Press Release: The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross Premiers October 22 at 8 pm on PBS

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross | Life of Priscilla

Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. investigates the life of a slave known only as Priscilla. She was purchased as just a young girl at a slave auction in South Carolina by a rice planter, Elias Ball. She arrived on Ball’s South Carolina rice plantation in 1756, alone, without family. A third of South Carolina’s slaves died within a year of their arrival. Nearly two-thirds of all children were dead before they turned 16. Priscilla beat the odds.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Presents The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross Premiering October 22 at 8 pm on PBS

New six-part, six-hour series takes viewers on an unprecedented journey through African-American history—from slavery to freedom, and from the plantation to the White House

This fall, noted Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. recounts the full trajectory of African-American history in his groundbreaking new six-part series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross premiering Tuesdays, October 22, 29 – November 5, 12, 19 and 26, 2013, 8-9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). Written and presented by Professor Gates, the six-hour series explores the evolution of the African-American people, as well as the multiplicity of cultural institutions, political strategies, and religious and social perspectives they developed — forging their own history, culture and society against unimaginable odds. Commencing with the origins of slavery in Africa, the series moves through five centuries of remarkable historic events right up to the present — when America is led by a black president, yet remains a nation deeply divided by race.

Professor Gates travels throughout the United States, taking viewers on an engaging journey through history. He visits key historical sites, partakes in lively debates with some of America’s top historians and interviews living eyewitnesses — including school integration pioneers Ruby Bridges and Charlayne Hunter-Gault, former Black Panther Kathleen Neal Cleaver, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and many more.

“The story of the African-American people is the story of the settlement and growth of America itself, a universal tale that all people should experience,” says Gates, Alphonse Fletcher University professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. “Since my senior year in high school, when I watched Bill Cosby narrate a documentary about black history, I’ve longed to share those stories in great detail to the broadest audience possible, young and old, black and white, scholars and the general public. I believe that my colleagues and I have achieved this goal through The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.”

The series will take viewers across five hundred years and two continents to shed new light on the experience of being an African American. By highlighting the tragedies, triumphs and contradictions of the black experience, the series will reveal to viewers that the African-American community, which abolitionist Martin R. Delany famously described as “a nation within a nation,” has never been a uniform entity, and that its members have been actively debating their differences from their first days in this country.

Throughout the course of the series, viewers will see that the road to freedom for black people in America was not linear, but more like the course of a river, full of loops and eddies, slowing, and occasionally reversing the current of progress.

Below are brief overviews of each episode in this six-part series.

Episode One: The Black Atlantic (1500 – 1800)

Tuesday, October 22, 8-9 p.m.

The Black Atlantic explores the truly global experiences that created the African-American people. Beginning a full century before the first documented “20-and-odd” slaves who arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, the episode portrays the earliest Africans, both slave and free, who arrived on these shores. But the transatlantic slave trade would soon become a vast empire connecting three continents. Through stories of individuals caught in its web, like a 10-year-old girl named Priscilla who was transported from Sierra Leone to South Carolina in the mid-18th century, we trace the emergence of plantation slavery in the American South. The late 18th century saw a global explosion of freedom movements, and The Black Atlantic examines what that Era of Revolutions — American, French and Haitian — would mean for African Americans and for slavery in America.

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

Tuesday, October 29, 8-9 p.m.

 The Age of Slavery illustrates how black lives changed dramatically in the aftermath of the American Revolution. For free black people in places like Philadelphia, these years were a time of tremendous opportunity. But for most African Americans, this era represented a new nadir. King Cotton fueled the rapid expansion of slavery into new territories, and a Second Middle Passage forcibly relocated African Americans from the Upper South into the Deep South. Yet as slavery intensified, so did resistance. From individual acts to mass rebellions, African Americans demonstrated their determination to undermine and ultimately eradicate slavery in every state in the nation. Courageous individuals, such as Harriet Tubman, Richard Allen and Frederick Douglass, played a crucial role in forcing the issue of slavery to the forefront of national politics, helping to create the momentum that would eventually bring the country to war.

Episode Three: Into the Fire (1861 – 1896)

Tuesday, November 5, 8-9 p.m.

Into the Fire examines the most tumultuous and consequential period in African-American history: the Civil War and the end of slavery, and Reconstruction’s thrilling but tragically brief “moment in the sun.” From the beginning, African Americans were agents of their own liberation — forcing the Union to confront the issue of slavery by fleeing the plantations, and taking up arms to serve with honor in the United States Colored Troops. After Emancipation, African Americans sought to realize the promise of freedom — rebuilding families shattered by slavery; demanding economic, political and civil rights; even winning elected office. Just a few years later, however, an intransigent South mounted a swift and vicious campaign of terror to restore white supremacy and roll back African-American rights. Yet the achievements of Reconstruction would remain very much alive in the collective memory of the African-American community.

