History plays a huge part in my day-to-day thoughts. Every June, for me, it's Juneteenth and this year after over twenty years of research, I know the names of some of my enslaved ancestors.
While my grandmother passed away only a couple of years ago, I am just learning of this slave family history through my research. Although she told me several other family history stories, the main one she told was of being related to George Washington and Robert E Lee. I remember asking her how she was related to them and she'd say she didn't know but from where she came from down in the country, mostly everyone was related to them.
I'm still as bewildered as any other day with the notion of being related to two of the most iconic characters in American history. I remember saying to myself, 'oh boy!', shaking my head, wondering why my Black grandmother, even though the kids asked me if she were white, found pride being related to iconic slave owners. Her voice was similar to mine, soft and whispery, and she didn't have any enthusiasm in her statement but all the same, I heard her loud and unclear! And I have been researching ever since!
From my research task list, I am reviewing family history and genealogy notes on my 2nd great grandmother born in June 1861, and preparing an outline to write her life story.
Happy birthday dear 2nd great grandmother!
My 2rd great grandmother, in the photo above, was born into slavery in June 1861 in Westmoreland County, Virginia. After becoming widowed, she married her 2nd husband, John Thompson, my 2nd great grandfather. While researching at the National Archives in 2016, I came across a census record that included her mother, Mary Taylor. Further research that day led me to an obituary that held their slave owners name. Since childhood, I knew of them, my grandmother had this picture hanging in the living room and then over her bed throughout her life. I would ask her if she remembered the sound of her voice, her face, or the way she felt. She would say, 'of course I remember my grandmother, she lived with us.' Any other details about her life or death, she'd say she didn't know or remember.
Some of what I now know:
I'm excited to share my family history research and look forward to connecting with other family history enthusiasts, this post is an excerpt from my documentary film in production.
Family Names: Taylor, Thompson
Location: Montross, Virginia Westmoreland County
Circa: 1860s -1940s
Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, is a predominantly African American holiday that commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas, and more generally the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans throughout the former Confederacy of the southern United States. Its name is a portmanteau of "June" and "nineteenth", the date of its celebration. Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in forty-five states.
Today it is observed primarily in local celebrations.3 Traditions include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs such as "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing", and reading of works by noted African-American writers such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou. Celebrations may include people , rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, park parties, historical reenactments, or Miss Juneteenth contests.
Since the 1980s and 1990s, the holiday has been more widely celebrated among African-American communities. In 1996 the first legislation to recognize "Juneteenth Independence Day" was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.J. Res. 195, sponsored by Barbara-Rose Collins (D-MI). In 1997 Congress recognized the day through Senate Joint Resolution 11 and House Joint Resolution 56. In 2013 the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 175, acknowledging Lula Briggs Galloway (late president of the National Association of Juneteenth Lineage) who "successfully worked to bring national recognition to Juneteenth Independence Day", and the continued leadership of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation. In 2018 Apple added Juneteenth to its calendars in iOS under official US holidays.
What does the month of June bring to memory for you? Do you attend or participate in Juneteenth celebrations?
Please share in comments!
Paperdoll Journal Ancestry
Uncovering your family tree is possible. ~ Lisa
About Lisa Hazell
Family Historian, Paperdoll Journal founder, Lisa Hazell is a lecturer, educator and writer. Learn More