The forgotten stories of “Black Magnolias” from Oakland Cemetery

First in a series

Jihan Hurse, guide, Atlanta, GA.’s Oakland Cemetery’s “Black Magnolias” tour


Atlanta, GA — On a chilly Saturday winter morning, Oakland Cemetery’s “Black Magnolias” Tour Guide and Author Jihan Hurse, excitedly gives highlights of the Black women who lie among its 70,000 “residents” in the city’s historic cemetery.

The hour allotted for the tour was not enough time for all of the stories about accomplished Black women who are buried in Oakland Cemetery. Yet, the Black Magnolias tour was a refreshing collection of insight into the lives of Black women who were quiet and major influencers in the Atlanta region, Georgia and nationwide. Along the multiple paths laden mostly with bricks from days gone by, there were periodic stops at the chosen grave sites of many women who were doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, mothers, wives, educators and skilled technicians.

The Black Magnolias story at Oakland Center is grounded in the fortitude of laundry or washerwomen whose citywide protest resulted in violence, arrests, intimidation and ultimately, a major victory for the Black women who refused to return to work unless their financial and work life demands were met. Their well-organized strike involved some 3,000 Black laundresses and it nearly imperiled the 1881 World’s Fair in Atlanta.

Former slaves strike for better pay and work conditions in 1881.


While praising the domestic workers’ brave and labor market altering stance, Hurse strategically showcased other Black women whose legacies are integral to the success of the Atlanta area, Georgia and the nation. Despite the achievements that stretch beyond racial and geographical boundaries, most of the 12,000 African Americans — including approximately 1,800 slaves — are buried at Oakland in segregated sections known as the African American, Slave and Potters sections.

There are also exceptions to the burial rules of segregating whites, Blacks and Jewish deceased persons from one another. When whites sought permissions to move the burial area initially designated for Black slaves, the graves were moved to the back of the cemetery. Some natural markers such as stones and sticks were not preserved. When that relocation was completed, some families such as the Boylstons asked for an additional set of permissions and that was to bury their “domestic worker,” Catherine Holmes, alongside their family members, according to Hurse. Elise Boylston had a special fondness for “Caty” and the young Boylston lady authored work that included her slave. By the 1960s, Blacks were not segregated to one area or two areas of the cemetery

The grave marker for “Caty” Holmes, a “domestic worker” in the Boylston household, is left. This is a partial view of the extensive Boylston plot in the former Slave section of Oakland Cemetery.


A dozen other Black Magnolias were pointed out by Hurse as significant based on a range of qualities such as the first Black lady buried in Oakland Cemetery, to the sisters who established the first hospital with 15 beds that was available to Black patients.

Below is the grave site of Estella Henderson was an attorney, an author of books on race relations and was recognized by U.S. President William Howard Taft. Her sister, Dr. Blanche Beatrice Bowman Thompson, was a doctor whose practice pioneered specialty work for Black medical professionals in Georgia.


Future blogs will highlight the historical women of Oakland Cemetery. For those interested in the many stories of the Black men and women buried in Oakland Cemetery, the virtual tour is found through this service:

Good Genes Genealogy Services encourages readers of this blog to investigate similar historical stories in cemeteries that bear great stories such as those found at the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.


The 48-acre cemetery that is also considered a city park. The Oakland Cemetery Foundation conducts several tours each year, including a handful devoted to honoring Black history and women’s history.


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Check out this wonderful Black genealogy program

Black Homesteaders of the South with Bernice A. Bennett

On Saturday, February 4, 2023, 12 – 1:30 PM, the African American History and Culture Museum will host its African American History and Culture Event.

It will be held on the Concourse, Oprah Winfrey Theater + streaming

It’s free. It’s also recommended that you get tickets or register at www.etix.com.

Join genealogist Bernice A. Bennett who will uncover the stories of African American families who became landowners through the Homestead Act of 1862 from her latest book Black Homesteaders of the South. Bennett’s work is a modern story of black genealogists who networked through a Facebook page to trace the footsteps of their ancestors in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana & Mississippi. Find out how these families navigated the application process through the federal government, and what this legacy means for their descendants today.
Bernice Alexander Bennett is an award-winning author, genealogist and host of Research at the NationaArchives & Beyond BlogTalkRadio program. Her genealogical interests focus on Southeast Louisiana and Edgefield and Greenwood Counties, South Carolina. Bennett is an author and contributor to 2 award winning genealogy books including Our Ancestors, Our Stories and Tracing Their Steps: A Memoir. A New Orleans native, Bennett is a volunteer with the Homestead National Historical Park Service identifying descendants of Black homesteaders to share their stories.
Black Homesteaders of the South with Bernice A. Bennett

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Celebrating January First … African American style

First Kwanzaa December 26, 1966,Photo donated to BBC by Terri Bandele, pictured on right.

