Angela Y. Walton-Raji on April 17th, 2015

This Week's Pod Cast


Welcome back to the African Roots Podcast! You can reach me at AfricanRootsPodcast.
Well, I am coming to you today from the lovely city of Little Rock Arkansas on the banks of the Arkansas River.


I shall be be speaking tomorrow at the Arkansas Civil War Commission Sesquicentennial celebration of Freedom! It is called Let Freedom Ring, and I am so delighted and honored to speak at this event!

So many events have occurred this week, I hope that you are incorporating stories of freedom into your own family narrative. If you don’t know or can’t find your own family’s story of freedom, then find out what happened on a wider level—how did the community fare when word came that the war had ended? How were the enslaved people told? Or had they become free before that time. The Civil War was an incredibly dynamic time, with changes and unexpected occurrences affecting all. I hope that you realize that the 13th Amendment was passed, and several places in Arkansas have been commemorating this event. Have you also taken note of this critical anniversary? Tell all of the stories–of the Freedom Seekers, of the men who then became Freedom fighters, and also telling the story of the “self-emancipators”.

Freedom's Arrival

Let’s tell the story, and make it a goal to tell you own family story of freedom. What happened in your own ancestral community?

The Appalachian Oral History Project

Appalachian Oral History
This oral history project was shared earlier this week. I was excited to learn about this oral history effort coming from Emory and Henry College in Emory Virginia. One does not often think about enslaved people coming from Appalachia. one of the interviews was of a woman interviewed not too long ago, in her 90s, and she was sharing stories that she heard from her elders when she was longer. I am sure that you find listening to this interview from a daughter of once enslaved people.

Bernice's LogoLast night’s episode of Bernice Bennett’s show on Blog Talk Radio, featured James H. Commander who spoke about an amazing degree of empowerment that has come from his experience documenting his family history. He is the author of “Love At Our Roots. How Freedom Became a Force for Change.” He addressed something that I think many of us have experienced—a special sense of empowerment that resulted from the research of family history. He spoke of the family’s origin in Alabama, and then the eventual migration to Chicago. In addition, he mentioned some amazing resources and records that he was able to find along the way. I think you will find it to be a most interesting show. Her show airs every Thursday evening at 9pm EST on Blog Talk Radio.


Legacy Freedom Series Lecture

Next week’s webinar on Legacy Family Tree Webinars, will feature Bernice Bennett, who is speaking in Part 2 of the Freedom Series. Her topic will be the Civil War Widow’s Pensions, and the focus will be on African American women who filed for pensions and some of the unique situations that affected their applications. This takes place next week April 24.


Let’s talk about the Freedman’s Bureau. These amazing records are available on Family Search and the Internet Archive. They are wonderful, but they are not indexed. Well, a major initiative is about to unfold to get these essential records indexed. We need to join this effort. A partnership is being formed with the Smithsonian NMAAHC, Family Search, AAHGS, and hopefully all of us. Let’s all participate and see what we can do to make these records available and researchable by name.


Memorial in May

PAAC 2015

I am excited to share with you some information about the Memorial in May–the annual conference of  PAAC. This year they shall share information about the African American cemetery found on old Quawpaw land. This should be a landmark conference. I hope that many of you will be attending this event. For more information, please contact:

Thank you for another week of sharing events and websites with me. I have to wind things down and prepare for my experience tomorrow at the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. Thank you all for listening and for being there. Remember to keep researching, keep documenting, and to keep sharing what you find!

Angela Y. Walton-Raji on April 10th, 2015

This Week's Pod Cast


Welcome back to the African Roots Podcast! You can always reach me at


Well yes, we are well into April, and I hope that many of your realize and appreciate the significance of this month. This time is so special. As we try to construct our family histories, we need to incorporate those events that unfolded 150 years ago this month and this week to be specific. Our ancestors were free or enslaved were part of the battle for freedom. We have ancestors served in the Union Army from the regular Army such as the 54th and 55th Mass, and 29th Connecticut, to the volunteers that made up the United States Colored Troops. Well there are those who were free and enslaved from Louisiana, to Kansas, to Indian Territory.

