finding your roots

I Wish We Had the Resources and the time…

Rebecca P. May 30, 2012

As one of two of our family’s self-appointed historians, it is always sad to, as the show calls it, hit a wall.
We are black. We are the descendants of slaves.
I can only go as far back as the last family that were slaves in our family. And the trail stops here for us.
His name — Lam Debro. Or Lamuel Devareaux (what we’ve found in our discoveries is that my people from the early 1900s spelled alot of things phonetically and that the name was NEVER Debro lol).
This is the story of Lam. (Or is it Lamb? Or Lem? We dont know) —
Lam was born black seminole, and was both black and seminole BY BLOOD. He was being raised on an Indian Reservation in Oaklahoma. At the age of 5, there was a raid on this reservation, by white men.
They stole 5 year old Lam, and sold him into slavery in Texas.
He was known because he always had an accent; he always “talked funny”.
The end of slavery in Texas came and by then he was married to Sophie Debro.
They had Virginia Debro, who married Henderson Person.
Virginia Person gave birth to Helen Person.
Helen is my grandmother.
All the pictures of these people are high cheek-boned, dark skin (but it seems there’s a shine to their skin, you know, if the pictures were in color you’d suspect there was more to them than just “Africa”).
My grandmother used to tell me stories of being in the lap of her own grandmother, in a rocking chair. My grandmother would pull on her long ponytails and her grandmother would admonish her “Gal, leggo my hair.”
When I asked the Seminole official website how I could find out if this kidnapping occurred, they told me there was no way really for me to tell and then started telling me about how runaway slaves typically took up with the Native Americans.
And if you know anything about Native American counsels today, you KNOW they do not want to admit the major race-mixing that went on between runaway slaves and Native Americans.
They do not want to admit to US being a part of them.
I don’t want anything from them; I just want MY family’s stories validated, is all. There is nothing I can take from them.
So. There’s our wall. And here we sit. :-)
Thanks for reading. Maybe someone will take an interest in us, and help us out.

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  • Annie Bluebird

    June 3, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    This is in no way what you asked for, but I was moved by your story. It is beautiful. Forgive me for writing what I’m writing here because who the heck am I, but… that little boy remembered who he was! He knew his own story. He told his children, and they told you. Nobody can take that away, ever, and lots of people don’t even have a story to tell, let alone a chart or a piece of paper. Oral history is stronger than all the documents in the world. Half the time the census takers lied on documents anyway, or made mistakes. I have Indian people on my tree who were listed as ‘white,’ and they were not white. If we went by those papers, we would not have a clue who we were. People will try to mess with your truth. So a strong story is a treasure worth more than gold. It is more than real. It IS real history. That little Seminole/African boy was strong and brave. He took sorrow and hardship and made a family and a lineage. Sometimes, if you can’t find the documentation, ask your long gone ancestors for a story – and they will give you a dream or an insight. Well, that is what I do, and it works.

  • Garth Tuttle

    June 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    It is hypocritical of Seminole – the word, first off dose not desigante “Indian” – but ‘border crosser, runaway ‘ – and there’d be no seperate Seminole tribe without even (and sometimes esecially ) pure f.o.b. Africans – Dembo Factor may have been one – as well as mixed ‘blood’ persons – which, according to the late Rosa Fay (Black Seminole born in Mexico and living then in west Texas ) circa 1940 – was a small pprportion of the Black Seminole population – in the older generation of that particular group John Horse and Samson July were part Seminole – a few others married to persons from other tribes – and a few are : maybe …
    Yes, census workers guessed – but based on what they were told – so that, as Robert Daniel ‘was’ Indian – his wife, Rosa’s daughter, Clara , must be also, though Rosa herself downplayed the Indian reltionships a bit – it sometimes does take a DNA – but Indian or not, the Seminole were brave and self relient – except some Creek Wanabe Seminole, who joined the tribe late, and never got along with the Black memers of the tribe – because they never needed their land – outside of Florida – to be protected by such warrriors -they were just mad at their kin …

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The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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