Angela Y. Walton-Raji on December 25th, 2015

This Week's Pod Cast


Merry Christmas2

Merry Christmas everyone, and welcome back to the African Roots Podcast! You can reach me at:
African Roots

I hope that all of you have been celebrating the holiday with loved ones, and no matter how you celebrate, or what you may celebrate, good wishes are extended to you all for this season and throughout the coming New Year!

My Christmas Thoughts–

I have thought about how our ancestors celebrated the holidays. My grandmother, Sarah Ellen Bass was from Horatio Arkansas, and every year she would greet us with the “Christmas Gif” greeting. We would also be treated to the over-sized peppermint sticks, Christmas candy—the hard kind, and of course bags of tangerines, and nuts–Walnuts, pecans, and almonds. As I wondered about the tradition, I have also given much thought to how the tradition of Christmas was celebrated by our enslaved ancestors. Documenting the American South is an excellent site to study the lives of enslaved people. An excellent article addresses the season of Christmas and how the ancestors experienced it.

A Cherished Break

Slaves at Christmas

For many Christmas was a time for a break in the weariness that their lives brought. Some had two days consecutively free from work, while some were also given an opportunity to spend time (with a pass, of course) with a spouse who may have lived on a another plantation. These precious times not only allowed the slave community itself to celebrate itself, but also to create its own unique traditions. Music was often heard with banjo playing and singing emanating from the quarters of the enslaved.

Christmas Gifts and Provisions

Slaves at Christmas Boxing Day
For some, Christmas was the time in which they received their annual clothing allowance. Some within the confines of the quarters shared their own traditions. The Christmas Gif, tradition was practiced by many children who sought to be the first one to say the Christmas greeting to each other. The “gift” may have been a shiny button, or a hand made toy or a piece of extra candy. I only learned of the origin of the expression many years after my grandmother had passed.

A Time for Marriage

Slaves at Christmas Marriages

Some enslaved men and women were allowed to have marriage “ceremonies” around the Christmas holiday season, and to be recognized within their community as husband and wife. Some places there was  a “jumping the broom” event but there were other situations where a small ceremony was actually held on the premises.

A Time for Freedom

Slaves at Christmas Runaway
For some, the Christmas season brought about some leniency in work demands, which allowed some enslaved people to seize the opportunity to find freedom. The University of North Carolina website Documenting the American South pointed out that Harriet Tubman helped her brother escape to the North, during the Christmas season. Her brother was about to be sold, but the holiday delayed the sale. Harriet took advantage of the delay and was able to take her brother to freedom. Also the well documented case of William and Ellen Craft also was a Christmastime escape.

Final thoughts 

The fact is, Christmas time has been a part of our traditions and our lives for centuries, and as we put our own 21st century spin on the holidays, take some time out to remember the ancestors who also went through this time, some with joy, some with fear, and some who needed courage to undertake what lay ahead. For those who experienced short moments of joy, let’s also think of them as we have the freedom to celebrate ourselves, our own families. Take a few moments out of the day during this Christmas season and call out the names of our ancestors who also went through so much during this time. Their joys, their hopes and their courage are also to be celebrated during this time. Let us take those thoughts with us as we enter into the holiday season.

Thank you all for listening and spending time during this holiday season with me. I appreciate your being there and tuning in. Be well, be blessed, and remember to keep researching, keep documenting and to keep sharing what you find.

Merry Christmas to all!


Angela Y. Walton-Raji on December 18th, 2015

This Week's Pod Cast


Welcome back to the Africa Roots Podcast! You can always reach me at AFRICANROOTSPODCAST.

I know that everyone is busy now that we are a week away from Christmas. I hope that you are planning to include making memories among the many things that the holiday will entail. And I hope that you are also looking ahead towards the next year of genealogy opportunities as well.



I want to extend congratulations to a group out of South Carolina and their efforts to preserve their history. This is the group from Edisto Island from whom the slave cabin was taken to the Smithsonian Museum of African American. But recently they have been able to expand their interest in preservation through a grant by the National Endowment of the Humanities. They will now be able to perserve their own personal histories as well as the community history.


A recent post by Nicka Smith was posted to remind readers the importance of reviewing one’s work! She made a reference to the group of researchers now participating in the Genealogy Do-Over. Well, she recently reviewed some data of her own and pointed out some small errors on her own work. While quickly making the required corrections, she made a better point, illustrating our need to see if our own work is “up to snuff”. Her article can be read HERE.


Black Pro Gen Hangouts for 2016


You are invited to join the Black Pro Gen community in 2016 for our Google + hangouts. The schedule can be found on Nicka Smith’s website, and you are urged to join us for the live hangouts. And if you miss them, you are free to catch them all on YouTube.

Don’t forget to tune into Bernice Bennett’s upcoming shows in 2016. Coming up in January will be a chat with Erwin Polk about his ancestor who was a Buffalo Soldier. He will share details about the ancestor as well as aspects of his research journey. Bernice’s show airs every Thursday evening at 9pm on Blog Talk Radio.


Well, everyone, have a wonderful holiday season, and a very Merry Christmas! May the joy of the season be with you throughout the entire year. Be filled with blessings and have a beautiful holiday. In the meantime remember to keep researching, keep documenting and keep sharing what you find!