Category Archives: Many Rivers To Cross

Kennedy Refuses to Support Civil Rights – Demand Federal Intervention in Alabama – May 13, 1963

The Illustrated News was a weekly newsletter put out by my family and some of their friends in Detroit from 1961 to 1964. This issue dealt with the violence in Birmingham, Alabama during 1963 when the violence continued, uninterrupted.  I was a sophomore at Northwestern High School in the spring of 1963.  This is my offering after watching Episode 5 of Many Rivers to Cross. For links to other bloggers writing their response to this series, as well as the other posts I’ve written for earlier episodes, click this link – Many Rivers To Cross – ResponsesTo enlarge the pages for easier reading, please click on them.

To read some of my memories of 1963 and see a collage of events, click Remembering 1963.  An article John Kennedy and Civil Rights talks about what his record in civil rights.


Free Food All Over Motown – 1972

My first inclination on thinking of a post for this final episode of “Many Rivers To Cross” was to make a list and talk about all the things Gates didn’t mention. It was getting so long that I decided I wasn’t going to do that.  This did spark a lively discussion between my daughters, my husband and myself on Thanksgiving Day.

There was something in my archives that related to this last episode directly – some clippings about “Detroit’s First Survival Day”, a food give-a-way by the Black Panther Party.  I was never in the Panthers, I knew some of them and worked with some of them when I was part of the Black conscience Library. I showed a few films put out by the California branch. One line I remember about organizing, “… house by house, block by block, city by city across this racist nation…”. The Detroit Panthers were about 10 years younger than the leaders of the California Panthers.  While Huey P. Newton was 30 in 1972, the Detroit Panthers were in their late teens and early 20s.


To read other African American bloggers posting about the “Many Rivers To Cross Series”, plus a link to my other posts in the series CLICK HERE!

Winter In St. Antoine


by James Edward McCall

In St. Antoine the snow and sleet
Whiten and glaze the drab old street
And make the snow-clad houses gleam
Like crystal castles in a dream.
There, many swarthy people dwell;
To some, ’tis heaven, to others, hell!
To me the  street seems like a movie stage
Where Negros play and stars engage.
They laugh and love and dance and sing
While waiting the return of spring.
Some drown their heart-aches deep
In winter time on St. Antoine.

There, on the gutters frozen brink
A dope-fiend lies, with eyes that blink
And from a neighboring cabaret
come sounds of song and music gay.
At windows, tapping, here and there,
Sit dusky  maidens  young and fair,
With painted cheeks  and brazen eyes.
and silk clad legs crossed to the thigh
Upon the icy pavements wide,
Gay brown-faced children laugh and slide
While tawny men in shiny cars
Drive up and down the street like   czars.

Into a  church across the way
There goes a bridal party gay.
While down the street like a prairie-fire,
Dash a  bandit car and a cruising flyer.
Around the corner whirls a truck,
An old coal-peddler’s horse is struck;
The horse falls on the frozen ground,
The dark blood spouting from its wound.
A motley crowd runs to the scene;
A woman old, from shoulders lean,
Unwraps a quilt her hands have pieced
And spreads it o’er the shivering beast.

Among the swarthy folk who pass
Along the slippery street of glass,
Are some in furs and  some in rags;
Lovely women, wretched hags,
White-haired  migrants from the South;
Some wrapped in blankets, pipes in mouth;
Some smile while others seem to shiver,
As though they   long for Swanee River;
But though they dream with tear wet eyes
Of cotton-fields and sunny skies.
They  much prefer the heaven and hell
On St Antoine, where free men dwell.


James Edward McCall
James Edward McCall

James Edward McCall was my Grandmother Fannie Turner Graham’s first cousin. He was a poet and a publisher.  He lost his sight due to illness while a medical student at Howard University. He and his family migrated from Montgomery Alabama to Detroit Michigan about 1923.

You can read more about  James Edward McCall, Poet and Publisher 1880 – 1963 here.

