(Painting by G. Rose)
Image Source: Juneteenth of St. Petersburg, INC. http://www.juneteenth-stpete.org/Home_Page.html, Assessed 15 June 2010.
(Painting by G. Rose)
Image Source: Juneteenth of St. Petersburg, INC. http://www.juneteenth-stpete.org/Home_Page.html, Assessed 15 June 2010.
The 4th Edition of the CoAAG asks the question-What Does Freedom Mean To Me? On June 19th in recognition of Juneteenth, and in celebration of Freedom, people will blast the airways with conversations all around the theme of Freedom. GeneaBloggers and others will converge on Twitter.com for an all day Tweet-A-Thon for FreedomTweet2010. I hope that everyone will take part in this historic event.
What Does Freedom Me To Me?
I have thought long and hard about the question and my answer. The answer did not come as quickly as one might think, nor was it as simple.
Growing up as a young girl in the segregated South, you might think I would be able to recount occasions when my Freedom, or that of my ancestors, was denied – but, I cannot. You might think that I would remember being turned away from lunch counters or directed to the “Negro” section, drinking from a “colored only” water fountain, or moving to the back of the bus – but, I do not. I do remember riding in the back of the trolley car, but thought that was just where my mother chose to sit; not that we had to sit there because we did not have the “Freedom” to sit anywhere else. I do remember restrooms in downtown Atlanta labeled “Colored” and “White”, but in my child’s mind I thought the colored one must just be more colorful, but once inside was sad to see the same old white.
Freedom was not a subject I remember hearing discussed in school, at home, or during church. Looking back I think our parents and elders thought they were protecting us by not talking about those realities of life; the denials of Freedom that they most assuredly faced on a daily basis. I wonder, “What did Freedom mean to them?” What did Freedom mean to my mom as she entered the back door of her employer’s home in Buckhead; or to my grandmother as she cooked in that hot hotel kitchen; or to my great grandparents as they labored in the cotton fields of Woodbury, Georgia. What did Freedom mean to my enslaved ancestors upon hearing news of the Emancipation Proclamation? Were they excited, relieved, or just plain scared? Did they wonder, was this Freedom a trick? Did they ask “What does this Freedom mean to me?” Did their answer come quickly, in an instant, or did they ponder the thought—Freedom. Freedom! Freedom? What does F-R-E-E-D-O-M mean?
So again, I ask myself the question “What Does Freedom Mean to Me?” It is a very subjective question that can elicit a very personal response. Freedom is living in a country where someone can ask that question, and everyone is free to answer-as they choose, without fear of reprisals. Earlier Luckie Daniels, host of the 4th Edition CoAAG, posed the question to me. My response was “Freedom is independent choice; the free will to choose my path through life. Turn left or turn right? I choose and live with MY choice.” For me, a very important aspect of Freedom is choice.
More importantly, for me, Freedom is ACCESSIBILITY. For me, this symbol translates to Freedom. Freedom for me is a life without barriers. Freedom is accessibility to housing, education, employment, transportation, healthcare, entertainment, and recreation. Accessibility – that Freedom is very important to me. Without it I am still me, but not a free me. What’s the point of Freedom, if not to be – Free!
My father, John Lawrence Taliaferro, served in the Navy during World War II. He entered active service on 16 July 1942, in Macon, Georgia and was honorably discharged from the U. S. Naval Personnel Separation Center in Shoemaker, California on 5 December 1945. What a great Christmas present for his family who I am sure prayed for his safe return.
I know from my mother that she met my father, shortly after his discharge. My mom told me that when she met my father, he was wearing his Navy uniform. Maybe he was celebrating – happy to be home from the war. That was the only story I had that placed my father in the military. In 2006, my cousin gave me his discharge paper, and from that I pieced together more details about his service in the Navy.
My father held several ratings during service including, AS S2c, S1C, and GM3c. I believe the “S” rating stands for Seaman. The GM is for Gunner’s Mate. I learned that Gunner’s Mates are responsible for the operation and maintenance of guided missile launching systems, gun mounts and other ordnance equipment, as well as small arms and magazines.
