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AfriGeneas Writers Forum

Re: Writing Family History in Context of Historical Event/s
In Response To: Writing Monix family history ()

I'm enjoying this thread because we talked about writing our family histories in the context of historical event in my family history writing group. One aspect was to make a timeline and juxtapose one's family history or stories with national or state or local history.

Last month I read Red River by Lalita Tademy. She took an actual event, The Colfax Riots (Massacre)in Louisiana and wrote a wonderful account of her family in a fictional format. She wonderfully traced five or six generations and had impeccable research. She was driven to write this story because in doing research on her paternal side, she came upon the little known Colfax situation which was always called a riot, appeared to be caused by rebellious black men. In her detailed research, including court records, it became clear that was not the case and in fact it was a massacre of dozens of black men who were defending their right to vote and were expecting the government to come to their rescue. It is a fascinating story.

In talking with my aunt, she casually mentioned the tornado that devastated Strong, Arkansas in May 1927. My mother's home, Lapile is about 10-15 miles from Strong. My mother was only a year old in 1927 and my aunt is 14 years younger than she but has a wealth of oral history which she has soaked up like a sponge. She told me that from "oral history" she learned that a group of whites were partying in a train car that was used for that purpose. Evidently they had come from ---and here is where it gets sketchy, either a hanging or a drugging of a black man. While they were having a good time, a tornado came and blew the train car away, killing them all.

I am unable to corroborate any of this in the research I have done. There are several sources detailing the tornado, the deaths and destruction and the rebuilding of Strong. There was reported 30 deaths and 90 injured. According to my aunt, all the victims were white except for one, Beadie McVicar, which was a first cousin to my grandfather, Samuel Rowland. She worked for a white family in Strong and was killed in their home. I have looked at some newspaper archives and still have a great deal to explore. My mother maintains I will find nothing about the racial aspects and I am inclined to believe as she says, that no media reports would report it as it was told to me. I don't know why this story has nagged at me like a toothache, urging me to find out if there is even a kernel of "truth" in the oral history. Does anyone have any advice on what kind of research I should be doing? I have been directed to speak to an old family friend in Arkansas but that might necessitate me actually going down there.

Anyway, thanks for letting me get this off my chest. I'm loving this topic.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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