African American Lives 2 -- Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
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Sharing Stories: One Family's Story
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My father told my mother when she was a child. Edwardsville, Kansas 1800s Edwardsville, Kansas My mother told the story often.

From early as I can remember I have heard the story of an ancestor with our maiden name "Groves" that was born a slave. He was freed as a result of the emancipation proclamation as a small child. As a young man he worked as a sharecropper eventually becoming successful enough to farm his own land. Junius Groves a very rich man and was so popular farming potatos he became known as the "Potato King" of Kansas.

While I was in college my mother located her relatives still living on the land that Junius farmed years ago. She met half brothers and sisters that she heard about as a child but never had a chance to meet. My mother died the year I graduated college and we buried her in Junius Groves family cemetary.

Six years later I googled Junius Groves name and found a picture of him in Booker T Washington's book about The Negro in Business. It was amazing to see the man I have heard about from childhood come to life right before my eyes. My mother's stories were very accurate and as a result Booker T. Washington was very interested in his success.

About 6 months later I googled Junius again and found a picture of Junius and his wife. I'm still not sure if Junius Groves is a uncle of my grandfather or dad. I hear conflicting stories from family members.

Hearing this story about an ancestor building the "American Dream" right out of slavery gives me a sense of pride, belonging, and importance that I might not have had if my mother did not keep her father's stories alive. As a result I understand the importance of sharing my personal and family history with my own children and have the desire to seek out more of my family heritage.

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Major corporate funding for African American Lives 2 and its outreach initiatives is provided by The Coca-Cola Company and Johnson & Johnson. Additional corporate funding is provided by Buick.
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