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Digging to Uncover Roots

Posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2008.

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Last week, StoryCorps Griot was visited by members of the Birmingham African American Genealogy Study Group. They shared stories of segregation and prejudice, discovering their identities, and uncovering their roots.

For the group’s founder, Josephine Martin (pictured right above), it was her hard work and courage in uncovering her roots, a taboo topic in the family, that helped her gain a stronger sense of identity. “Children just didn’t ask those questions, but I felt like a part of me was missing. I had a right to know,” said Ms. Martin. She traced her roots back to a great-great-grandmother from Nigeria, who was sold into slavery in North Carolina. She learned her grandfather was a white man from Alabama. She was given a picture of a cousin she always heard about, but had never met. And, she learned new details and stories about her many relatives.

“It made the connection stronger for me,” Josephine said of the information she gathered by researching census records and talking with family. “It really made things much easier, the more information I found out about my familyó it gave me more of an identity. This is a family I really am part of.”

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