Links to my previous posts in this series and to other African American Bloggers blogging about this series are at Many Rivers to Cross

Joe Turner – Land, Mules and Courts

After watching Episode 3 of Many Rivers to Cross in which the Civil War; black soldiers, contraband; freedom; 40 acres and a mule; suffrage and loss of it; the all black town of Mount Bayou, MS; lynching and finally Plessey vs. Ferguson were discussed, it took me a minute to come up with a tie in to my own family history to write about.

I began to think about my 2X Great Grandfather Joe Turner of Lowndes County, Alabama and how important land was to him and how it caused a riff between him and his son, my Great Grandfather Howard Turner. Something we always wondered about was how Joe Turner ended up with land at the end of the Civil War.  Someone suggested it must have been Homestead Land. There is no indication that it was.  I am going to write about Joe and Emma (Jones) Turner and their land.

As I started organizing materials, I looked to see if I could find any new information.  In Mildred Brewer Russell’s book, “Lowndes Court House” on page 127 she says “Prominent Negro politicians during the carpetbag regime were Joe Turner, Oliver Marast, Jasper Cottrell, James Jackson, Tom Cook, Hamp Shuford, Frank Streety, Adam Lundy, Sam Robinson, Jule Cottress, Jerry Cook, Billy Spann, Cyrus Miles, Johnson Rambo, Robert McCord, Hope Harris, John W. Jones, and the three Carson brothers, Hugh, Will and Warren.” I wanted to find a record, another book, something that validates that the Joe Turner mentioned in the book, was my 2X Great Grandfather, Joe Turner.

I had no luck with the politics, aside from his name on a list of registered voters, but within 24 hours I found 2 new documents on – the 1866 Colored Population Census and an Agricultural Census form for Joe Turner for 1880. Online I found a copy of a court case involving a land case between my 2X great grandfather and his son, my great grandfather.


When shots were fired on Fort Sumter and the Civil War began in 1861, Joe and Emma (Jones) Turner were slaves in Lowndes County, Alabama on an unknown plantation. When the war ended and they were enumerated in the 1866 colored population census, they had 3 children under 10 – my great grandfather Howard who was 3 years old, his sisters, 2 year old Fannie and 4 year old Lydia. Joe and Emma were 25.

In 1870 they were farming. There were 2 more children, 3 year old Joe and 10 month old Anna. Neither of the adults could read or write. None of the children were old enough for school. Their personal estate was worth $300.

In the 1880 State Agricultural Census they farmed 76 acres, which they rented for cash. Farm implements and equipment were worth $100.  Their livestock was worth $460 and included 2 milch cows; 12 other cattle (7 purchased in 1879 and 1 that died.); 20 swine; 36 barnyard fowl, who produced 100 eggs in 1879; 1 horse and 4 mules. They grew 25 acres of Indian corn, yielding 300 bushels; 50 acres of cotton, yielding 12 bales and 1 acre of sugar cane, yielding 48 gallons.

In 1880 US Census 16 year old Howard was clerking in a store. Joe Jr. was 13 and in school. Their sister Fannie no longer appears in the census and perhaps she was married. Although I haven’t found a death record for her, I know that she died young. Several of her brothers named their daughters for her. My grandmother Fannie Mae Turner, was named for her Aunt Fannie. But that is getting ahead of myself.  Another son, 7 year old Alonza Turner, had joined the family since 1870.

Howard Turner and Jennie Virginia Allen were married in June of 1887.  My mother told me this story: Howard’s father, Joe Turner, gave them land to farm in Lowndes County, Alabama. Joe wanted the land to stay in the family forever. By 1890 Joe and Howard were arguing constantly about Howard and Jennie’s desire to sell the land and move to Montgomery. The day of the fateful bar-b-que, the arguments had been particularly violent. Jennie was in Montgomery visiting her parents with their two young daughters when word came that Howard had been shot dead at the bar-b-que.

The Montgomery Advertiser, Montgomery, Alabama
1 Jul 1891, Wed  •  Page 2

According to the court record, Joe and Howard had agreed to purchase some land together. They both promised to pay an equal share. When it came time to pay, Howard refused and Joe paid all of it.  In 1896, my 2X great grandfather, Joe took Howard to court to recover his money. During the trial, Howard died. His youngest child, Daisy, was not yet 1 year old. The Court case against Howard was revived against his heirs and the Court ordered Howard’s interest in the land sold to pay the lien Joe had gotten in the Chancery decree in 1897.

