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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis


I think Julie Winch did an exceptional job researching the book. She has done additional work on the Clamorgan family and has published books on other free people of color, Joseph Wilson and James Forten.

I have folks who were mentioned in the book. My ancestors were members of the Reynolds family. One ancestor bought a Clamorgan descendant's business, a bath house/hair dressing establishment. At least one member of this branch of my family passed into white.

The family was originally from Norfolk, Virginia who left during the post-Nat Turner Insurrection years. My gg uncle, Norton Reynolds, was charged with helping a slave escape and so had to leave town. In skipping town, he forfeited his inheritance. One of my cousins owns a chair that is reported to have belonged to Norton's mother's estate. He and his family moved to Baltimore, then settled in St. Louis. He lived long enough to see slavery end.

His son Norton Jr. and daughters were mentioned in Clamorgan's book. Norton Jr.'s grandson headed west and passed for white. I learned this through research and discovered I was a few years too late. His grandson died in the 1980's having married a white woman and without descendants. He died wealthy in Utah, the owner of a paper processing company. I would have loved to have connected the family while he was still alive, even if he denied his ancestry. I cannot understand his life, and can't judge. I can't imagine what his life must have been like, looking white, knowing he was African American and having to deny that part of his ancestry to become as successful as he did.

Our branches have been separated since 1838. That generation was almost white, or rather, more white than African American. My branch of the family remanied in Virginia and did not pass, although many members were very fair skinned. My branch married African & Native Americans. I stumbled across bits and pieces of this story about 5 years ago. I can say that I am thankful for projects such as the African American Biographical Database and for researchers like Julie Winch and Tommy Bogger for helping me put all of the pieces together.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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