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African American Lives 2 -- Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
In Search of Our Roots -- Buy the companion book now from ShopPBS
Sharing Stories: One Family's Story
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STORYTELLER LOCATION YEAR TOOK PLACE TELLER'S PLACE OF ORIGIN HOW YOU HEARD
My father was an archivist at Nat'l. Archives and did alot of research Prince William County, VA--cities of Manassas and Woodbridge 1860s Thoroughfare, VA (Bullrun) near Manassas and Woodbridge, VA Alot of research has already been done by family

My father, James E. Primas, Sr., was an archivist with the National Archives in D.C. He did a lot of investigating as far as our family history goes. Unfortunately, he died in 1979, and I was too young to appreciate his efforts and can't tell what is just hearsay passed on, or what is reliable fact.

First, as I understand, my paternal grandfather, James Louis Primas, was from a small town we called "Thoroughfare, VA" near (Bullrun) Manassas, VA. It was said that the name "Primas" comes from the Latin "Prime" meaning "first" and stands for "[first] blacks freed in Virginia; and, "mas", standing for "many cousins."

I know I have family in Fredericksburg as well.

As for my grandmother, Wreather Beatrice Ray, who married James L., her family has been traced back to Pocahantas. My grandmother's family is from Woodbridge, Virginia and still resides there.

In fact, the land that her mother and father owned still remains in the family, and is currently up for sale by the remaining heirs. Back in the 1960s, a developer squatted on our land, which led to a lawsuit by my family; something that black folks didn't often do back then. It even appeared in the newspaper during that time. We ultimately won, and the land remains one of the last undeveloped sites (still zoned “agriculture”) in Woodbridge today, just outside of D.C. Our family home, located on Horner Road, is still occupied by family members.

Another fascinating thing concerns my father, who was a WWII veteran. James Emmett Primas, Sr., was not supposed to serve because he was an only child. However, he was working stateside at D.C.’s Navy Yard during the war. Following a protest about unfair treatment among the black employees, they were abruptly sent overseas. One day my father went to work, and a month later he was writing from Australia. He eventually served a tour in New Guinea.

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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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