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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: The Free Negro in North Carolina

Much has been written on Revels, particularly Hiram Revels and his free birth status. However, no one to date has ever been able to identify them. I've collected lots of articles and have viewed his manuscript at the Library of Congress. He never identifies his parents. I get the sense that he may have been orphaned or perhaps apprenticed as a child and may not have known their names.

As for sources, Paul Heinegg's book has a section on the Revell Family. In the "Story of Fayetteville", there's a chapter on Blacks in Fayetteville, NC, which includes information on the Revels-Leary families. And there's also a source from Hiram's grandson, Horace Clayton. Sorry I can't recall the title of this book. There are numerous other biographical sources, but they generally point to the same limited sources.

I've yet to see a full genealogical chart on the family, although some have attempted to provide vague circumstantial evidence. I keep my fingers crossed that someone will find the evidence needed to document Hirman's ancestry.

I've attempted to document these lines but have been unsuccessful. Several people claim to have proof, but when I've asked them to share it, they have never produced it. I've been to DAR to track down the possible ancestor who was in the revolution, and no one has any information on Aaron Revels. I've been to the state archives in North Carolina and the courthouse in Fayetteville. I haven't been able to place Hiram Revels in Fayetteville other than from his own statements.

I have relatives who are linked to this family and so if I can document the Revels line, I might find more on my ancestors. Essentially I'm doing research on collateral relatives of collateral relatives and it's driving me crazy.

The Leary, Revels, Sampson and Chesnutt families are linked a few generations back. Their famous descendants are: Lewis Leary, Madame Evanti (aka John Brown & Harper's Ferry, plus numerous others), Hiram Revels (Revels line), Langston Hughes (Sampson line) and Charles W. Chesnutt (Sampon & Chesnutt lines).

My speculation is that the families are connected in the generation born during or just after the American Revolution.

Because many of them are mixed race, and possibly more Native American and White than African, they're nearly invisible in the records. Besides that, they were highly mobile and this may account for the difficulties in tracing them. The Revels can be found in Cumberland, Edgecombe(Nash), Granville, New Hanover, Orange, Robeson and Sampson counties in North Carolina.

The Fayetteville FPOC were a very unique group with extremely close connections to their white ancestors that spanned across counties. They also had very close ties with one another, appenticing their children to each other. The apprenticeship bonds from those areas show during the 20's-50's that a handful of men trained the sons of their friends in Fayetteville. Then later when the younger generations moved west, they maintained connections through marriage and other ties. Ohio and Indiana are hot spots for the settlements of these descendants. By the way, William Bigglestone, former archivist at Oberlin College, published a book in 1981, titled "They Stopped in Oberlin," that provides biographical information on some of these descendants and traces a few back to Fayetteville.

Forgive me for going on and on. I was deeply immersed in this research a year or so ago. If you have information on other Revels, please share it.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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