Were the conditions really better in the north? Jim Crow Laws were more prevalent in the south, but double standards existed with very little racial harmony throughout the nation. For example, where laws prohibited mixed marriages in the south, much was done to make life just as challenging in the north. But, there still was a price to be paid for marrying out of your race. Racial profiling was another attack on minorities, and the conditions of their neighborhood were deplorable. During the 20
Century (1910 -1930), many immigrants migrated to Modern American cities searching for the "Promised Land", but to find a life of superficial expectations.
In 1971, when instructed by her fifth grade teacher to prepare an oral report based on her true country of origin, Regina E. Mason, a direct descendant of a runaway slave, did not expect to trace her bloodline and find a "goldmine"! She was able to map the trails of her ancestors, and trace her roots to New Haven, CT. In 2008, she co-edited her great, great father's autobiography,
Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave;
which he wrote and self-published in 1855. She didn't know that she would become a genealogist and spend fifteen years exploring the life of her famous ancestor, his wife, their children, and the communities in which they lived.
Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave
is the first fugitive slave narrative in American History. Along with the different accounts of cruelty he had encountered while escaping from the oppression of slavery, William's escape and migration from Savannah, Georgia, to New Haven was a courageous and daring one. In the current book, Mason includes letters and family lore from the Family Bible, as well as, the mapping of her bloodline. After she had captured the ultimate thrill of discovering her ancestry, Mason journeyed from California to New Haven to visit William Grimes' grave. When William Grimes reached the north as was mulatto man, the life that he faced was similar to a servant, performing many duties as he did when he was a slave which he escaped from a lifetime of turmoil. Mason's story of recovery will be used in this unit as a guide in the Mapping Bloodline lesson. William Grimes' bloodline can be traced back until 1756, when Benjamin Grymes, Jr., great- grandson of William Fitzhugh, founder of Eagle's Nest plantation in King George County, was born on January 2, at Eagle's Nest. William, son of Benjamin Grymes, Jr. and an unknown slave woman, was born in King George, Virginia, and his probable owner was Dr. William Gibbons Stuart. The year 1799 was the first escape attempt of William Grimes, and in 1811, William was sold to his fifth master, who transferred him from Virginia to Savannah, Georgia. In 1815, William escaped from Savannah to New York City on board the cargo ship Casket. He travelled on foot to New Haven, where he worked at a variety of jobs. In 1817, William was faced with many attacks on his character. He was accused of assaulting a woman in New Bedford, and tried twice, and acquitted both times. He married Clarissa Caesar in New Haven, and then later moved to Litchfield, Connecticut. He established a barbershop and brought real estate there from a celebrated furniture maker Silias E. Cheney. In 1820, he rented his shop in Litchfield, and then moved to New Haven to work as a barber, grocer, and furniture merchant. By 1824, Grimes purchased his freedom for $500; he had opened a short lived barber shop in New Bedford, Massachusetts a couple years before. He wrote his autobiography, and published it in New York City in 1825, but later in 1855, he rewrote and published his second book in New Haven. William died August 21, 1865 and was interred in the Grove Street Cemetery across from Yale College.
The students will read the Life of William Grimes, and Harriett A. Jacobs's book,
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
, written by herself. The students will be asked to compare the struggles of these two former slaves, as they migrated to the north through a way of escape, and how they received assistance to freedom. Both of these slaves were very intelligent, and able to document their past in their autobiographies. In contrast, Mason and I share many similarities. As previously mentioned, my family migrated from the south in search of a better life in the north. My country of origin was Africa, and my ancestors were brought to America against their will. DNA straits determined that my family came from the Cameroon tribe in Africa. Unfortunately, my ancestors were slaves, and documentation of our bloodline was erased through census records and other literary resources. For example, African-Americans were not listed by name until 1870 in the United States census. Tracing to their country of origin, is almost difficult for many, but, nevertheless, not an impossible research project. As a youth, I was at a lost when talking about my country of origin. Because, all I was taught about Africa growing up was that they were savages and uncivilized people. With this negative perception of a great nation of people instilled in my home, school, and community, like many of young African-Americans avoided the embarrassment of being associated with Africa. Until the 60's and 70's when "Black Power" became a movement of self-image for African Americans, images of Black History were very degrading.
TV shows exhibited blacks as nannies, prostitutes, and criminals.