On his discharge paper under “Qualifications and Certification Held” is Driving Winch, Checking Ammunition; under “Service (vessels and stations served on)” USNB Nav. Mag. Port Chicago, Calif,- USNB NAD, Mare Island, California, and USNAD, Navy # 66; and under “Remarks” Asiatic-Pacific Theatre, Victory Medal, American Theatre, and Point System.
Obviously, my father completed his tour of duty, and made it home safely. Historically, however, things could have been quite different.
The Port Chicago Disaster
America was swept into World War II on 7 December 1941. As war in the Pacific expanded, the Naval Ammunition Depot at Mare Island, California, was unable to keep up with the demand for ammunition. Port Chicago, California, located 35 miles north of San Francisco, proved an ideal place for the Navy to expand its munitions facilities. Construction at Port Chicago began in 1942. By 1944, expansion and improvements to the pier could support the loading of two ships simultaneously.
African-American Navy personnel units were assigned to the dangerous work at Port Chicago. Reflecting the racial segregation of the day, the officers of these units were white. The officers and men had received some training in cargo handling, but not in loading munitions. The bulk of their experience came from hands-on experience. Loading went on around the clock. The Navy ordered that proper regulations for working with munitions be followed. But due to tight schedules at the new facility, deviations from these safety standards occurred. A sense of competition developed for the most tonnage loaded in an eight hour shift. As it helped to speed loading, competition was often encouraged.
On July 17, 1944, a deadly munitions explosion occurred at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine in Port Chicago, California. Munitions detonated while being loaded onto a cargo vessel bound for the Pacific Theater of Operations, killing 320 sailors and civilians and injuring 390 others. Most of the dead and injured were enlisted African-American sailors; Of the 320 men killed in the explosion, 202 were the African-American enlisted men who were assigned the dangerous duty of loading the ships. The explosion at Port Chicago accounted for fifteen percent of all African-American casualties of World War II.
Source: Naval History & Heritage Command, Navy Department Press Releases, July 16-31, 1944 folder, Box 55, World War II Command File, Operational Archives Branch, Washington, DC. http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq80-1.htm assessed 8 May 2010.
What does all this mean? Exactly what did my father do while in the Navy during World War II? Honestly, I don’t really know. As a Gunner’s Mate he was definitely involved with ammunition. Was he involved in the Port Chicago incident? It’s very likely. I know he served on vessels during several major campaigns, the Asiatic Pacific Theatre, and the American Theatre. He also received the Victory Medal which “may be awarded to all members of the Armed Forces of the United States or of the Government of the Philippine Islands who served on active duty in World War II at any time between 7 December 1941 and 31 December 1946.” (Established by Public Law No. 135 of 6 July 1945.) Source: U.S. Navy Awards Manual, 1953.
My father, John Lawrence Taliaferro, was discharged on 5 December 1945. He served in the Navy for 3yrs, 4 months, 19 days. On his discharge paper under “Character of Separation is “Honorable EE”. While I don’t know the specifics of my father’s service in the Navy, I’d like to think he served his country to the best of his ability, and that he served with pride. I’d like to think that my father, John Lawrence Taliaferro, Gunner’s Mate Third Class, USNR, Served with Honor.
After reading all the wonderful posts submitted for the 2nd Edition of the CoAAG, I am even more thrilled with the participation we received for this carnival.
Thanks to everyone who submitted a story about their grandmother. A special thank you to all those who took the time to read the stories and memories, and then leave a comment to the author; I know each one appreciates your support. It was a wonderful CoAAG. I know our grandmothers are smiling.
This past Friday me, my brother Bernard, and my sister/friend/cousin Luckie of Our Georgia Roots headed to Greene County and Washington-Wilkes County on a research road trip. My paternal grandmother, Fannie Mae LAWRENCE, her mother Lessie BREWER, her mother Fannie BREWER, and her mother Eliza ASKEW all have roots in Greene Co. So does my great grandfather, George LAWRENCE, and his parents James LAWRENCE and Pleasant LITTLE. The thought of exploring the area these ancestors once called home was extremely exciting, and my spirits were high on just the anticipation of that. The beautiful weather held the promise of good things to come.