Episode Four: Making a Way Out of No Way (1897 – 1940)

Tuesday, November 12, 8-9 p.m.

Making a Way Out of No Way portrays the Jim Crow era, when African Americans struggled to build their own worlds within the harsh, narrow confines of segregation. At the turn of the 20th century, a steady stream of African Americans left the South, fleeing the threat of racial violence, and searching for better opportunities in the North and the West. Leaders like Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey organized, offering vastly different strategies to further black empowerment and equality. Yet successful black institutions and individuals were always at risk. At the same time, the ascendance of black arts and culture showed that a community with a strong identity and sense of pride was taking hold in spite of Jim Crow. “The Harlem Renaissance” would not only redefine how America saw African Americans, but how African Americans saw themselves.

Episode Five: Rise! (1940 – 1968)

Tuesday, November 19, 8-9 p.m.

Rise! examines the long road to civil rights, when the deep contradictions in American society finally became unsustainable. Beginning in World War II, African Americans who helped fight fascism abroad came home to face the same old racial violence. But this time, mass media — from print to radio and TV — broadcast that injustice to the world, planting seeds of resistance. And the success of black entrepreneurs and entertainers fueled African-American hopes and dreams. In December 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, heralding the dawn of a new movement of quiet resistance, with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as its public face. Before long, masses of African Americans practiced this nonviolent approach at great personal risk to integrate public schools, lunch counters and more. As the civil rights movement scored one historic victory after another, non-violence was still all too often met with violence — until finally, enough was enough. By 1968, Dr. King, the apostle of non-violence, would be assassinated, unleashing a new call for “Black Power” across the country.

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

Tuesday, November 26, 8-9 p.m.

After 1968, African Americans set out to build a bright new future on the foundation of the civil rights movement’s victories, but a growing class disparity threatened to split the black community in two. As hundreds of African Americans won political office across the country and the black middle class made unprecedented progress, larger economic and political forces isolated the black urban poor in the inner cities, vulnerable to new social ills and an epidemic of incarceration. Yet African Americans of all backgrounds came together to support Illinois’ Senator Barack Obama in his historic campaign for the presidency of the United States. When he won in 2008, many hoped that America had finally transcended race and racism. By the time of his second victory, it was clear that many issues, including true racial equality, remain to be resolved. Now we ask: How will African Americans help redefine the United States in the years to come?

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is the centerpiece of a multiplatform project including educational outreach events, a robust website, social media, and a companion book.  Accompanying the broadcast is an ambitious national outreach initiative to extend the impact, utilization, and “life after broadcast” of the serieswhich will include development of digital educational resources, an educational poster and an educator’s premium. The initiative will also include partnerships with PBS stations across the country, which will produce local broadcasts and host live professional development workshops.

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross website (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/) will include video from the series, including all six full episodes for a limited run, as well as scenes not included in the films. In addition to video, the website will elaborate on and explore the rich history covered in the series with text, timelines, images and other multimedia; include a collection of graphics featuring quotations from well-known African-Americans for individuals to share on a number of social media platforms; feature a blog by Gates that highlights 100 interesting and unexpected facts from African-American history; and invite viewers to submit and browse stories about and reactions to significant moments in history. The website will offer visitors the chance to personalize their experience and share series content on social platforms.

The anchor of the series’ presence on social media platforms will be Gates himself — sharing content and behind-the-scenes photos from his own accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Fans on social media will be offered early access to particular content and opportunities to connect with Gates and scholars from the program via live online social viewing events.

A companion book of the same name, written by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Donald Yacovone, which further explores the events portrayed in the series, will be published by SmileyBooks on October 1.

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, the 13th and latest documentary from Gates, is a joint production of Kunhardt McGee Productions, THIRTEEN Productions LLC, and Inkwell Films in association with Ark Media. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Peter Kunhardt, Dyllan McGee and Julie Anderson are executive producers. Stephen Segaller is executive in charge for WNET.  Rachel Dretzin is senior producer. Leslie Asako Gladsjo is senior story producer.

Gates is the first filmmaker to employ genealogy and genetic science to provide an understanding of African-American history. He began the current trend of ancestry-related TV in America with the broadcast of African American Lives in 2006. His previous PBS series, produced in association with WNET, include Finding Your Roots (2012), Black in Latin America (2011), Faces of America(2010)Looking for Lincoln (2009), African American Lives 2  (2008), Oprah’s Roots: An African American Lives Special (2007), and African American Lives (2006).

