The Library of Congress shares some great images of African American history. A log cabin, a city row house, and a Baptist church. As a list of buildings, it is unremarkable. When I describe these three structures with a focus on their places in history, the list gets much more interesting. They are also: the slave quarters on the Tennessee plantation owned by Pres. Andrew Jackson, the headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women and home of civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune, and the Alabama church led by a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, which was bombed three times between 1956 and 1962.
For African-American researching their family history, the USCT Pension Records can help fill in many of the the missing pieces of the puzzle.
Before requesting a pension file from the National Archives, be aware that there are two types of requests. Form 85-D is a request for the entire pension file (up to 100 pages) and presently costs $80. Form 85-B is a request for a Pension Documents Packet, which contains eight specific documents from the pension file; this costs $30. Whenever possible, especially in the case of former slaves, I encourage people to request the full file (Form 85-D). That being said, obtaining a complete pension file is rather expensive, and many of the documents will seem to be redundant or hold little information of value. You may choose to obtain the smaller and more economical Pension Documents Packet. Although the smaller packet undoubtedly holds significant information, you may be missing some real treasures by not requesting the full file.
Are you searching for your African-American ancestors? Check out this article…
Over the past few years that we’ve been writing this column, we’ve encountered numerous people who have reached the “brick wall” of emancipation when researching their African-American ancestors. They are stymied by the fact that before the end of the Civil War, enslaved African Americans were rarely recorded by name in documents of any kind, making the tracing of their antebellum ancestry nearly impossible. Unfortunately, they were considered to be the property of white slave owners, and that’s how they were treated in wills, deeds, account and probate records, as well as census enumerations.
Even free people of color were often neglected in public records before emancipation, making them difficult to trace.
Difficult, but it’s not completely out of the question. After all, we wouldn’t have a column if there weren’t ways to push beyond the wall.
Among the tips we have for tracing black ancestors before emancipation:
* Find out as much as you can about your ancestors immediately after the end of the Civil War in 1865 and then work your way backward in time.
Tracing Your Roots: Our partner organization, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, has pulled together these tips for finding black ancestors.
See full story click here.
This article by DeNeen L. Brown describes how many Blacks lived after the Civil War.
A few years after the Civil War ended, promoters determined to establish an all-black town on the Kansas frontier took out an ad in a Kentucky bulletin promising membership in The Largest Colored Colony in America for a small down payment: All Colored People that want to go to Kansas, on September 5th, 1877, Can do so for $5.00.
The bulletin explained those wanting to join this new colony, which would be called Nicodemus, can do so by paying the sum of one dollar ($1.00), and this money is to be paid by the first of September, 1877, in installments of twenty-five cents at a time, or otherwise as may be desired.
Hundreds of black people from Kentucky took up the call and set off for the new colony in Kansas, traveling with the promise of a new and better life. One of the settlers, Willianna Hickman, joined 300 people leaving Kentucky for Nicodemus in 1878. She and her family traveled for two days on a train before reaching Ellis, Kan. It was a difficult and treacherous journey.
“When we go, the stories go too, unless we’ve passed them on”
In the African-American community, food is a very important entity in relation to joyful family celebrations. It has also taken us from our darkest moments and brightened them through nourishment for our souls to give us hope for a new tomorrow. As diverse as we are as a people, the celebrated go-to tea cake for family gatherings is as varied as well. While almost everyone can recall a close relative baking this wonderful treat, the ingredients and taste are as different as we are.
In my opinion, the tea cake is the world’s happiest cookie. Mention it, and these two simple words bring back happy, carefree memories of childhood and the beloved bakers, our ancestors that have gone on before us. Almost everyone in the African-American community has had an encounter with a tea cake. Be it a grandmother, older aunt, or just an elderly friend of the family, tea cakes were and are still an integral part of our culture. While today’s generation seems to have strayed away from baking, I have hopes that the desire to bake tea cakes will be resurrected and not lost. There is a need for it and its history to be passed on to future generations.
The tea cake was brought into my life by my beloved maternal grandmother, Lettie Jones Boseman. We all loved her tea cakes, and I would await the phone call from her announcing that I was free to come over and grab as many as I wanted. Thankfully, we lived just around the corner, and my visits did not have to involve anyone else. Therefore, I was able to gobble down as many as I could at 3014 and during my slow walk home. Reaching my destination, I would place the surviving tea cakes on the kitchen table to share with my siblings. The tea cakes, rich with butter, would leave the tell-tale sign of its contents by the round grease stains circling the brown paper bag.
Although Momma’s teacakes were round, I have redesigned my tea cakes in the shape of a heart to express my love to an endearing wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and now, also a great-great grandmother. Hopefully, one of the younger Bosemans will find the joy I have found recreating a simple cookie that is so rich in history and taste.
Article by Leslie Everage