill Reed experienced the tragedy and breakup of his family during slavery, 150 years later his descendants would discover the missing broken links which would mend broken family ties that would turn tears and sorrow into triumphant celebration for his family. This book is a must read for family historian of all ethnic backgrounds and I look forward to reading and blogging about the remainder of the book.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Grandma’s “The Help” Stories

My maternal grandmother, Emma Johnson Thornton (1922 - 2011).
Photo taken in Newport News, VA around 1950s.

“The Help” book and movie is bringing out a multitude of emotions—good, bad, and indifferent. My maternal grandmother openly talked about her experiences as “the help”, but she referred to this employment as “day work.” I am proud that she took the time to share such a rich oral history through her stories about being “the help”. The point of many of Grandma’s “the help” stories was to teach us about life and it’s challenges.

Through Grandma’s “the help” stories, I learned about racism, budgeting, motivations for migration, and about challenges in life. Grandma frequently recalled various racist comments made by some of her employers and having one job working as a live-in maid where she had to sleep on the porch with the family’s dog.

During the early 1940s, my grandmother moved from Ridgeway, NC to Richmond, VA where she lived with a maternal Aunt and worked as a Domestic for white families. Later she moved to Washington, DC around 1942 for better wages before getting married in March 1943 and settling in Newport News, VA. Through these stories, I learned about her motivations for migration.

One of the other stories she repeatedly told my family was about how she earned $3 a week and budgeted this wage: $1 to give her aunt for rent, $1 to get her hair done, and the rest for food which was not enough for the week. This story taught us about budgeting and hard times. “I should have listened to my mama and not jumped out so fast,” Grandma would often remorse about her decision to leave home at age 19 and head for the city to get out her rural hometown. This was the story she would tell to her grandchildren and great grands who were anxious to leave home and get out on their own.

After seeing “The Help” movie on opening night, I left the theater with a smile on my face and pride in my heart for my grandmother and other ancestors who endured the abuses of segregation, Jim Crow, and working as “the help.” I know that quite a few African Americans are upset by this movie and book, however my response is to reflect on my grandmother’s life and her stories about being “the help” as well as to honor her and other known ancestors who worked in this capacity.

Irregardless of how you feel about it, author Kathryn Stockett has told her version of “the help” story through a book and film which has ignited the emotions of Americans of all races around the country. But Stockett’s story is not the one and only story, so I encourage people of all races to share their “the help” stories. There is something liberating about sharing these types of stories and we saw this demonstrated in the book and film as the black maids of Jackson, MS began to share their stories with Skeeter (Emma Stone).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Twitter and The Help Movie

Viewing comments on Twitter about the movie and book, The Help, for the past week has been social media at it’s best. Twitter is a micro or mini blog where movie goers or book readers can share their thoughts in bite-sizes from their computers or various mobile devices.

Having a dedicated column in Tweetdeck (a desktop application for Twitter and other social media applications which allows users to send and received tweets and view profiles) for hashtags #thehelp or #thehelpmovie enables me to see the latest tweets about the movie and book. These tweets contain links to movie reviews as well as the reactions to the book and movie from numerous people around the country.

I noticed references from several tweeters regarding the following:

  • Number of book reading friends in groups they have formed, “I’m reading The Help with ____ others;”
  • Movie dates, “I’m attending The Help with ____ others” These movie dates included girls night out, boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife dates, and a large number of families which include mothers, sisters, aunties, and grandmas. One tweeter posted that they would be attending the movie with their great-grandmother;
  • Reactions and commentaries about movie where some say “they loved it, a must see, book was/was not as good as the movie,” memorable lines from film such as “you is good, you is kind, you is important;”
  • Criticisms of movie or book and expressions of emotions which range from laughing during the funny scenes and crying during sad ones,

So if you want to know the latest and up-to-date news about The Help or any other topics, use Twitter . If you have not tried Twitter before, below is a tutorial to get you started.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Song - The Living Proof

This is a very inspirational song which is part of the soundtrack for the movie, "The Help".