Major corporate support for The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is provided by Bank of America.  Additional corporate funding is provided by The Coca-Cola Company and McDonald’s.  Leadership support is generously provided by the Abby and Howard Milstein Foundation, in partnership with HooverMilstein and Emigrant Bank.  Major funding is also provided by the Ford Foundation, Dr. Georgette Bennett and Dr. Leonard Polonsky in Memory of Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, Richard Gilder, the Hutchins Family Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Support is also provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS

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Read full Press Release online at Thirteen WNET New York Public Media

2014 Spring Ancestor Challenge

When Luckie Daniels (Our Georgia Roots & Our Alabama Roots) and Felicia Mathis (Echoes of My Nola Past) invited me to join them on the new African American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research (AAGSAR) Group they were launching via Facebook, I had no idea that I would be joining, in my opinion, one of the BEST collaborative genealogy group for “serious” family historians and researchers in 2014. Luckie said it best when she wrote, “Slave Ancestry IS CHALLENGING WORK,” in one of her messages to the group. From that message comes one of the most exciting projects I have ever worked on with a group via the Internet . . . the  2014 Spring Ancestor Challenge – No Brick Walls Permitted!

I have accepted this challenge which officially begins Tuesday, October 1, 2013 and ends April 1, 2014. In essence, this is MY ANCESTOR WORK, but I’m not alone on this journey! I have met some awesome group members who have made the setup and preparation for this challenge so-so sweet (sending a special shout-out to the Texas Tribe . . . woo-hoo!). So I have a support system that is willing to lend a helping hand, consult with me when I need it, and support me when it looks like I don’t know what the heck I’m doing!

So without further adieu, here’s my 2014 Spring Ancestor Challenge  . . .

Masters & Slaves: The Texas Routts

The Challenge:

To determine the approximate date/location of my 3rd great-grandfather Osborn Routt’s birth in Virginia, as well as the approximate date/location of his death in Washington County, Texas.

Others:

Slave Owner(s):
William Robert Routt from Northumberland County, Virginia
Joseph William Routt from Huntsville, Madison, Alabama & Chappel Hill, Washington, Texas

Years:

1830-1910

Tribes:

Texas – Chappel Hill, Washington County
Alabama – Huntsville, Madison County
Virginia – Northumberland County

Summary:

It was the “5 Generations” photo I found above in an old family photo album featuring my 97-year-old 2nd great-grandmother, Lula (Routt) Green, that initially launched my research into my father’s side of my family tree. Based on a few names my dad could remember, I was able to glean from the 1870 & 1880 census records that Lula Routt, born 12 September 1867 in Chappel Hill, Washington County, Texas, was the daughter of Osborn and Sallie Routt. Lula was born just 2 short years after slavery ended in Texas. Prior to 1867, her parents were slaves on one of the major plantations in the Washington County, Texas area. To learn more about who the slaveholders were in that area, I wrote to Chappel Hill’s local Historical Society, who put me in contact with one of their respected historians, Nathaniel Winfield, in 1998. It is through email conversations with Mr. Winfield, that I discovered that Osborn & Sallie Routt were probably once slaves on his great-grandfather’s plantation – Mulberry Bower. According to Mr. Winfield, his great-grandfather (Joseph William Routt) came to Chappel Hill, Texas from Huntsville, Alabama in the mid 1840’s. Both the 1870 & 1880 census records report Osborn was born in Virginia about 1835. If Osborn was born in Virginia, how did he end up in Texas on the Mulberry Bower Plantation? Well according to a free Google e-book I was fortunate to download titled, A History of Texas and Texans, Volume 4 by Frank White Johnson, Joseph William Routt was the son of William Robert Routt, ” . . . a slaveholder and planter of Virginia . . . ” So in light of that family connection it is very possible that William Routt may have been the original owner of Osborn which resulted in him being passed down to the son as a part of the father’s estate.

Related Post – Treasure Chest Thursday: Mulberry Bower

References:

Google Book: A HISTORY OF TEXAS AND TEXANS by Frank White Johnson
Genealogy of the Joseph William Routt Family
Genealogy of the William Robert Routt Family

References Needed for Further Review and Analysis:

Probate Will of William Robert Routt
Probate Will of Joseph William Routt
Estate Inventories for William Routt & Joseph Routt
Insurance Policies for William Routt & Joseph Routt
Plantation Records for William Routt & Joseph Routt (if available)
Sharecropping Records for Osborn Routt
1850 & 1860 US Federal Census Slave Schedules for William Routt & Joseph Routt
Tax Records for William Routt, Joseph Routt, and Osborn Routt
U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880
U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885
U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918
Washington County, Texas Death Records
Local Histories & Pamphlets
Chancery Records Index
African-American Newspapers
Church & Baptism Records*

For Family, Friends, and Visitors:

What have I missed?
Are there any other references and resources I need to explore?
If yes, let me know in the comment section below!