The night before the trip, Luckie and I had one last phone conversation going over our plans for the next day. Luckie’s home ground is Washington-Wilkes, so she was excited to be returning after a long absence. You can read Luckie post; Saturday Musing ~ Ain’t Nothin’ Like Going Home! for a view of our trip as only Luckie can tell it. I wasn’t feeling too much apprehension knowing I would be in the company of this seasoned researcher. Luckie’s advice – connect with the locals; once they know you have family from the area, they are more than happy to talk and share information.
Now, you have to know me, but this is way, way out of my comfort zone. This Luckie knows all too well, but she was having none of it, and was not buying my “That’s just not me” and “I’m not comfortable approaching strangers” excuses. After a few more words of encouragement and warnings of missed opportunities, she left me to my thoughts. Friday morning before leaving, I grabbed my Brewer and Lawrence folders, and printed out death certificates for Fannie Brewer and her son Green Brewer. According to their death certificates, both were buried in “Hudson Grove Cemetery”. I thought maybe we could find the cemetery and possibly locate their graves.
Riding around exploring downtown Greensboro was indeed a treat. The small town country look and feel was just what I’d hoped to see. I felt a tingle of something that told me the ancestors were stirring. “Oh, look Reid’s Beauty Shop. I’ve got the REID/REED surname in my tree.” Luckie said “You want to stop and see if they know your folks.” I said, “No, but let’s get a picture.” Was that a missed opportunity for a family connection? Maybe it was.
Earlier, we had passed a small group of elderly men chatting in a parking lot, but passed without stopping. After striking out at the Greene County Historical Society and the local History Museum, we headed back to that group of men. Luckie introduced us, and we asked if any of them knew of Hudson Grove Cemetery. Yes, they did but, it would not be easy for us to find. One of the gentlemen, Minister Marshall BAUGH, offered to ride with us as a guide, if we “trusted him”. We did. It just felt right.
The Greene County countryside was beautiful; wide open fields and lots of cows. I was hypnotized by the view, and filled with anticipation. Were we really going to the burial place of my Greene County ancestors? Minister Baugh talked all the way in true southern minister-style as we traveled the winding road. Turning onto the dirt road to the church, we were finally there. He was right; we never would have found it by ourselves. It was deep in the country.
The cemetery was located behind the church. Luckie and Bernard jumped out to explore while Minister Baugh and I sat in the car and talked. He told me the actual name of the church was Hutchinson Grove A.M.E. and it currently had only one member; he wasn’t sure if services were still held there-maybe once a month or so.
The cemetery is Hutchinson Grove Cemetery, not Hudson Grove as indicated on the two death certificates. It showed signs of neglect, but was fairly well kept. I watched anxiously as Luckie and Bernard explored, and before long was lost in thought. The ring of my cell phone broke the silence of my daydreaming. It was Bernard screaming that he had found a headstone for “LESSIE LAWRENCE!” The excitement in his voice spoke volumes. Not only that, he continued, there were other BREWERS there as well. We guessed it must have been a family plot. There was no Fannie or Green for the death certificates I had printed out earlier, but still what an incredible find!
Lessie (BREWER) LAWRENCE was our paternal great grandmother. That’s her picture below, and below that the photo of her headstone. We did not come equipped with a spray bottle of water to clean the dirt from the headstone, but it is still very easy to read.
The inscription reads:
Every joy to us is dead
Since mother is not here
Along with Lessie, there were 11 other headstones. After consulting my family tree, and searching records on Ancestry, I can confirm that 9 of those are BREWER descendants-no doubt about it. There are two surnames, HUTCHINSON and SMITH that are not familiar to me. They are most likely family I have yet to discover. I suspect that this may have been the Brewer family church. The Hutchinson surname, which is also the name of the church, opens another avenue of family history to pursue. I am anxious to get started on that journey.
It was a beautiful day, and a wonderful trip. Minister Baugh was as nice as can be, and the epitome of small town, southern hospitality. We were blessed to meet him. We will definitely be returning very soon.
