Call for Papers: Black New England Conference 2010

From my friends at the New England Chapter of AAHGS:

Black New England Conference 2010
The Politics of Race: Movements, Protests, Leaders, and Representation
The 2010 conference will cover the history of cultural, social, and political movements in New England from the 1700s to the present. As the word ‘representation’ indicates, the conference will include presentations on the politics concerning and the forms of representing such events and people of African descent in New England.
For Information Please Contact
Center for New England Culture
Huddleston Hall/73 Main St/ Durham, NH 03824
Phone: 603-862-0693
Thursday, October 14th 2010 – Saturday, October 16th 2010

Massachusetts Group Hopes to Save Underground Railroad House

In Concord, Massachusetts a battle looms.  The Caesar-Robbins house, believed to be a stop on the Underground Railroad, lost its owner last year when he passed away.  The new owners filed papers to have the house demolished back in March 2009.  Because of the house’s historical significance, the demolition was stayed for six months per law.

A preservation group called the Drinking Gourd Project hopes to raise enough money to save it.  See the full story here:

CSI: Collecting, Selecting, Identifying Your Ancestors

The Alabama Genealogical Society’s fall seminar, CSI:  Collecting, Selecting, Identifying Your Ancestors, will be held at the Alabama Department of Archives and History in Montgomery, Alabama.

J. Mark Lowe, professional genealogist, author, and lecturer will present Researching on the Internet, Land Barons or Dirt Farmers, and Finding Your Landless Ancestors.  For registration information see their website at:

ASAALH Mourns the Passing of Dr. John Hope Franklin at 94.

From the ASAALH newsletter:

John Hope Franklin, the scholar who was a pioneer in the field of African American history and dominated it for nearly six decades, has died at the age of 94.

Franklin, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History, was a scholar who brought intellectual rigor as well as an engaged passion to his work. He wrote about history – one of his books, From Slavery to Freedom, is considered a core text on the African American experience, more than 60 years after its publication – and he lived it.

Franklin worked on the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) case, joined protestors in a 1965 march led by Martin Luther King, Jr. in Montgomery, Ala. and headed President Clinton’s 1997 National Advisory Board on Race.

Though Dr. Franklin gained national recognition for his work on President Clinton’s 1997 task force on race, his reputation as a scholar was made in 1947 with the publication of his book, “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans,” which is still considered the definitive account of the black experience in America.
At the 92nd Annual ASALH convention, we had the privilege of honoring Dr. Franklin and this seminal work. Conventioneers and the public were treated to conversations and special moments with Dr. Franklin who relayed stories from his life that helped to shape him into the scholar that he became.
He received more than 130 honorary degrees, and served as president of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the American Studies Association, the Southern Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association and was a Life Member of ASALH, former ASALH National Vice President, and a member of the ASALH Advisory Board until his death.

The Executive Council of ASALH is proud to say that we had the honor to work with and know Dr. John Hope Franklin and it is with sad and heavy hearts that we give him back to the Lord.

“Dr. Franklin never waivered in his support for ASALH,” said Sylvia Cyrus, ASALH Executive Director. “Recently he lent his voice to the ASALH project “Freedom’s Song” on the Tulsa Race Riots. Through this video generations will continue to learn from Dr. Franklin, a tireless educator and dignified American.”

“We have lost a strong supporter and a dear friend,” said Dr. John E. Fleming, ASALH National President. “He has left a void in the world of history that will not soon be filled.”

There will be a celebration of his life and of his late wife Aurelia Franklin at 11 a.m. June 11 in Duke Chapel in honor of their 69th wedding anniversary.

– The Officers, Executive Council, and Advisory Board of ASALH “Founders of Black History Month”

African American Anthem

My friend Leona Martin, President of the AAHGS New England Chapter, forwarded this link – it is a four minute and fifty-eight second YouTube video sung by Grace Baptist Church Cathedral Choir on inauguration day in Mount Vernon, New York. In a microcosm it shows a timeline of African American history – how many historical moments and figures can you recognize?

Thank you Leona for sharing this beautiful and powerful video with us.

Valerie Cunningham Honored

With the things that have appeared in the newspapers the last few days, I cringe when opening my RSS feeds from them these days.  Between the sudden untimely death of Bernie Mac at 50 yesterday and Isaac Hayes today, I almost left the reading until tomorrow lest there was another tragic passing.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to see someone I have met personally written up in the Boston Globe today – Valerie Cunningham.  For those of you who do not know her, Valerie has worked tirelessly to record and promote education about the black families who lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire from colonial times to present. 

I had the pleasure of meeting her for the first time at the NERGC 2005 Portland conference and again at the FGS Boston conference in 2006.  She is a wonderful person and it is great to see her hard work getting the recognition it deserves. 

The link for the article is here:

Congratulations Valerie!

Finding a Place Called Home

In the November/December 2007 issue of AAHGS News former AAHGS President, Carolyn Corpening Rowe submitted an article about a course in African American genealogy that was being team-taught at the University of the District of Columbia by herself, Nathania Branch Miles, and Jane Taylor Thomas.  The course utilized the text Finding a Place Called Home — A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity, by Dee Parmer Woodtor, PhD.  Curious about the text, I ordered it from my local library.

This 499-page text is a fantastic research tool whether you are just beginning your genealogical quest or are a seasoned researcher.  Unlike many genealogical how-to manuals, one of this book’s strengths is its ability to tell the history of the African American experience and point you to resources to find your family.  Where many other texts will tell you about available resources, many do not give you the history behind why the records are in a certain place or why your ancestors may have migrated to that place. 

There are all the basics in this text:  how to start, what to think about, creating an ancestral chart, family group sheet, collecting oral histories, etc. that you would find in any text.  However, what makes this book different from others I have read is that it addresses such things as defining your research goals, what to bring on a research trip, how to organize yourself, learning to control your costs, and how to take notes with source citations!  There are numerous other ideas that outline things that the seasoned genealogist might take for granted:  deciding which repository to visit, how to evaluate sources, and evaluating genealogical proof. 

Past the basics that give the reader a strong foundation to build on are more specific methodology chapters that discuss many topics including but not limited to Union contraband camps and Confederate and Union impressed labor; finding documentation of slaves and slave-owning families; and finding insurance policies that insured a plantation owner’s slaves.  Each of these topics comes with further reading.  Of particular interest to me was the topic of Exodusters since I am researching an article for the next issue of the News on the history of the black town of Nicodemus, Kansas.  I will address that in another post. 

I had originally thought that I would be able to read this book, take notes, and send it back to the library.  I’ve read it twice cover to cover in the six weeks I have had it out.  This one is going to have to become part of my personal library — there is so much information within that I find myself referencing it over and over. 

Woodtor, Dee Palmer, Finding A Place Called Home:  A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity, New York:  Random House, 1999.  ISBN:  037570843X, about $32.00, book is only available used at,,