The Family Bible
In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.
- Alex Haley
Charles Blockson
Leonard Davis
Napoleon Brandford III
Singleton B. McAllister 
Joseph Donovan
Eunice Trotter
The developments in genealogical research made possible through DNA testing and online databases, has made a significant impact on African American genealogical study. For generations, many African American families have relied upon oral histories, familial records and photographs to piece together their family trees. One of the most useful resources were the family Bibles, which were often given as gifts at weddings for the bride to record the family history. Throughout the South, vital records were not kept at the state level in many states until the early twentieth century. In some cases, cities and counties kept official records, but mostly births, deaths and marriages were recorded by churches and families. 1 African diaspora historian Charles Blockson shared his feelings about family histories as a child, “ I always loved history and history pertaining to people of African descent. But I was always sort of shocked, ashamed, and saddened when other classmates…could trace their ancestors to Alfred the Great, William the Conqueror, and I used to--and the few of us who were African Americans would put our head down because our ancestry, as far as we knew, was slavery. And I used to say to myself, I wish that someday that I'll be able to trace my ancestor .” 2 [Charles Blockson, THMDA, 1.1.5.] . Of course, through archival research and the oral tradition, African Americans have been able to bridge the gap between past and present and uncover rich family histories.

The use of the family Bible has been an important tool for African Americans tracing their familial roots. Names, birthdates and marriages were all kept in the family Bible. Leonard Davis’ grandmother’s family Bible served as the only resource for vital records; “ …One day you may scratch your head and say, ‘How old am I?’ Oh my goodness, you could go and check the family Bible. But if anything happened to that family Bible, there were no birth certificates. 3 [Leonard Davis, THMDA, 2.8.4.] . Charles Blockson was able to trace his family history through the state archives in Delaware, based on a name he had found in family records; “ I came across the will of John Blockson. And then I started to read the will, and then he came across the name of Spencer Blockson. The name Spencer registered in my mind because in our family Bible, as I recall, it said Spencer died in his 70th year, but that's all I knew at the time…and the listing of the slave register a John Blockson willed Spencer to his son. And..Harry and Polly, who I found out to be my great-great-great-grandparents.” Blockson continued, “ I traced my genealogy, and found later on that my great-grandfather escaped in the Underground Railroad, came to Philadelphia, met with the great chronicler of the Underground Railroad, William Steele, an African American. And later other members of my family escaped and went to Canada. 4 [Charles Blockson, THMDA, 1.1.3.] . Family Bibles were not only useful for building family trees, but they could also be used as stepping stones to uncover larger unknown histories about the family history.

In any family, it was often the matriarch who preserved and kept all the family history. Investment executive Napoleon Brandford III spoke of his mother who kept detailed records on both sides of the family, “ Family bible, passed on. And then when I was born I was the first boy in probably four years, my mother being the first child kept a detail of our family history on my father’s side and then on her side, and so all the history is there. 5 [Napoleon Brandford III, THMDA, 1.1.7.] . Government relations lawyer Singleton B. McAllister , remembered discovering her Mexican heritage through the family Bible that was kept by her au nt, " She had the family bible and the family history. And just recently, we found out that my great-grandfather was from Mexico, we never knew that...He and my grandmother--used to work on the railroad back in the day and that was many, many years ago, and that's how he was able to support his family in Mobile, Alabama. " 6 [Singleton B. McAllister, THMDA, 1.1.4.] . Families who kept their own records also safe guarded themselves against natural disaster and unpredictability, author and television correspondent Joseph Donovan recalled, “ Well I had an Aunt Ninny, who was keeper of the family Bible, in which was annotated the births, the dates, the places. So that even if the courthouse burned down, we knew who we were. 7 [Joseph Donovan, THMDA, 1.1.3.] .

