finding your roots

Black son of General Robert E. Lee??

Monique Lewis March 28, 2012

While researching my own family I would be remiss not to research the family of my husband. With much of the history coming from other relatives, I am able to show my husbands family back to William Lewis born 1824 in Richmond VA. The story that has been told in the family is that William was the bastard son of a slave and Gen. Robert E Lee.

He married a freed slave Sarah Brown in Richmond Virgian on May 5, 1866. He moved to Lousinana and became a river boat captain on the Mississippi. He passed for white. He had
12 children by Sarah. The census shows the children listed as mulatto. The story is that he only came home at night because it was unlawful for white and blacks to marry.

My husbands family is trying to confirm the father of William Lewis…is his father Gen Robert E Lee? What was his life like passing as white?

Submit Your Story


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


  • Lola LB

    April 16, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Interesting. Have you had your husband submit his DNA to 23AndMe? If this story is true, DNA will confirm that the paternal lineage is European in origin. My surname is Lee and that side comes from northern Virginia, Fairfax and Loudoun and I very strongly suspect that there is biological connection to the white Lees. One of my father’s cousins looks very much like Robert E. Lee.

  • April 27, 2012 at 1:12 am

    In order to “pass” as white, you have to actually BE white.

  • April 27, 2012 at 1:16 am

    Even a white slave is still white:

  • Monique Lewis

    April 30, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    While I appreciate your comments Ad Powell. I have heard of plenty of stories of “black” men and women who looked white and made every effort to hide their black heritage and lived their lives as a white person, therefore “passing” as white. Women who did this did not have children in fear of their children being born with color.

  • Monique Lewis

    April 30, 2012 at 1:05 pm

  • Monique Lewis

    May 11, 2012 at 9:21 am

    The saga continues: William Lewis married Sarah A. Brown in 1866 in Richmond VA. Because I was not having much luck with the actual William Lewis name, I decided to do some census searches on Robert E. Lee and on the 1860 census (VA), I found a Sarah Brown (and other family members) living with or next door to Robert E. Lee and his family. Because I had heard that Mary Custis’ (R.E. Lee’s wife) father had willed many of his slaves to her, I did a search for George W.P. Custis and found on the 1850 census (VA) a Sarah Braham living in the house or next door. I believe this is the same Sarah from the 1860 census and the family members are the same. I am more intrigued. I believe William Lewis is in this circle somewhere, just need to find him. But my question is, whey are the Braham/Browns listed in the house or next door? Were they free people? If not, why are they just not listed on the slave schedules?

Buy the DVD

About the Series

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).

Join the Community

close watch preview