*Special thanks to Shellye (My Genealogical Journey) for reminding me to include Church & Baptism Records to my list as well!

Those Places Thursday: Pelham, Texas

It’s Thanksgiving Day 2012, as well as, “Those Places Thursday!” This blogging prompt gives me a chance to reminiscence about how and where my ancestors lived and to write about “those places” via stories and/or photos.

This past Sunday I came upon this wonderful news story on DallasNews.com about Pelham, Texas, a small Freedman community that’s fighting hard to preserve its legacy for future generations. As far as I know, I don’t have any ancestors who lived in Pelham. But I have had ancestors who lived in similar communities like the historic Houston’s Fourth Ward, the site of Freedmen’s Town, which was a post-U.S. Civil War community of African-Americans, that no longer exist today due to gentrification.

So I’m very thankful that this community’s story is being told and I share it with you on this national day of thanksgiving. Enjoy!

Pelham, Texas
Darlene Holloway arrives for a church service in Pelham, one of the state’s dwindling number of freedmen’s communities. The residents of the town just outside Corsicana have collected artifacts and memories so the town won’t fade away.(Louis DeLuca – Staff Photographer)

Surname Saturday: Routt, 1st Generation

Surname Saturday is one of the popular “Daily Blogging Series” going on at GeneaBloggers.com! This series is intended to give genealogy bloggers a chance to discuss a surname and mention its origin, its geographical location(s), and how it fits into their family research. So I’ve joined the foray and plan to share information regularly about the surnames I’m researching in hopes that others who are researching those surnames will connect with me!

ORIGIN

With regards to origin, in Ancestry.com’s THE ROUTT NAME IN HISTORY, Routt is English and “probably a topographic name for someone who lived by a patch of rough ground.” According to the 1920 US Federal Census, majority of the Routt immigrants that came to America were from England.

One of the challenges I’ve faced with my Routt research has been with the various spelling of the surname (Rault, Roatt, Rout, Routt, Routte, Route, Roult, Rowte, Rote) in birth, census, death, and marriage records. I believe the reason why there are so many variations of  this surname is due to my ancestors, who were slaves, not being able to read or write. Therefore, they could not tell the person recording their information how to accurately and consistently spell their name all the time. So if the person recording their information wasn’t familiar with how the surname was spelled, or wasn’t a good speller in general, then variations of the surname was bound to happen. But from what I have been able to glean from records, most of my ancestors spelled Routt with two t’s at the end — which was the same way their slave owner, William Routt, spelled his name.

 GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION(S)

Routt immigrants came to the United States from the Eastern region of England (Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire). Once in the US, by the 1840’s there were Routt households in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and South Carolina. By the 1920 census, a majority of Routt households resided in Kentucky, Texas, and Ohio.  With farming being the principal occupation among most Routt immigrants, and with the rise of plantation agriculture in colonial America, many Routt immigrants owned slaves and operated medium to large plantations.

In an email I received from Genealogist, Virginia Hill in 1998 who shared information from ALL OUR YESTERDAYS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHAPPELL HILL compiled by Mr. & Mrs. Nath Winfield (very knowledgeable local historians), cotton merchants observed that certain Texas counties — Brazoria, Washington, Ward, and Matagorda – “were superior to regions in the United States for cotton production. Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Carolina then produced an average of 3 bales ‘to the hand’ while the average production of cotton in these Texas counties were seven bales.” I’m sure the prospect of producing seven versus three bales ‘to the hand’ of cotton was what prompted cotton merchant, William Routt, to move to the Washington County Texas area from Huntsville, Alabama bringing with him one of the 1st generation of  ancestors on my father’s father side  – Osborn & Sallie Routt

MY FIRST GENERATION OF ROUTTS

According to the 1870 United States Federal Census
Osborn was 28 yrs old, born about 1842 in the State of Virginia.
Sallie was 23 yrs old, born about 1847 in the Alabama.

Children of Osborn & Sallie:
Buchanon 10 yrs old, born about 1860 in TX
Jefferson Routt  7 yrs old, born about 1863 in TX
Mary F Routt  5 yrs old, born about 1865 in TX
Louisa Routt  9 months old, born about 1869 in TX

Per the Washington County Marriage Records (Certificate No. 12680, Vol. 3, Pg 488) Osborn and Sallie were joined in marriage as husband and wife on 9 July 1871. Considering the date of their marriage and the birth of their children, one can only conclude that even though the institution of slavery did not officially allow slaves to marry, Osborn and Sallie obviously stayed together. Once slavery ended in Texas, they made their union legal!