The next time you take a research trip to an ancestral hometown, stop and strike up a conversation with some of the locals and tell them who your folks are. As I learned on this trip, you never know who you might meet or what you might find. You might just be ~ Touched by the Ancestors!
It’s Grandmothers Day at the Carnival of African American Genealogy. The theme for this 2nd Edition of the CoAAG is Grandma’s Hand: Grandmothers and Their Influence On The Family. We invited you to tell your stories and share memories of your grandmother. The stories we received pulled at our emotions and warmed our hearts. They reflect the heart and soul that is in every grandmother. Grandmothers are the cornerstone and foundations of our families; not just African American families, but all families. Your stories and memories reflect the truth of that statement.
An array of grandmothers has shown up for this very special event, and the spotlight is shining on them. A gallery of beautiful images starts this event followed by stories full of love and special memories. We hope you enjoy this special CoAAG. It’s all about our Grandmothers. We are here to honor them.
Felicia Mathis presents Carnival of African American Genealogy: Grandma Hands! Grandmothers and Their Influence on the Family! posted at Our Family As A Whole: Mathis/Mathews-Smith & Beyond!! Felicia shares memories of a summer in Chicago with her grandmother Lily. Felicia’s Grandma Lily always said… “What’s done in the dark, will eventually come to light.”
Luckie Daniels presents 2nd Edition ~ Carnival of African-American Genealogy: Grandma’s Hand ~ I’ll Fly Away, Memories of Annie CARTER JACKSON posted at Our Georgia Roots. Luckie shares heartwarming memories of her great grandmother Annie. Luckie’s Grandma Annie always said… “A cow will need his tail to fan flies for more than one summer.” Meaning: Don’t worry if someone does you wrong, they will need you again!
Angela Walton-Raji presents The Carnival of African American Genealogy: Grandma’s Hands – – Remembering Grandma, Nanny & the Ladies posted at My Ancestor’s Name. Angela honors her grandmothers with memories of quilts, sassafras tea, and “play pretties”.
Renate Sanders presents CoAAG- Grandma’s Hands: Grandmother’s and Their Influence On The Family posted at Into the Light. Renate takes us on a sentimental journey with tributes to her grandmothers.
Mavis Jones presents Carnival of African-American Genealogy, 2nd Edition- Grandma’s Hand posted at Georgia Black Crackers. Mavis takes us on a last visit with her “Little Grandmother” Mary Magdalene Pierce Hosch.
Leslie Ann presents Carnival of African-American Genealogy 2nd Edition- -Grandma’s Hand posted at Ancestors Live Here. Leslie Ann shares memories of her Grandma Piggott, on what would have been her 99th birthday.
Gini Webb presents Lieselotte “Oma” Haf 1913 ~ 2010 posted at Ginisology. Gini shares a beautiful tribute to her Oma who recently passed away in Germany at age ninety-six. Gini holds dear loving memories and keepsakes from her dear sweet Oma.
Luckie Daniels presents 2nd Edition ~ Carnival of African-American Genealogy: Grandma’s Hand ~ Memories of Lena Mae McKENZIE BARWICK posted at Our Alabama Roots~ Barwick & Related. Luckie shares the poem written by her brother for their great grandmother’s 100th birthday.
Felicia Mathis presents Carnival of African American Genealogy: Grandma Hands! Grandmothers and Their Influence on the Family! posted at Echoes of My Nola Past. Felicia honors the memory of her NaNa- Odessa Amos.
Drusilla Par aka “Professor Dru” presents Memory Monday: Grandma’s Hands and HomeMade Biscuits posted at Find Your Folks. Professor Dru writes about her memories of homemade biscuits made by her maternal grandmother.
Mavis Jones presents Carnival of African-American Genealogy, 2nd Edition- Grandma’s Hand posted at Conversation With My Ancestors. Mavis shares special memories of her Grandmother Jones.