This week marked the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse. Well the 9th was the anniversary of the surrender—and the beginning of freedom for thousands–no make that millions of people–our people. I hope that many will go through the discomfort that we have with slavery, and having come from enslaved people. We descend from survivors–persons whose lives were changed this week. The direction of our ancestors’ lives changed 150 years ago this week. But this week 150 years ago—they had a new word that was applied to them. We as genealogists–we have to not just go for the next name—we need to tell that story.



In light of all of that another event is unfolding today in fact in Appomattox Viriginia. A funeral will be held today for Hannah Reynolds who was the only civilian, or the only non-military person killed as a result of the confrontation in Appomattox County Virginia. A genealogist, Alfred Jones made an interesting discovery about her life. Hannah Reynolds did not die before the surrender. He apparently made a discovery that Hannah did lived for a few days after having been injured. She drifted in an out of consciousness, and did know that she was finally at this end of her life, able to learn that she was now free. Well as a result of Alfred Jone’s discovery, there will be a ceremony for Hannah Reynolds—a funeral for this woman who was now free, and who tasted 3 brief days of freedom. More information about this story comes from Atlanta Black Star.

My hope is that every community will celebrate this change in status! How did your family become free? How did the word come to the town, the village or hamlet where they lived? How did they learn about it. This is great incentive for us to find this story!

A Webinar on Widow’s Civil War Pensions


Coming up later in April, on the 24th from 2-3 pm EST a webinar will be held and presented by Bernice Bennett on the gems and wonderful pieces of data from these pension files. Why look at these records? Well if your ancestors were not soldiers, you will be surprised to see the many depositions made by civilian witnesses who also tell parts of those stories. These records present stories that we need to incorporate into the family narrative. We need to take them seriously and pursue them! This exploration of freedom should be a part of the process.

ReunionStory See story here

How many of you followed the story of the woman who met her daughter after 50 years separation? She never gave up her child, after giving birth, and she was told that her child died after a few hours.

But it was not true–her daughter lived. Something clearly occurred that was odd. The now grown daughter, with assistance from her own children, found her living mother. Thanks to DNA, it was confirmed–her mother was found. The birth mother is a well known gospel singer in St. Louis area. There are two videos reflecting this story. Of course there is more to be told, but for those of us who from time to time assist adoptees in exploring their history—this is an amazing heart warming story. But we know that there is another story in the background. I also think about the story as it unfolds after the first meeting. How do the new contacts fare after some time. So many questions—many of which may or not have answers, but these are stories that do make one pause and think. All of the “what if” are there as questions in the background.




Somerset Homecoming by Dorothy Spruill Redford

This book as served as an inspiration for me. In fact I re-read this book about once a year. Somerset Homecoming is the story of a woman’s journey to follow her own history and also to find herself. After watching the mini-series Roots with her mother. The author explores not only who were ancestors were, but also who she was. It speaks about identity, about self perception. It is a journey into the past, but a journey about one’s identity. She eventually finds the actual homestead where her own people lived enslaved.

I personally identify with that journey that she made, and remember the first time that I visited the community where my grandmother grew up in Sevier County Arkansas. Our family had attended a family homecoming in the old town where one branch of my family came. My grandmother’s parents–who were enslaved there, are also buried there. As we pulled into that community and drove to the town of Horatio Arkansas, I was so moved–as I know that there were tears shed by slaves there, and I knew that somewhere my ancestors had lived painful lives right there, and this realization that I was there where they had been, touched me so much.  This was the first time in a level of real consciousness that I was walking upon the soil where direct ancestors had been enslaved. The emotion was running through me without words. Well, Somerset Homecoming was the first book where someone had addressed the story of walking not only through the research experience, but also upon the real soil of enslaved people. I was so inspired, as there are so many secondary stories embedded into it. As I say I read this book every year—it always reminds me of why I do what I do. Genealogy has been a journey not just to find names—but also to find myself, and this book is a good reminder of the benefits of that journey as well. It was the first book that let me know that such research was possible and that such a journey could be taken.  Put this book in your own library! 


Well thank you all for sharing stories and links this week. Remember to explore your own ancestral stories, and how freedom came to them. Find out the ancestral story, and the missing community story as well–they are there to be told.

In the meantime, remember to keep researching, keep documenting and keep sharing what you find.