In case you live under a rock and have no idea, February is African American History Month. It became an official celebration in 1976, but started as an awareness week in 1926. The purpose of the celebration is to honor African American history and achievement. Pretty straight forward, right?
Well many of these types of blogs can be long lists of names and dates with little context. I could blather on and on and give you a list of books at the end of this post that you’ll never even look at. But that’s not how I roll. Strap in, we’re going for a ride on Serenity’s train of thought. It can get bumpy, and I guarantee there will be some twists and turns.
As I sat down to start to write this post, I struggled with what direction I wanted to take. Should I do a deep dive into the history and culture of African Americans in North Carolina? There’s plenty of information on the subject. North Carolina has a very rich African American history dating back to our days as a colony. Many times, that history is terribly racist. Who here remembers hearing about the Wilmington Race Riots? But on the flip side, our state was fertile ground for the Civil Rights Movement. From the Greensboro Sit Ins to the current Moral Monday protests, citizens of this state have been on the forefront of the fight for racial equality.
After spinning my wheels in that direction, I got side tracked by a book I remembered flipping through and ultimately gave me the title of this post. (Though I didn’t know it at the time. We’ll circle back, I promise.) When All God’s Children Get Together is a great book detailing the lives and music of African Americans in far WNC. It is written by a local woman from Andrews, Ann Miller Woodford. It is an absolutely fascinating window into a culture and history that many of us in the area don’t really know much about. The author actually contributed a guest blog for us that you can find here.
So this made me start down the genealogy rabbit hole. Did I want to explore the unique challenges of genealogy research when your ancestors were slaves and only counted in the “Slave Schedules” of the Census? There are more resources for this than I was expecting. But it was just as heartbreaking as I was expecting. One example of the difficulty is the slave cemetery. Many are lost to history, the ones we know about have little information to be gleaned. Though WCU and the Clay County Historical and Arts Council have made strides in preserving that history. Read about the Freedom Slave Cemetery project here.
Just when I thought I knew where I wanted to settle with this blog, the news happened. Our neighbors to the north, the Commonwealth of Virginia, made headlines with a Governor in blackface. I am not a young woman, I remember the eighties when this picture and Michael Jackson costume were supposed to have taken place. Blackface was not OK then. Just because something is normal, doesn’t make it right. Blackface is steeped in racism. Watch this for a concise primer.
On that downer of a note, I walked into my weekend. I say “weekend.” It was my one day off this week. Sunday. The day set aside for choir rehearsal. Four hours of happy singy fun time. This spring concert happens to be featuring a few spirituals. That’s when it hit me that I already had a title for this post. When all god’s children get together. (I told you I’d bring it back around.) Watch this video of the song. It’s pretty great.
Planning this blog had been problematic for me. What can a middle age white woman say about African American history that hasn’t already been said, better, by the people that live it? There’s nothing I can add to the conversation. I can only guide you on your journey through our collections.