Every Black History Month, there are children studying great American’s such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and more recently President Barack Obama. I remember these lessons when I was a child. I looked forward to talking about someone who looked just like me in a classroom where I was surrounded on all corners by white boys and girls. I learned of great men and women who made a difference despite being mistreated because of the color of their skin. While I loved to hear these stories about the people who looked just like me, I couldn’t relate to them. They seemed like these great mythical creatures or super heroes. I never thought that I would be able to ever meet anyone who was apart of this “great black royalty” that we heard about every January, and most in February. Even still, I was happy to learn about them since most of the American history I learned about was geared more towards Euro centric history.
For some reason this years of Black History hasn’t been the same as the past 32 have been. I don’t know if it is because I have lost family members recently or what. I have become more interested in my lineage, my ancestors, who make up the 20,000-25,000 genes that I possess and whose experiences influenced my life.. Because of this, I began to ask questions from the matriarchs, and patriarchs of the family to begin to research my family tree. From this information I began to build a history of the “great black royalty” in my own family.
My grandmother Constance Clark, married at a young age, and had 7 children. After she raised her children, she went back to school for her GED, and then later to Nursing School, proving that it is never to late to follow your dreams. My grandfather Delbert Daniels grew up in Oklahoma, later relocating to Southern California where he was the first black supervisor at the San Bernardino County Post Office. My great-grandfather, Eugene Marks owned a very succesful sanitation business. He would always tell the story of how Berry Gordy of Motown wanted to buy his property, and how he turned him down. He always cared for his family and took time out of his busy schedule to talk with his grandchildren and tell us stories from “back in his day”.My grandmother Katie B Merriman served in the Air Force at a time when it was not popular to be black in the military, let alone a women. Her great-great grandmother Clarissa Murphy was born into slavery and was a single mother to 7 children in a time when it was hard enough to take care of yourself. My grandfather Eddie King who grew up in a small town of Lower Peach tree Alabama, has always been an example to me of a hard worker, and an example of how a man should treat a women. He absolutely adores my grandmother.You can see it every time he looks at her. He is the great-grandchild of Leonard King that was the older brother of Martin Luther King Sr.
I was blessed to fine information through great oral history about my 4th great grandfather Elijah Daniel. Both he and his mother were from Ethiopia and enslaved on the Russel Daniel plantation. Russel Daniel was a father of 4 sons, and 1 daughter that he had with a Native American woman.. Her name was Adeline. Elijah worked in the big house because he was a rather small man. It was there that Elijah and Adeline fell in love. Adeline begged her father to allow them to marry. He would not allow it until Adeline told him she would kill herself is she could not marry Elijah. This was unheard of at this time in history. This could not only be embarrassing for Russel’s family, it was also against the law. Together Elijah and Adeline moved to the Indian territory and bore 8 children together. One of his son’s was named Elijah Aaron who coincidentally is also the name of my oldest son. I was not aware of this until I started researching my family tree. After Adeline’s death he married another women by the name of Mary King and bore 2 more children.
All of these people, named and unnamed are all a part of me. They may not be in all the history books, but to me they are as important as those who are. Without their pain and perseverance, trials and triumphs I wouldn’t be here. It is upon their sacrifices I stand. I realized I don’t have to wait until February or crack open a book to learn about important people in history. I can see through my ancestors eyes, feel with their hands, walk where they trod, and sing and pray with their voice. They are not mythical creatures, or untouchable super heroes. They are all apart of me. You posses a whole new strength when you know who you are and where you have come from. I encourage you to learn as much as you can about your family history. It has changed my perspective. I hope it will do the same for you.
This Black History month I honor my ancestors. You will not be forgotten.