Joann presents Carnival of African American Genealogy, 2nd Edition: Grandma’s Hand ~ Ruth Baylor ~ Great Day posted at J-Macs Journey. Joann shares loving and beautiful memories of time spent with her grandmother Ruth – shopping and “French Fryers”- “Great Day!”
Sandra Taliaferro presents Carnival of African American Genealogy, 2nd Edition: Grandma’s Hand ~ Julia Ann (GATES) MIDDLEBROOKS MINTER posted at I Never Knew My Father. Come with me to Woodbury, GA as I share memories of my maternal grandmother.
Luckie Daniels presents 2nd Edition ~ Carnival of African-American Genealogy: Grandma’s Hand ~ A Bridge Over Troubled Water, Memories of Fannie Louella JACKSON BARWICK posted at Our Georgia Roots. Luckie pulls at our heartstrings with memories of her grandmother “Anbownes”.
Dionne Ford presents Carnival of African American Genealogy: Grandmother’s Hands posted at Finding Josephine. Dionne shares loving memories of her great grandmother Marie- “a perfect picture of composure and grace”.
George Geder presents Carnival of African American Genealogy 2nd Edition – Grandma’s Hand posted at Geder Genealogy. George shares memories of his grandmother, Willa Lenard Hancock.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
CoAAG 3rd Edition ~ They Served With Honor ~ In Memoriam, African-Americans In The Military 1914-1953
Host: Amy Cain of Reconnected Roots
Military research can yield important genealogical information. Yet, many overlook this valuable resource. Have you researched military records for your African American ancestors? In your research, what did you find out about their service? If you have not done any research in military records, this CoAAG presents the perfect opportunity to get started.
For the 3rd Edition of the CoAAG, tell us about your African American ancestor(s) who served in the military and write a post to honor them. If you don’t have an African American ancestor with military service, but know of one who served honorably make this an occasion to honor that person.
Submissions deadline: 12 May 2010
HOW TO SUBMIT
There are two options:
Well, that’s it for this 2nd Edition of the CoAAG. I would say we did our grandmothers proud. Don’t you agree? Thank you for supporting the Carnival of African-American Genealogy! You make it possible…You keep it alive! See you next time – Wednesday, May 19th – when the 3rd Edition of CoAAG comes to town!All the best,
** A special “Thank You” to Luckie Daniels for the image gallery, and for her guidance through this process. Your support and assistance were invaluable.
My maternal grandmother was Julia Ann GATES. She was born in Woodbury, Meriwether, GA, to Jack GATES and Georgia Ann THOMPSON, on 30 April 1894. She died on 4 January 1970, in Warm Springs, Meriwether, GA (a few days after the death of my father). It was strange to lose two people of such close blood kinship to me yet I never knew one, and had only a distant relationship with the other.
Initially, I thought I’d have very little to write about for this 2nd edition of the CoAAG – Grandma’s Hand; Grandmothers and Their Influence On The Family. I’m the host, and I chose the theme, yet I had no memories to pull from; no words of wisdom or gems to live by from my grandmother. I did not know my grandmother; not in the very personal way that you think of a grandmother/ granddaughter relationship. Honestly, I am deeply saddened by that fact. I thought, “What in the world can I write about? What can I say?” I thought long, and I thought hard. Then I waited, and waited for the memories to come. As a good friend had advised….I waited for my grandmother to speak to me, to show me how to tell her story. Then I realized I did have memories, very vivid memories of several trips down to Woodbury, GA to visit my grandmother. In my memories of those visits are the memories of my grandmother. So, travel with me to Woodbury, GA and meet my grandmother Julia Ann GATES…the way I remember her.
