Famous Family Members

American history books have long ignored the contributions of People of Color in this country. Our clan, as People of Color; were major contributors to the establishment and successful growth of the State of North Carolina.

So many people of color who made major contributions to American history have been trapped in the purgatory of history. Henry Louis Gates

For more than five hundred years, America has been a land where people have sought, if not always found, freedom. While as a nation we have celebrated freedom as the founding tenet of the nation, the great paradox of America is the long existence and influence of slavery. At the nexus of slavery and freedom lived free people of color, the tens of thousands of people of color who lived free, if not somewhat incongruently, in the most unlikely of places—the slave societies of the South, the Caribbean, and Latin America in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Many histories of America have failed to tell the story of these resilient people who most starkly faced this paradox.

If most Americans today are aware that some black men and women, like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, were able to escape from southern plantations and live in freedom in the North, few realize that Free People of Color also lived in and occasionally prospered in places where slavery was so deeply rooted that it took a war to abolish it. One such place was North Carolina.

Only in the last few decades have historians themselves begun to appreciate the complexity of free black communities and their significance to our understanding not just of the past, but also the present.

The fact that free people of color, particularly in the South, never made it into the mainstream narrative of American history is extraordinary considering their status were one of the most talked about issues of the first half of the nineteenth century. Even where their numbers were small, they made significant contributions to the economies and cultures of the communities in which they lived, and, as a group, exerted a strong influence on government policy and public opinion at a time of increasing polarization over the issue of slavery.  Nor did their story lose its relevance once the abolition of slavery had rendered all Americans legally free.

This section is our Family contribution to the rediscovery of these “forgotten” people and their role in the state’s racial, political, economic, social, and cultural past.

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