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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.



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