Beyond Luke Grady
My story began in 1980 when relatives in North Carolina told me about my great grandfather, Luke Grady, who was elected to the NC State House as an Assemblyman representing New Hanover County,NC. I was raised in Ohio and had very little knowledge of my roots in NC.
Luke was born into enslavement in 1854 and was allowed to be educated. After the Emancipation he continued his education, and also turned to business and farming. He is always described as low-key person, who was trusted for his integrity. He was elected to the statehouse in 1885 and severed on committees concerned with education, the incorporation of townships so as to bring infrastructure projects and services to the county.
Luke served only one term in office as those in opposition to blacks holding power were able to turn that tide. Luke went back to farming, and become a AME minister. During the Wilmington riots of 1898, Luke was not injured but was displaced.
When I moved to NC in 1995 I began to research Luke’s history, and connect with relatives.
Just prior to my relocation relatives who had been petitioning the state to have an historic maker placed in Luke’s honor in Castle Hayne,NC. Those efforts were successful.
Also, I was amazed upon finding photos of Luke, and his Assembly voting record at the NC State archives. I also discovered that a book had been written about Luke which was extremely helpful. Through my efforts Luke was inducted in the Hall of Fame of the African American Cultural Complex in Raleigh. But, I wanted to do more. In 2003 I was granted permission to film a re-enactment of Luke’s swearing in ceremony. In fact, we did the re-enactment in the exact same Old Capitol Bldg Chamber where the event actually took place.
One of things that amazed me in my research was the fact that between 1865 and 1898 there were actually 15 formerly enslaved African Americans who were elected to state and national public office, all of them being from New Hanover County. These elections were won with a plurality of Republicans and Democrats.
My research led me to affiliations with the NC Museum of History, The Thomas Day Education Project, The African American Cultural Complex, and the Assn. of African American Museums.
I am retired now, but still active in discovering Black history. I live with my wife in Panama, and have been studying the role of Blacks in the building of the Panama Canal and the plight of their decendants. However, I continue to be active in NC history through my blog, thecolorofhistory.blogspot.com.