Now, thanks to culturally inclusive television programming, blacks are portrayed in better roles like, judges, lawyers, families with two parents, as well as doctors and other professions. I was brought up in a different period and time, but the students of today should have a different perception of their country of origin than I had. If an African-American student is asked to tell about their true country of origin, they will be able to use the National Geographic movies to talk about the land, animals and people, instead of using Tarzan movies, where humans were swinging from the trees like barbaric apes and monkeys.
Immigration and Urbanization will be of central use for the unit, starting with the late 19
century when the United States experienced massive immigration causing many changes to develop, coupled with the rise of the city, new social patterns, conflicts and ideas of national unity developed and this growing cultural diversity. During this time period, immigration changed. Students will trace patterns of immigrant settlement in different areas of the country and the impact on American Culture and will examine the tensions resulting from massive immigration to the United States. Students will distinguish between "old and "new" immigrants and their roles in society. As more immigrants came to the United States, acclimating new citizens into society became a priority for the government. Students will analyze the development of immigration law and policy, determine the socio-economic and political challenges facing cities as a result of immigration, and determine the validity of an American "melting pot". Students will understand the rise of the American labor movement and how political issues reflected social and economic changes that resulted from changing labor patterns.
1. Socio-economic factors leading to immigration
2. Economic opportunities for immigrants in different areas of the United States especially cities.
3. Social, economic, and political factors leading to urbanization.
4. The values and traditions of immigrants and their positive and negative impacts on American culture.
Under the assumption that most students will not be familiar with their country of origin, and their family's quest to migrate from one American city to another, the students will be required to complete a pre-and post formative assessment, so that new knowledge can be scored. Once students have completed a formative assessment about their TRUE country of origin like; my true country of origin is _________, and I know the following facts about my country of origin: 1) Location, 2) Types of Food, 3) Ethnicity 4) Stereotypes- known for-lifestyles, the mapping process will begin. Provisions will be made for students who may only trace their families back to a point of origin in the US because they no longer have that knowledge. The students will create points, lines and polygons as Places, Paths and Polygons, in Prezi, which has the added advantage of being free, supported on Mac & PC and is easy to use. They can embed all kinds of multimedia into the placemark balloons, including text, images, youtube videos and even create custom balloons if they know a little HTML. Sets of features can be saved to KML files, which are easy to share and supported on many platforms. These maps will be used in the documentary and presented by each student.
With a population of students where Black and Hispanic share classrooms, neighborhoods, and family, this unit would help demonstrate why there are so many similarity in their culture. The definitions of Latin Americans vary, but this project is from a cultural perspective. Latin America generally includes those parts of the Americas where Spanish, French or Portuguese prevail: Mexico, most of Central America, and South America. There is also an important Latin American cultural presence in the United States (e.g. California and the Southwest, and cities such as New York and Miami). There is also increasing attention to the relations between Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole. In Louis Gates' documentary,
Black in Latin America
, he explains how 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World during the Middle Passage. While just over 11.0 million survived the arduous journey, only about 450,000 of them arrived in the United States. The rest—over ten and a half million—were taken to the Caribbean and Latin America. This astonishing fact changes our entire picture of the history of slavery in the Western hemisphere, and of its lasting cultural impact. The introduction of slaves from Africa; which has influenced for instance dance, religion, and cuisine, especially in countries such as Dominican Republic, Brazil, Panama, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico. These millions of Africans created new and vibrant cultures, magnificently compelling syntheses of various African, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish influences. Legends behind dance and songs from Latin America are expressed in dances like Merengue and are closely in comparison to the tradition of African music. The students will be exposed through multi-media on the migratory process of Latin Americans, and how it impacts our cities today.
Interviews will be done with the elders of the family to retrieve as much information as possible. Various factual interviews with elderly members about each family form a bridge between them and the distant past. The elders of the family recount the narratives, lives, and times; which always seem filled with so many heart-warming and dramatic adventures. They also remembered colorful traditions and stories told to them by their parents and grandparents; which will take their research back to the early 1900's. There are frustrations, as well as a wealth of information contained in a single document or in the memory of an elderly relative. Tracing one's forefathers has been compared to fitting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Each fact discovered about an ancestor leads to other interlocking fact about that ancestor and about other ancestors. As the pieces come together, the portraits of their descendants will take form. The students will focus on the migratory process.
"When a woman takes the blues
She tucks her head and cries;
But when a man catches the blues,
He catches er freight and rides."
