TimBookTu Editor's Message
Know Your History
During the week leading up to the July Fourth holiday, I had the experience of spending time with my extended family on two different occasions. The first gathering was a period of sadness although the life of the deceased was remembered and celebrated. The latter event was more joyous where I had the opportunity to see cousins that I hadn't seen in more than twenty years.
In both situations, the subject of informing the younger members about the history of the family and those that had passed on arose in many of the conversations that I had. Since I am now closer in age to the seniors than I am to the younger generation, I better understand the need to share the history, knowledge and wisdom that I have acquired over the years.
Since becoming an adult, I have gained a greater appreciation for history than I did while studying it in middle and high school. Schools overwhelmed us with American history that didn't include enough about people that looked like me, so I was turned off to it. It wasn't until I was in college, Morehouse College, a historically black college (HBC), that history began to resonate with me. Since "historically" is part of the collective name of these institutions, black history was taught and made an important part of my collegiate education.
I learned so much about people of color and their contributions to society that it really began to fascinate me. I was fortunate to have parents and other relatives that had already made me aware of many brilliant African-Americans and their contributions to society, so I wasn't totally dependent upon what I had learned in primary school.
This was also about the time the book and miniseries "Roots" came out, so it launched even more curiosity about the origins of black families and how they fit into America's and the world's histories. I include the world because there is always this misconception the history of African-Americans or blacks only began when we landed upon these shores in bondage. Our history goes back to the beginning of time and it's unfortunate that many of us cannot easily trace our exact lineage back no farther than slavery. However, many blacks have made the connection to their African forefathers and to the countries in Africa from which they originated.
So, back to my family. About 30 years ago when we had one of the first family reunions, I took it upon myself to create a family tree to help me know who was who and how all the family was connected. This was primarily because my great-grandfather had about 22 children from two wives (not at the same time! He remarried after the death of the first wife). Many of those offspring had 9 and 10 children themselves, so you can see that created a lot of relatives in which to keep track.
While doing my research with the aid of my mother and other family members, I was able to identify many of the offspring of those 22 children as well as identifying my great-grandfather's siblings and their descendants. I was even able to trace my lineage back to my great-great-great-grandfather who was born in 1828. As mentioned earlier, due to slavery, going back further is difficult without investing even more time in digging through records, if they exist, to trace the lineage back to the African continent. While doing my research, I wish I had taken time to write down or record stories from my grandparents, great aunts and uncles and other elderly relatives who were alive at that time, to preserve the oral history of our family.
Fast-forwarding back to the present, we still have some family members in their 80's, 90's and possibly in their 100's, that are very active and their memories are still good. My cousins and I hope to interview and make a permanent record of the stories they have to tell. Since cell phones are so ubiquitous these days, hopefully it will be easier than in the past to record them for posterity.
I implore each of you that haven't already done it, whether you're black, white, red, brown or yellow, to take the time to learn your family's history and capture the key family events. It is important for all people and all generations to know your history. While there may be things that many wish to forget, I know that there is so much more to share with future generations who will look back on those stories and events with pride.
TimBookTu offers essays, poetry and short stories that highlight, discuss and celebrate black historical figures and events. Take some time to explore the site and be sure to let the authors know how you feel about their work. To get you started, read some of the works on this site by Mwatabu Okantah, Stanford Lewis, Tony Lindsay, Zamounde and Damon Fordham.
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Past Articles by the Editor