In 1915 Daisy Turner brought a case before the Alabama Supreme Court to ask that she receive her inheritance from the sale of the land the original case concerned. By that time, 15 years had passed. Joe and Howard Turner were both dead. Joe’s second wife had moved to Montgomery with their children.  Daisy lost her case. I think because her father hadn’t paid for his share of the land and so there was nothing to inherit.  It seems that the land was sold after the first case. I will have to see if I can find the records of that case.

By 1900 Joe owned his own farm, although it was mortgaged.  Emma could read and write, although Joe could not. She had given birth to 10 children. Only 3 were still living, Joe Jr., Alonzo and Lydia. Lydia’s two children, Anna Lisa and Joseph Davis, were enumerated with their grandparents.

Emma (Jones) Turner died around 1901. In 1902 Joe Turner, who was then 60 years old, married Luella Freeman who was 29 years old. He continued to farm and they had 9 children before he died at about 80 in 1919.  By 1930 Luella and most of her children were living in Montgomery. I hope the land went to one of the older boys but I don’t think so.

To see other posts I’ve written about this series , click this link My Responses to Many Rivers to Cross.

Other bloggers responding to the series by sharing our own personal family stories are:

Escape – Dock Allen

While watching “Many Rivers to Cross” this week, an episode full of stories of resistance, escape and fighting back, this is the family story that came to mind.

Dock Allen
Dock Allen – tintype with frame attached.

It had been a wet spring, that 1861 in Dallas County, Alabama. Dock Allen was 21 years old and already a good carpenter.  He was a white man’s son, but the man who now held him in slavery was not his father.  His owner was known as a cruel man who kept vicious dogs to instill fear in his slaves. He wanted them to be afraid to run.  When Dock made up his mind to escape, he had a plan  to throw the dogs off of his track. There was a swampy area where wild ramps grew. He rubbed himself with them, poured the water on himself and rolled around in the field so the strong onion odor would hide his own human smell.

He had been running and running. He was bone tired. He could hear the dogs tracking him in the distance when he came to a small farm near Carlowville.  He couldn’t go any further. He climbed up into the hay loft, covered himself with hay and lay there barely breathing.  The dogs came into the hay room. He could feel their breath as they walked over him, but they didn’t smell him because of the ramps.  Eventually they left.


This was the same place where Eliza and her small daughter Mary, lived. Eliza had been freed several years before. She lived on the farm of Nancy Morgan.  Did Eliza hear the dogs and see Dock stumble into the yard?  Did she silently direct him to the hide in the hay?

Later Dock decided to give himself up. Nancy sent a message to his master.  It wasn’t long before he came to the house. He said that no one had ever out smarted his dogs and that any man who was smart enough to do that deserved to be free and he freed Dock.  Dock stayed on that place and he and Eliza married.  They stayed together until he died in 1909.  He was 69.

Doc Allen in the record.

Dock and Eliza (Williams) Allen’s grave.

I found Dock Allen in in the 1867 voter registration database living in Montgomery, AL.  He appears with his family in the 1870, 1880 and 1900 census in Montgomery.  According to the records he was a carpenter born in Georgia.  He owned his own home.  In the 1900 census he and Eliza had been married 40 years which puts the beginning around 1860.

I have three addresses for him, 237 Clay street, 216 Holt street and finally 444 S. Ripley street where he lived for the five years before he died March 29, 1909 of “inflammatory bowels” after being ill for several weeks.  His mother is named as Matilda Brewster on his death certificate.  No father is listed. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery.

I don’t know if this is exactly how Dock Allan escaped from slavery.  This is the oral history that we have. I never knew this story until my cousin Jacqui Vincent and I made contact years ago.  Dock and Eliza (Williams) Allen were my 2X Great grandparents.  I’ve written more about Eliza’s story in these posts.