This song was an example of the movement of black laborers from the Deep South, as they sang songs of departure. One elderly family member from Camden, S.C. shared how their family was enticed to leave the south through the rumors of better conditions in the north. Early 1950s, a member from MT. Zion Baptist Church had returned from a visit to Connecticut, and told the congregation about the job opportunities in the North. Mr. James Brown was a quartet singer, who was commissioned to inform people that the Creoso Plant Standard Brick Yard needed workers, and they provided pay as well as housing. So, the oldest of the family and her spouse, left South Carolina in 1956 to secure housing and employment for the other eleven siblings. The following year, they sent for the rest of the family. But earlier in the year 1917, a vast population of "Negroes" left the south to invade the "Promised Land". Grossman's book,
Land of Hope
addresses how families left their hub in Mississippi to embrace the promises made by relatives in Chicago. The Negroes that were interviewed stated that, "the worst place there is better than the best place here." Literally, workers were leaving their sharecropping jobs, and leaving crops in the middle of the fields, jumping freight trains and leaving all their belongings behind, and migrating with the clothes on their backs, bound for the north, some as far as Canada. Some carefully planned their escape, and others impulsively left the south with no regrets. They had to avoid the traps of the police and white southerners, because they would be jailed or beaten for trying to leave their jobs, but the migrants were crafty with their escapes. Some would walk miles to other train stations to outsmart their captors. Some would contact organizations with offers, like they would come immediately for a job and room, and others would ask for free transportation for themselves and/or family. Most often the men would travel first, and later send for their spouses and families. However, occasionally, men would leave and never send for their families. It had to be an amazing trust factor between relationships, with the ones who were being left behind, and the ones who were providing them a better life. Pastors were leaving with their congregations, and businesses followed their clientele. In the Bible, GOD promised the Israelites a land full of "Milk and Honey", and religion played a significant part in the decision for the people to leave everything behind. As GOD instructed Lot to leave the City of Sodom and Gomorrah, many of the migrants settled in the north and never looked back. The story that was told to me through my parents was that the times were very difficult for them as farmers, and the southerners were so cruel to the Negroes. Even though my mother could be interred in the family cemetery in the south; for many years she opposed the south to be where she spent her final resting place because of how she was treated when she was alive. In an interview she stated, "I prayed for GOD to bring me to the "Promised Land", and he brought me to New Haven…"I will use my family's bloodline only as a model when assisting students with the creation of the Bloodline map, and these are examples of the type of interviews that would be incorporated in the documentary as one way of giving a clearer picture of the struggles of migration.
What is so special about New Haven, and why did so many immigrants settled here in the early 20
century? William Grimes, the runaway slave, found it to be a "safe haven", by using it to shelter him from the shackles of slavery. He was buried in the Grove Cemetery in New Haven, CT. with other Yale dignitaries. Other answers can found in crypts under the Center Church on the Green, where there is
ancient cemetery with gravestones from 1687 to 1812. Fortunately and historically, the New Haven Crypt is one of the exceptional colonial burial grounds to remain untouched. There are 137 grave stones of New Haven 's founders and earliest citizens dating from 1687, Benedict Arnold's first wife, President Rutherford Hayes' family, the Reverend James Pierpont, a founder of Yale College, and Sarah Whiting, 1669-1726. In 1813, Center Church was built over a small portion of the town's burial ground. All the remains and gravestones were left in their original positions to be protected by the church's foundation where a crypt was created. The Crypt and other historical places, like the New Haven Historical Society will provide information on the New Haven's early settlers. Over three hundred and seventy-five years of history has been preserved at the New Haven Museum. New Haven grew from a puritan village into a major industrial centre, and now a major metropolitan area. For students who may be able to trace their families back to the origins of New Haven, they may turn to The Center Church on the Green.
Many answers could be found in cemeteries when "Exploring Bloodlines through Immigration and
Migration." During April 2012, my family presented an Amtrak train ride from Connecticut to the Birthplace of Thelonious Monk in Rocky Mount, N.C.,(our famous cousin and jazz genre), to be included in our historical excursion to Newton Grove, N.C. We were so excited to be MONKs! Because, we were taking a historical train ride back to North Carolina, AND walking in the same footsteps as our ancestors. We take stock in North Carolina, because it is our ancestral home and where our family originated. Most families seldom have the chance to join in unity, unless they happen to unite at a wedding or funeral. But my Monk Family Bloodline traveled from Connecticut by railway to North Carolina between the principal stations in New York and Washington, D.C. to reach Rocky MT. and Newton Grove, N.C., picking up family members to explore our ancestral grounds and family artifacts.