According to the 1880 United States Federal Census
Osborn is 45 and Sallie is 30, which is a major discrepancy with how old they should be by this time. This also tells me that they literally had no idea as to how old they were, or when they were born (which is not unusual when you consider they could not read or write). But if I believe the 1880 Census information with regards to their ages, then Osborn would have been born around 1835 and Sallie around 1850.

Another change in this census is regarding a young male child stated as “son” – Buchanon, who would be 20 yrs old by this time. He is no longer living with the family.  
Some possible reasons for him not being enumerated with them are:
1) he is a young adult living and working on his own,
2) he’s married with a family of his own nearby or in another town, county or state,
3) he may have died between 1870-1880 from an illness or accident.
4) he may not be the biological son of Osborn and Sallie; he may be an extended family member to Osborn or Sallie (i.e. brother, nephew, cousin) living with them with
5) even though he was listed under the surname Routt in the 1870 Census, his given surname may not be Routt

But, three more children are now listed with this family:
Charlotte Routt  8 yrs old, born about 1872 in TX
William Routt 6 yrs old, born about 1874 in TX
John Routt 4 yrs old, born about 1876 in TX

So if you have some of my 1st Generation Routts in your family tree, let me hear from you because I’m — Claiming Kin!

Treasure Chest Thursdays: Mulberry Bower

It was during one of my visits home for the holidays in 1998 that I came across the “5 Generations” photo that I featured for Wordless Wednesday, 23 March 2011. That photo featuring my 97-year-old great-great-grandmother (Lula Routt Green) is what launched my research into my father’s side of my family tree.  Based on a few names he could remember, I was able to glean from the 1870 and 1880 census that Lula Routt, born 12 September 1867 in Chappel Hill, Washington County, Texas, was the daughter of Osborn and Sallie Routt.  Lula was born 13 years after slavery ended in Texas. Prior to her birth, her parents — Osborn and Sallie —  were slaves on one of the eight plantations in the Chappel Hill area.

So I turned to the Internet to find and connect with Chappel Hill’s Historical Society to learn more about the plantations in their town during the 1860’s. My email queries put me in direct contact with the town’s well-respected historians, Nath & Judy Winfield who sent  the email below:

Date: Tue, 25 Aug 1998 15:13:23  -500
Subject: Plantation Homes

Re: your inquery about plantation homes in this area:

Joseph William Routt, my maternal great grandfather, came to Washington Co. from Huntsville, Alabama in the mid 1840’s, bringing his family with him. He bought a tract of land between Chappell Hill and the Brazos River and began building a house. Before it was completed, it was blown down in a storm, whereupon he moved the location a short distance south and built again. I have a drawing of the floor plan, typically Texan in style, with a dogtrot and rooms on either side, one with a fireplace. The kitchen was a separate building about ten steps behind the house, with a large fireplace for cooking (My great grandmother bought her first stove after the War). When he became to old to raise cotton, Mr. Routt moved to town. My grandfather sold the property and moved the cotton gin into Chappell Hill. The house has been somewhat modified over the years and has been moved to the outskirts of Chappell Hill. I tried, unsuccessfully, to buy it at the time it was moved. The Routt Plantation was called “Mulberry Bower…”

Can you say — hit paydirt?!  HIT PAYDIRT! What are the chances of the great-grand son of the Slaveholder who may have owned and brought my ancestors to Texas would be sharing family history with me via email?!

All I can say is — WOW!

A few weeks later 16 September 1998, I received  the drawing  of the Old Routt House as well as a photo of  the house after a room had been added on the front porch in 1846:

Old Routt House Drawing, circa 1846
John W. Routt House, circ 1846

I cannot begin to explain the emotions I felt that day in 1998 when I actually saw this drawing and photograph of the house that I know my ancestors helped build, kept cleaned, and worked hard and long in the fields of the Mulberry Bower Plantation.

So what has become of this house since 1846? Well, a recent road-trip to the area revealed that the house still exist today and that it sits back along FM 2447 not far from the National Historic District of Chappell Hill, TX.

Routt descendants purchased another small 4-room house of cedar from a carpenter/sawmill owner in 1898. The house was enlarged with Victorian trim and two chimneys. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in Texas on February 20, 1985 (see below):

Routt House photo taken 20 May 2011

So if you have some Routts in your family tree, or slave ancestors who have connections with the Mulberry Bower Plantation, let me hear from you because – I’m Claiming Kin!