Just over 200 years ago at the slave markets in Baltimore, Maryland, a 20-year old woman named Rose and her 3-year-old child boarded the ship “The Missouri” bound for New Orleans leaving her home and perhaps family forever. She was bought by Moses Littel, a physician from New Jersey recently removed to Louisiana, which only became a part of the United States a few years before. Moses traveled up to Baltimore in the ship he also owned and would have noticed Rose and her child in the slave pens or auction blocks in the city after following an advertisement in…

Growing up, I learned about the institution of slavery in the United States and the fact that I, Rodney Sam, was a direct descendant of African captives sold into slavery and forcibly taken to work on the plantations and farms in the colonies of Englishman and French slaveowners. When I began my quest nearly 20 years ago to learn about my family history, I expected to find slave ancestors and the people who held them in servitude. …

On July 19th 1908, The “St. Helena Star” was one of many newspapers informing the world of the death of Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins, a famous African American pianist, in Hoboken, New Jersey. At the time of his death, Wiggins was known around the world for his remarkable musical talents as a pianist and a composer. Who was this forgotten prodigy of the 19th century?

St. Helena Star, July 19th 1908(Newspapers.com)

BEGINNINGS

Thomas “Tom” Wiggins entered the world on May 25th 1849 on the plantation of Wiley Edward Jones in Harris County, Georgia. He was one of several children born to slaves Mingo and Charity Wiggins…

Years ago, I received a photograph of Jean-Baptiste Chevis(c1824–1907) from a researcher whose name escapes me. The year of the photograph is unknown. From a quick glance, many would take him to be an elderly, well-dressed white man posing for a picture on a bright sunny day. The truth is that he was born well before the Civil war to Héloïse Meuillion and John Chavis, free persons of color, in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. His father John migrated to Louisiana from North Carolina and he was likely a descendant of the numerous fpoc Chavis family that traced it’s origins to…

WILLIAM A. PRATT (RICHMOND, VA, ACTIVE 1844–1856)
“Freemen of Color”
Quarter-plate daguerreotype, hand-colored. Circa 1850(from the Jackie Napoleon Wilson Collection)

It was around 1850. No one knows the exact date or place. It may have been somewhere in Virginia on the day two young men of color decided to put on their best clothing, travel to the studio and pose for the camera. Their names and identities are lost to history but their direct gaze stares back at us across the veil of time, immortalized for prosperity. It is such a strange feeling to stare into the faces of the long dead 170 years later. I think it is because these men were once walking, breathing and alive like us…

In the summer of 2001, I traveled to Louisiana with one of my cousins to meet and learn about the history of my maternal grandmother’s family from her oldest brother Archie Jeff Marsh. Uncle Archie and his siblings were born and raised in the town of Benson- a small farming community roughly 11 miles from Mansfield, Louisiana in De Soto Parish. Their parents were Charlie Marsh Sr. and Allareal Thomas. I remember sitting in the living room at Uncle Archie’s house listening to him regale us with tales of his life, his parents, my grandmother and other people he remembered…

Years ago, I requested the Jean-Baptiste Meullion papers from the Louisiana State Archives in Baton Rouge. Jean-Baptiste Meullion was a free man of color from New Orleans who relocated to St. Landry Parish and became a wealthy slaveholder. He is one of my many ancestors and I was curious to explore what else I could learn about him in his archival collection. To my surprise, I came across the last will and testament of an elderly free woman of color named Marie Louise Taillefer alias Pouponne created on July 29, 1807 at Opelousas. Who was this?! I was excited and…

Who ever thought that a beautiful flower could grow in the ghetto,
emerge out of the cracks of crumbling concrete and dead grass,
brighten bleak landscapes with rich color, light, and life

Beauty is often found in the strangest of places.

I describe my family as being from the“Two Louisianas.” My mother’s family hails from Anglophone,Protestant Louisiana( De Soto,Natchitoches and East Carroll parish) . Her ancestors migrated into Louisiana from Georgia, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina before and after the Civil War. She is a 4th-generation Louisianian.

My father’s family originated in Francophone,Catholic Louisiana(St. Landry, Evangeline,St. Mary,Orleans,St. Charles) and his ancestors have been in Louisiana for 300 years.

My parents met in Houston-a huge cosmopolitan city where Louisiana Creoles and African-Americans from Northern Louisiana and Texas encountered each other. I grew up surrounded by this cultural gumbo. …

Rodney Sam

Writer and artist with musings on Art, history, genealogy, culture,the humanities with short stories and poems

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