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AfriGeneas Writers Forum


Dear AfriGeneas Writers:

Yes, you have to read everything to write your family history.

Finding our family names or the last slave owner on a census, or a DNA match pointing to Africa can be meaningless unless we are prepared to read local, national or global histories. Data just shows that our ancestors existed. What it doesn’t reveal is HOW they existed; where they came from and WHY; where they traveled to and from and WHY.

In other words, the AfriGeneas writer must resist writing through the narrow historical sieve of our 20th Century experience. Our ancestors lived in a society influenced by national and global factors. Still, the challenge exists on how to fill in the gaps in our African-American family histories.

We can understand and perhaps answer some of the HOW ‘s and WHY’s only IF:

We read local, national and global history.

We read literature authored by descendents of the global African Diaspora, authors of European descendents, authors of all multi-cultural societies who wrote/write about philosophy, the arts, social sciences, medicine, and education.

We must read the newspapers, journals from global archives.

“Constructing a Life and a Community: A Partial Story of Maggie Lena Walker” by Elsa Barkley Brown provides some helpful advice. Ms Barkley Brown. She writes, “This is but a small part of Maggie Lena Walker’s story. But examining the life of one black woman prominent in her time and little-known in historical scholarship suggests ways to take other women and use the reconstruction of their lives to explore African American women’s history and the internal dynamics of African American community life.”

Please click on the link below to read Elsa Barkley Brown’s article:

Best regards,

Write Away

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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