Many Rivers to Cross

Some African American bloggers are sharing their own personal and  family  memories and stories, as they connect to the series “Many Rivers to Cross” that aired on PBS. 

The Bloggers from African American Genealogy Bloggers who are sharing:


Bloggers sharing from African – American  SpringAncestor2014-WHTBK_BadgeMINIGenealogy & Slave Ancestry Research (AAGASR):

The six time periods below were covered in the series.

To see my blog post, click on the title below each photo.

Click to see my post - Slavery
Stolen from Africa – Click to see my post

Episode 1: Into the Fire  (1500-1800)

Dock Allen
Escape – Dock Allen  Click to go to the post.

Episode 2: The Age of Slavery (1800 – 1860)


Joe Turner - Land, Mules and Courts.  Click to go to post.
Joe Turner – Land, Mules and Courts. Click to go to post.

Episode 3: Into the Fire (1861 – 1896)


Hastings Street, Detroit 1941
Hastings Street, Detroit 1941. Click to go to post.







Episode 4: Making a Way Out of No Way  (1897-1940)


migration routes

Episode: 5 Rise! (1940 – 1968)



Episode 6: It’s Nation Time  (1968 – 2013)

Stolen from Africa

Do you know the immigration story of one or more female ancestors? Do you have any passenger lists, passports, or other documentation? Interesting family stories?

africa_americaI don’t have any immigration stories, passenger lists, passports or even the names of the women who came to the United States, probably in the 18th century, against their will from Africa.  Until I took an mtdna test several years ago and persuaded my father’s sister to do the same I didn’t know what part of Africa they were from. We have no oral history of the Middle Passage.

In 2008 my sister received a free mtdna testing kit from African Ancestry.  Since she wasn’t interested, she passed it on to me. The results came back L3e for the haplogroup and they said I shared dna with the Mende people of Sierra Leone.

Later I decided to test again with Family Tree and my father’s sister also tested. My results came back L3e3*.  My aunts came back L3e2*. They said her results were the same as a broad area of Sub-Sarahan Bantu speaking groups.

In 2011 23andMe had a free offer to entice more African Americans to test and I took it. The results came back L3e3b.  Neither of these testers were so specific with a group as African Ancestry was.  They were more general, saying that L3e3b is one of the Sub-Saharan groups. One said they had matches from both Sierra Leone and Ethiopia. One map I found shows the group originating around Ethiopia and migrating out towards West Africa.

Reading online I found that most African Americans in the United States left from a fort on  Bunce Island in Sierra Leone. The photos on the left of the the montage show the fort back when it was being used and then the overgrown, green island and fort as they are today.I also found that most slave ships coming into the United States docked on Sullivan’s Island outside of Charleston, South Carolina.  The people were sold at auction on the north side of the Exchange building in Charleston, shown on the far left side of the photo. Other photos include maps of Sierra Leone and Charleston/Sullivan’s Island, an actual photograph taken in the 1800’s aboard a slave ship, and an old drawing of the auctioning off of slaves.

In 1974-1975 my family and I lived in Mt. Pleasant, right outside of Charleston.  My husband was working for the Emergency Land Fund trying to help black farmers save their land. We often went swimming at the beach on Sullivan’s Island, without knowing that our African ancestors probably landed near there after crossing the Atlantic ocean during the 1700s.

When my oldest daughter was born in 1970 we decided to give her a family name and an African name. I picked a name out of a children’s story we had in the Black Conscience Library. The name was Jilo. We could never find out what kind of name Jilo was or what it meant. After I received the information that Eliza’s line went back to the Mende people of Sierra Leone, I found a list of names and found that the name Jilo comes from  Sierra Leone.

In the spring of 2013 my daughter Ife, her two children and I went to Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, to see the place where the slave ships landed.

The view of the harbor from Fort Moultrie, South Carolina.

My grandson and I standing by the sign on Sullivan's Island.
Sanding with my grandson next to the sign on Sullivan’s commemorating the entry site for the thousands of Africans that arrived through that port.

To see photos of my mtdna line click My Matrilineal Line and More.