Preserving family records also led to uncovering a rich family history. Curiosity about one’s family tree has inspired many African Americans to delve into their own history and familial legacy. Newspaper editor Eunice Trotter discovered the life of Mary Bateman Clark her great, great, great grandmother who sued for her own freedom and emancipated herself in 1821 in Vincennes, Indiana. Trotter spoke of the origins of the research, “ It started as a genealogy project. I wanted to know more about my father's side of the family. ” She started with Clark’s husband, Samuel Clark, “ And he's the one who was at the Battle of Tippecanoe. I found secondary support for that; newspaper clips when he died, saying that he was in the Battle of Tippecanoe with William Henry Harrison. ” From there, Trotter learned of Mary’s court case which inspired her to tell the story, “ Because that's not in history books. There was nothing online. There's nothing in libraries that I saw about her, and this case. 8 [Eunice Trotter, THMDA, 1.8.1.] . Through independent research, many African Americans have single-handedly preserved their familial legacy. Often with the help of oral histories that peaked their interests, family Bibles that contained vital records and through archival research. There is still, however, an unsettled need to capture those stories, to preserve those important histories and to bridge the gap between past and present.
(From L-R) Melvin Hart, Brenda Lauderback (Co-Host), Emory Campbell, The Honorable Lucille Whipper, Reverend Joseph Darby, Jonathan Green, & Kim Cliett Long (Co-Host)
This week, for the first time in our 18 year history, The HistoryMakers, paid homage to South Carolina HistoryMakers in a reception held at the historic Harbour Club in Charleston, to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans in the area. The event was a rousing success and featured seven HistoryMakers who have made an impact in Charleston and South Carolina. We would like to extend our deepest gratitude and thanks to our wonderful host committee: HistoryMaker and executive Brenda Lauderback and executive Kim Cliett Long for their cooperative efforts to make this meeting of community leaders possible. We would also like to extend particular thanks to sponsorship support by V ice President of Engineering, Modifications & Maintenance Joan Robinson-Berry of Boeing Global Services; R egional Director of Government Affairs Tracy Montross of American Airlines, corporate executive Margie Morse , painter and printmaker Jonathan Green , restaurateur and executive Carolyn Hunter-Hayward and Denny’s.
The Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library, College of Charleston
On October 3, 2018 we had a very productive meetings with executive members of the International African American Museum and the College of Charleston’s library staff which included; Associate Dean of Collection & Content Services Heather Gilbert ; Acquisitions & Resource Management Coordinator Angela Flenner; Electronic Resources & Serials Librarian Allison Jones , Collection Development & Assessment Librarian Courtney Hunt and Coordinator of Archival Services and Donor Relations at the Avery Research Center of African American History and Culture Georgette Mayo . The opportunity to share our content with the public and academic communities throughout South Carolina is a first. We are excited to forge a new partnership with the College of Charleston so that we may continue to raise awareness for archival preservation and to elevate the black experience in South Carolina.
 International African American Museum Design
Set to break ground early next year, the International African American Museum (IAAM) and members of The HistoryMakers staff sat down to discuss potential partnerships and to survey local area collections on African American history. In attendance; CEO Michael Moore ; Chief Curator Joy L. Bivins ; Development Assistant and Head of Membership Carlos Guzman Gonzalez ; Director of Education & Engagement Brenda Tindal and Lilly Director of Education & Engagement for Faith-Based Communications Reverend DeMett Jenkins. The museum's effort towards digitization and oral history campaign is well underway, and they had a number of recommendations of local repositories to source for African American collections.
On October 4, 2018, The HistoryMakers arrived at the annual conference of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History , known as ASALH, in Indianapolis. This year’s conference theme, ‘African Americans in Times of War’ will feature a host of panels and discussions exploring the paradoxes of war and the Black struggle for freedom and equality abroad and at home. The HistoryMakers are onsite, located at booth #2 in the exhibit area to talk about and showcase The HistoryMakers Digital Archive . On Saturday, The HistoryMakers Founder and President, Julieanna Richardson , will be featured as the keynote speaker for the conference's official Saturday evening dinner. We look forward to any opportunity to share content about the black experience.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History was founded by Carter G. Woodson in 1915. In 1926, the organization and Woodson initiated the first Negro History Week, which grew to become Black History Month. The organization mission is “to promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community,” publishes works in the area of African American studies and hosts an annual academic convention.
"To throw all my ideas up to the moon; if I fail, I’ll land them on the stars, but at least I’ll be off the earth."

- Reverend Albert Richard Sampson
1. “Family Bible Records as Genealogical Resources,” Digital Public Library of America, February 19, 2015, , accessed October 4, 2018.
2. Charles Blockson (The HistoryMakers A2002.180), interviewed by Larry Crowe, September 5, 2002, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 5, Charles Blockson talks about tracing his genealogy.
3. Leonard Davis (The HistoryMakers A2007.119), interviewed by Adrienne Jones, June 22, 2007, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 2, tape 8, story 4, Leonard Davis talks about the importance of preserving family histories.
4. Charles Blockson (The HistoryMakers A2002.180), interviewed by Larry Crowe, September 5, 2002, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 3, Charles Blockson shares his parents' backgrounds.
5. Napoleon Brandford, III (The HistoryMakers A2003.167), interviewed by Julieanna L. Richardson, July 24, 2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 7, Napoleon Brandford talks about his family history.
6. Singleton B. McAllister (The HistoryMakers A2003.279), interviewed by Larry Crowe, November 22, 2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 4, Singleton B. McAllister describes her father's family background.
7. Joseph Donovan (The HistoryMakers A2005.176), interviewed by Larry Crowe, August 1, 2005, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 3, Joseph Donovan talks about his mother's side of the family.
8. Eunice Trotter (The HistoryMakers A2013.117), interviewed by Larry Crowe, April 7, 2013, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 8, story 1, Eunice Trotter talks about the Mary Bateman Clark Project.
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