When I was young, my mom and I would take the bus from Atlanta to Woodbury to visit my grandmother. Not often. In fact, I only remember doing that two times. After we got off the bus in town, we had to walk the rest of the way. I remember on the walk to my grandmother’s house we would pass a big white house that sat way back from the road on the left. That is where my grandmother worked as a cook. We would stop there first, and go to the back door to the kitchen where my grandmother was cooking. We never stayed long, just a brief stop, and I always wondered why we had to hurry. I was recently told by a cousin that the “big white house” as I called it was the hotel. The briefness of the visit makes sense now, but it didn’t then. It was not a long walk to my grandmother’s house, but not a short one either. After we crossed the railroad tracks, the road turned to dirt; red dirt, Georgia red clay my mom would say. The next landmark I remember is the old white church on the right. My mother and her brothers went to school in that church. Turn right at the church; that’s what my young mind would say as we walked along; for some reason I was always afraid we would get lost. We walked; sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but always with a sense of purpose…heading to my grandmother’s house. As I think about it now, there was no feeling of happiness or excitement as you would expect on a visit to your grandmother’s.
My grandmother’s house was not far down the road across from an endless field of what I called “white stuff” that was actually cotton. My mom said everybody in our family had picked cotton in that field. It was many years later before I could digest the meaning and significance of that bit of family history. My grandmother’s house was just three rooms. It seemed pretty small when compared to the endless fields of cotton and corn that stretched for miles on either side. I think they called it a shotgun house, because, I was told, you could stand at the front door and shoot straight through the house and out the back door. I guess that was true because from the front door you could look straight down a short hallway to the back door, and outside if the door was open. Silly me, I kept asking “where was the shotgun?”
Once inside, I felt warm and comfortable, a little scared, but safe. Was that the comfort of a grandmother? The feeling I long for today, but can’t quite grasp. There was a bedroom to the right with a beautiful pink bedspread that had lots of flowers; it was shiny, and felt like silk. (I think my grandmother gave me that bedspread, and I still have it somewhere; got to find it). I remember pictures, and other stuff…I wonder what happened to all of it.
To the left was another bigger room with two beds; one along the wall to the right as you entered the door, and another bigger one across from that by the window. That’s where we all slept; in that room with the big fireplace, and lamps that used kerosene. Seems there was also a lot of stuff in that room too; pictures, papers maybe, little things collected during a life of living life. What happened to all my grandmother’s stuff after she died? I wish I had some of it to help me remember her.
The room had an iron railed headboard, and seems I just sank right down in the middle of the bed because it was “a feather mattress” my grandma said. You could feel the memories in that room; decades of my family history. My mom said that once there was a tornado and after it was over the roof was gone, and her brother’s head was trapped between two of those rails in that headboard. (That would be my uncle – Alexander “AJ” MIDDLEBROOKS.) That was sooooo funny to me, and we laughed and laughed…me, my mom, and my grandma. But, after that I was scared to sleep in that bed. Just in case there was another tornado, you understand, right? But, I finally did fall asleep; sunk down in the middle of the feather mattress with my mom and grandma close by, the warmth of the fire from the fireplace, and the kerosene lamp that bathed the room in a soft golden glow.
The kitchen had iron stove, a table, and another bed along the back near the door. There was always food, and the stove was warm from cooking. I woke up to the smell of country ham and fresh biscuits with homemade preserves for breakfast. It must have been my grandma who did all that…taking care of me and my mama on our visit just like grandmothers do. My grandmother sometimes brought food home from the hotel but, if not she always made me fried chicken, biscuits and apple pie. I never actually saw her cooking it, but it was always there still warm and fresh.
In the back down a long path was an outhouse. Oh boy, do I remember that. Now, thinking back I know this was the main reason I was so apprehensive on these visits. There was no way I could hold “it” till we got back to Atlanta, but also nooooooo way I was going out there. So my grandmother made “other arrangements” for me. I will always remember that she told my mom, “Lillian, that girl don’t have to go out there if she don’t want to.” AND I DID NOT!! Every time I think about that I laugh and laugh; it’s pretty funny now, but it sure wasn’t funny then.
Yes, I remember all those things about my grandmother; they are the things that made her who she was and is to me.
I remember that my grandmother came home late, and left out early the next morning going back to work. I remember her being tired and talking about her legs aching, and not being able to do that work much longer. I remember her being sick and in the hospital; diabetes and something about her legs…bad veins and blood clots. I remember my mama going to her funeral without me. I remember feeling sad, but not shedding a tear.
I remember all these “things” about my grandmother, but I don’t remember feeling her in my heart…not until today.