“What do the Africans do?” That is the question asked by a then-young girl, 11-year-old Terri Bandele, who was among the first families celebrating the first Kwanzaa celebration from Dec. 26, 1966 – Jan. 1, 1967. Her question and the organized determination of Dr. Maulana Karenga, Bandele’s parents and others, led to the creation of Kwanzaa, the pan-African and African American holiday that honors the “matunda ya kwanza” that means “first fruits” in Swahili.

Kwanzaa arrives December 26th — the day after the traditional Christmas Day — and culminates January 1st. It does not compete or replace any holiday, according to Dr. Karenga and many organizers. Nor does it compete with a longstanding January 1st celebration for U.S. Blacks and that is Jubilee Day.


Central to Kwanzaa’s purpose is its celebration among family, friends and communities. Today, millions celebrate Kwanzaa and its seven strong principles:

  • The seven principles, or Nguzo Saba are a set of ideals created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Each day of Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle.
  • Unity:Umoja (oo–MO–jah)To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Self-determination: Kujichagulia (koo–gee–cha–goo–LEE–yah)To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
  • Collective Work and Responsibility: Ujima (oo–GEE–mah)To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.
  • Cooperative Economics: Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah)To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Purpose: Nia (nee–YAH)To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Creativity: Kuumba (koo–OOM–bah)To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Faith: Imani (ee–MAH–nee)To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

At Atlanta’s Hillside International Truth Center, Executive Bishop/Senior Pastor, Dr. Jack Bomar, led the church celebration on Jan. 1, 2023, in honor of Kwanzaa’s final day. “We are gathered to celebrate our heritage and honor the spirit our ancestors,” said Bomar while pointing out the symbolic “first fruits” placed on the tables in the church’s smaller chapel. The King Chapel as it is known in honor of the church’s founder, Dr. Barbara Lewis King, was filled to capacity.


Hillside International Truth Center’s Kwanzaa celebration with first fruits, elders in prayer.

Jubilee Day. It began as a tradition of celebration on New Year’s Day 1863.

Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. Courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

The U.S. Government produced a booklet in December 1862 and it was ordered to be distributed by Union Soldiers to Blacks. It speaks of slavery as the “cornerstone” of tragedy.


Nearly two centuries ago, the historical depiction showcases the “jubilee” former slaves felt after their freedom was granted through the presidential act.


Today, church ceremonies such as the NAACP and Roaoke, Virginia community hold a commemorative service in honor of Jubilee Day.

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MONDAY MAY 30, 2022I STAND ON THE SHOULDERS OF MY ANCESTORSYour connection to your ancestors is the shortest path to God. Whatever your connection to your ancestors is- whether it is a heart connection or whether it is a distant memory- they are a part of you. And you are a part of them. Your connection with them transcends lost stories, names, and pictures. You are here because of them, and their soul lives in your heart, bones, and flesh. I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors. I know that whether I know their stories or not, I am connected to them. We are bound together by a divine web of life. I call on them every day. I call on my biological ancestors, as well as my spiritual ancestors. My connection with my ancestors gives me life. It is my foundation. Thank you, Power, in me, through me, as me, around me, through the Christ within. And so it is.Honor your father and your mother,that your days may be long upon the landwhich the Lord your God gives you.Exodus 20:12Daily Thoughts from the HillCopyright: Hillside International Truth Center, Inc.Bishop Dr. Jack L. Bomar – Executive BishopBishop Dr. Barbara L. King – Founder

From the resting place of Clark Atlanta University’s first president, Dr. Thomas Cole, Jr., to ancestors of other families, to relics of our past, our history is never forgotten.

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Teasing Thursday for Freebies Friday

This post about freebies usually appears on Fridays. In honor of a great week by all who have contacted Good Genes Genealogy Services, here’s your day-before treat:

Like the Ghanianhttps://www.uncommongoods.com/product/sankofa-wall-art Sankofa bird, Good Genes Genealogy Services is looking back to gather research from former and current workshops to help all move forward with their family ancestry research.

Good Genes Genealogy Services Reference Guide

During January and February 2022, the Good Genes Genealogy Services team provided five (5) workshops. The free workshops for the DeKalb County Public Library, and the Saturdays-in-February workshops where the proceeds are fully donated to our host, Hillside International Truth Center, certain references were named.

The following is a compilation of the referenced genealogy materials:

Census

Release of the 1950 U.S. Census records, April 1, 2022. 1950 Census on Track for 2022 Release, Despite Pandemic | National Archives

Free or Limited Trial Genealogy Sites (a sampling)

This site is dedicated to genealogy research for African Americans. https://afrigeneas.com

According to its website, “Ancestry.com LLC is an American genealogy company based in Lehi, Utah. The largest for-profit genealogy company in the world, it operates a network of genealogical, historical records, and related genetic genealogy websites.” https://ancestry.com

African American Genealogical Research How to Begin – African American Genealogical Research – Research Guides at Library of Congress (loc.gov)

Part of the Library of Congress website, Chronicling America has searchable images of US newspapers from 1792-1963. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov

It is based in the UK and already has released the 1921 Census. The site is a compilation of media and government reports. There is a 14-day free trial. https://www.findmypast.com/

Search over 10 billion global historical records, birth, marriage and death records from 32 countries, 25 million pages of historical newspapers dating back to 1803, and more than 6.3 billion names – all with a 14-day free trial. Use it free for two weeks and cancel if it’s not for you. https://www.myheritage.com.

