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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: Walden's ...North Carolina & Ohio

Art,

This is probably a very long shot, but in researching Fayetteville, NC families connected to writers Charles Waddell Chestnut and Langston Hughes, I found a "Waldron" or "Walden." Chestnut names the heroine of his novel, House Behind the Cedars, Rena Walden. The characters in this book also possess common surnames from the Cumberland, New Hanover, Robeson and Sampson counties, where several of Chestnut's (and Langston's) extended family members lived.

I seem to recall that Langston Hughes' maternal grandmother, Mary Sampson Leary Langston, attended Oberlin and I think Langston's mother Carrie claimed that her grandmother's maiden name was Waldren. When I get home tonight I'll check to make sure.

The reason I'm mentioning this is that Langston's distant cousin, Mary Patterson, the first black woman to receive an AB at Oberlin (and I think in the US), was his grandmother's first cousin. The Patterson's moved from North Carolina to Ohio in the early 1800's. Chesnut's parents being a bit younger, followed the NC-to-OH trail and migrated later in the mid-40's. Many of these free families of color from North Carolina established an extended network in Ohio. Except for Chestnut's family, I believe few people ever went back.

I've used a book titled, They Stopped in Oberlin, to help iron out some of these relationships. The challenge is of course, to find the OH descendants' ancestors as free people of color in North Carolina. To me the generation who were adults in the 20's and 30's are the most challenging. They seem to pop up out of nowhere, of various colorings and racial descriptions, are often related, but you can't quite tell exactly how. They leave just enough evidence of their existence and seem to disappear as easily as they appeared in the records.

As a suggestion, you might want to look at Paul Heinegg's book on Free People of Color in NC & VA . The link is below. There is a section on Walden genealogy in VA and NC.

Hollis


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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