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Sharon Mitchell

My family’s American story begins in North Carolina. All my life I heard about two brothers who came down from the Carolinas and bought land and settled in Wicox County, Alabama. My great-grandfather, Preston Dortch, born around 1852, and his younger brother must have left North Carolina as orphans after Emancipation with a group of older adults. I assume that they all may have originated from the same plantation. Recently I found these two brothers on I located a census report which echoed the turbulent quest for freedom many recently freed African American men and women faced. I saw the names of surrogate “family” members with first names that I am almost certain that an adult Preston used to name his own children. This census report listed my great grandfather as being about 10 and his brother, Plenty, was about 7. I can only imagine the feeling of anticipation and even fear these two motherless boys may have experienced as they set out for the unknown with these adults connected not by blood but by circumstances. Finding these two ancestors have enriched my life . I cannot explain how important knowing about the many rivers my ancestors had to cross means to me.
Sharon Mitchell
Cleveland, Ohio

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The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is a film by Kunhardt McGee Productions, THIRTEEN Productions LLC, Inkwell Films, in assocation with Ark Media.