The USGenWeb Project is comprised of volunteers who provide free genealogy websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States. It is a non-commercial site and wants to provide free genealogy access for everyone. http://www.usgenweb.org/

Access free digitized images of newspapers, books, films, maps, personal narratives, photos, prints, and drawings.https://www.archives.gov/

This site is free, yet it does ask if you wish to make a donation to keep its access free. Here’s the website announcement “Trace your roots for FREE with our searchable database containing thousands of identified and mystery photos for genealogy enthusiasts looking for long-lost family. Anyone who finds a photo of a direct ancestor that is owned by the archive will receive the photo for free. If the historic photos you find pique your interest in genealogy, you can continue your research by doing a family search here.” https://deadfred.com/

If your ancestors were Jewish, this website has more than 20 million records from all over the world to help you trace your Jewish heritage. https://www.jewishgen.org/

Access free digitized images of newspapers, books, films, maps, personal narratives, photos, prints, and drawings. Home | Library of Congress (loc.gov)

This is an activist group of historians, genealogists, researchers, and open government advocates, Reclaim the Records identifies information that should be in the public domain but has been restricted by the government, archive or library that holds it.  https://www.reclaimtherecords.org

Genealogy Conferences

This site bills itself as “ConferenceKeeper.org is the most complete calendar of genealogy events — anywhere!  Here you will find hundreds to thousands of genealogy webinars, workshops, seminars, conferences, podcasts and more, from genealogy societies, libraries, and other organizations all around the world.” It’s true. https://conferencekeeper.org/conference-keeper/

You may also be interested in the following conferences:

Free admission to virtual and in-person genealogy conferences, seminars such as Upcoming Webinars – Legacy Family Tree Webinars

The Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) – hosts an annual Expo in Athens, GA, gagensociety.org

It is billed as the larges family genealogy conference in the world. It’s the virtual, RootsTech 2022 • FamilySearch

Genealogy Research in Military Records

The National Archives holds Federal military service records from the Revolutionary War to 1912 in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. See details of holdings.

Military records from WWI – present are held in the National Military Personnel Records Center (NPRC), in St. Louis, Missouri, See details of holdings.

The National Archives does not hold state militia records. For these records, you will need to contact the appropriate State Archives.

Web link National Archives Genealogy Research in Military Records | National Archives

Libraries

THE best and “free” source in genealogy research begins at your friendly neighborhood library.  One library system that is used by Ann is the DeKalb County Public Library.  Having a library card gives you access to services such as  “Ask a Librarian” and broader research sites. Anyone may also request library cards in former home libraries across the nation. DeKalb County Public Library (dekalblibrary.org)

Find It! The Library of Congress https://www.loc.gov/pubrr/findit-faq.html

Located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the Allen County Public Library has one of the largest genealogy collections in the United States.Home | Allen County Public Library (acpl.lib.in.us)

Nonpopulation Census Records

Nonpopulation census records can add “flesh” to the bones of ancestors and provide information about the communities in which they lived. Agriculture, mortality, and social statistics schedules are available for the census years of 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880. Manufacturing schedules are available for 1820, 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880. These records are arranged by state, then by county, and then by political subdivision (township, city, etc.). Schedules of business are available for 1935 for the following industries: advertising agencies, banking and financial institutions, miscellaneous enterprises, motor trucking for hire, public warehousing, and radio broadcasting stations.

Web link National Archives Nonpopulation Census Records | National Archives

Scholarships (a sampling)

Many scholarships are offered for budding genealogists – experienced ones and organizations.

Board For Certification Of Genealogists® Scholarship For African American Students

American Society Of Genealogists Scholar Award

AncestryProGenealogists® Scholarship

Frazine K. Taylor African American Research Scholarship

Georgia Public Library Service IGHR Scholarship

NextGen Scholarship

State Censuses

State censuses can be as important as the federal census to genealogists but, because they were taken randomly, remain a much-under-utilized resource in American genealogy. State censuses often can serve as substitutes for some of the missing federal census records – most notably the 1790, 1800, 1810, and 1890 censuses. Many state censuses also asked different questions than the federal census, thus recording information that cannot be found elsewhere in the federal schedules. While not all states took their own censuses, and some have not survived, state and local census records can be found in many locations. Most states which took censuses usually did so every 10 years, in years ending in “5” (1855, 1865, etc.) to complement the federal census. These state census records are most often found at the state archives or state library. Many are also on microfilm through a local Family History Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and online via commercial genealogy databases.  State Censuses – History – U.S. Census Bureau

Addendum

Inaugural 2021 Genealogy Book published by Good Genes Genealogical Services

Amazon.com: Out of Sight: An Introduction to Unearthing Your African American and Afro-Caribbean Genealogy eBook : Wead, Dr. Ann Lineve, Owen, MS, Mark S.: Kindle Store

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