African American Lives 2 -- Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
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My Great-Grandmother Hancock County, Georgia 1854 Hancock County, Georgia Oral history

I am the youngest of 3 children and one of the lightest in my family on both my mother and father's side. As a child, I always stuck out like a sore thumb because I didn't look like anybody, especially not my mother, who is a beautiful dark skinned lady.

When I was a little girl, before I went to school, my great-grandmother kept me at home with her. She was 73 years old when I was born, but she was very sharp mentally. She was born in Hancock County, Georgia around 1902. She loved to tell me stories about growing up in the county. She used to show me a picture of her daddy and he looked like a white man. He had long curly hair that framed his face and cascaded down his shoulders. She was light-skinned and my grandmother was very light and my father was light skinned also. She never told me why her father looked that way but she gave me little bits and pieces that I would later be able to put together.

She died in 1997 and shortly afterwards, I began looking up the family history. As it turns out, her grandfather's father was a white man who was the son of the planter that owned her grandfather's mother. I think she was about 15 when the baby was conceived. The white man's sister would go on and marry the governor of Georgia, so we have a running joke in our family that the governor was our uncle! I am not certain what the relationship was, but the white ancestor went on to marry twice and have several more children. Our family oral history says he lived in the community and would come to his son's house, but there are conflicting reports about their relationship. His family had been prosperous before the war, but I have found no evidence that he left his black son any material possessions or property.

When the slave owner died in 1857, my great-great-great grandfather was listed as a 3 year old slave on the inventory of his estate. Unfortunately, there is no way for me to tell who his mother was. I think her name may have been Mary. I have been trying to determine her identity for about 7 years now.

I found this installation of African-American lives to be very interesting, especially the piece about us not necessarily being who we think we are. I've always had difficulty reconciling my white ancestry. Do I embrace it? I certainly can't deny it when you look at me.

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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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