Family

Colbert descendants Birdie, Colbert, and Fragelia Thompson, ca. 1930The members of Monticello’s African American community fought hard to keep their families together, defying slavery, a system that inherently divided families.  In many cases, this meant struggling to reunite family members torn from one another by sale after Jefferson’s death.  Of her ancestors, Edna Jacques explained, “they kept their families together, this is key, they survived slavery, they knew who they were and they were able to make the transition during those rough days and go forth into the 20th century.  So we're very proud of them.” 

Despite the varied experiences of these families as they dispersed across the country, all emphasize the importance of family strength and support.  Many descendants acknowledge the importance of oral history and knowing about the lives of their ancestors.  “To really know your ancestors, it means a lot,” said Eliga Diggs.

Calvin Jefferson with his family

At the end of each Getting Word interview, participants responded to the question, “What would you like the world to know about your family?” The excerpts below reflect a small portion of these responses, but highlight the sense of family pride that runs throughout all interviews.

Excerpts

Eliga Diggs

Eliga Diggs

1935–
(video)
"The progress that we've made"

Eliga Diggs and his wife Doris describe their family and their pride in their family's success.

Theme: Family

Eliga Diggs

Eliga Diggs

1935–
(video)
"It means a lot to me to know"

Eliga Diggs discusses the importance of knowing his family history.

Theme: Family

Diana Redman

Diana Redman

1948–
(audio)
"We accept this is who we are”

Diana Redman describes how her family members have never denied any aspect of their heritage.

(audio)
"A family of great dignity"

Mabel Middleton considers what is important about her family and recalls her aunt Ellen Bowyer Hance.

Theme: Family

Johnny James Young

Johnny James Young

1924–2002
(audio)
"I don't mean to be bragging"

Johnny James Young describes his pride in his family.

(video)
"Everybody’s done well"

Calvin Jefferson and Bessie Dorsey describe their pride in their family's accomplishments and the importance of learning about their ancestors.

Theme: Family

(video)
"Embrace your past"

Joyce Harrod discusses the importance of learning about ancestors and understanding her family's past.

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