Thursday, August 25, 2016

My Son Isn't For Sale

James Morris
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting a beautiful woman named Lorena Morris at the home of her friend Ruby Dunn Gilmore. She flew down to spend some time in her home town of Kentwood, Louisiana. I went over the see both ladies and decided to sit and talk with them about Tangipahoa Parish Training School for the Colored. They both were students at the school and both ladies were taking me down me back in time. Her siblings are; Charlie, Frank J, Lara Jane, Georgia M, and Joe Lee Morris. Her father James was born around 1914 according to  the 1940 U.S. Census. At the time when the census was taken the family was living in St. Helena Parish.

She proudly displayed his WWII photographs. But one story that stayed in my mind is the story about a white man in Gillsburg, Mississippi  who offered to buy her father in the 30s. She stated her father James told her he was a young man when a white man asked his father to sell him. James father quickly told the white man that his son wasn't for sale. Gillsburg, Mississippi is located in Amite County, Mississippi. This wasn't the first time that I heard people in Amite County talk about their relatives been sold or held systems of involuntary servitude.

She said her mother Dora was a house servant working in the white folk kitchen. Later she got a job working in the school cafeteria in Kentwood.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

What Are You Doing to Preserve Your Family Papers and Photographs?

Antoinette Harrell preserving original papers.
Photo Credit: Walter C. Black, Sr.
Any person who has experienced a natural disaster or other catastrophic situations where they lose their home suddenly will tell you how painful it is to lose family photographs, albums, documents and family papers. In most cases, those losses can never be replaced.  "What if there were one picture  of  your great grandparents and a flood took place at your relative's house and the one picture was lost?" 

Just recently hundreds of thousands of people were affected by the recent rising flood waters in nineteen parishes.  Lots of family photographs were floating in water that became molded. Mold can be very dangerous and a hazard to your health.  You may want to consult with a conservator to have your picture restored if possible. 

I found that simply sharing copies of the family rare photographs with other relatives is one way of making sure that there are additional copies if something should happen to the original.  I use blog and Facebook page is another great way I share my images.  Digitizing your family photographs and papers are another way to preserve the images. But keep in mind that there a risk should something happen with the device you're using to preserve the collection digitally. To learn more about how to preserve the priceless family keepsakes,  please click on the link below. 

Most people have an iCloud account where they can keep copies of their photographs, documents, family papers and video clipping. Most importantly, your files are accessible from your iPhone, IPads and other Android devices. I also use an external portable hard drive to store my files as well. In the event of a catastrophic event or natural disaster, I can just pick up my external portable hard drive and leave to say the least. Nevertheless packing the originals of my collection is vital as well. 
Ernest Lewis and Catherine Harrell Wedding.

The National Archives site on how to preserve family papers and photographs very helpful. Most of the time we become reactive rather than pro-active. If you live in a flood zone, please consider your family keepsake collection when you prepare to evacuate.

It never to early to start working to organize your family priceless photographs and papers before a natural disasters. When a natural disaster occur,  most people can't think about saving those items. 

Please click on the link below to learn more:

Friday, August 12, 2016

Free Bob's Great Granddaughter Cora Bell Cryer-Evans

Cora Bell Cryer-Evans
Cora Bell Cyer-Evans was born in Fluker, Louisiana July 29, 1920. She is the youngest daughter of Nancy and Joseph Cryer, granddaughter of Rev. Robert Vernon, Jr. known as "Pa" he is the son of "Free Bob/Deacon Vernon.

Cora Bell's early years was spent at "Pa's" house in Vernon Town, better know as "Up home." She attended Mt. Canaan Elementary Schoo and later furthered her education in Kentwood, Louisiana.

Cora Bell married the late Edmond H. Evans during World War II and they moved to Hammond, Louisiana. In 1947 their only child, Brenda Joyce Evans-Johnson was born.

Cora Bell and Edmond became business owners in Hammond. They had the only black owned and operated dry cleaners in the City of Hammond and Parish of Tangipahoa. Ace Dry Cleaners serviced the community for years.

After the cleaners closed, she worked as a Domestic is several homes. In 1966, Cora Bell moved to Oakland, California and worked as the Supervisor in a local Nursing Home for twenty-years. When she retired, she relocated to Los Angeles, California and lived with her daughter Brenda; Grandison McEllen Johnson, III, son-in-law; and their two sons; Grandson, IV and Estevan.

After Brenda's death in 2005 and the death of her oldest sister Jannie Cryer-Ennis known as " Lil Jannie' in 2006, she moved back to Hammond due to her failing health. She lived with her niece Charlene Shockley-Kelly. In 2008 Cora Bell became a resident of the Hammond Nursing Home, where she currently resides.

Source: Vernon Family History Booklet

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Mt. Canaan Elementary School Was the First School for African American Students in Arcola, Louisiana

Robert"Free Bob" Vernon donated the land for the first school for African American children in Arcola, Louisiana.,  The school closed it doors in the mid 60s according to Tony Stone. Free Bob didn't know how to read or write but he made sure that the African American children in the community had a school to attend.  He was born a slave and he purchased his own freedom. He also purchased 2300 acres of land. Giving each one of his children who married one hundred acres to help them get started. There is a community called "Vernon Town" in Arcola, Louisiana.

Photo Credit
Luther Tolliver

Singer Topsy Chapman of Kentwood, Louisiana

Topsy Chapman
Topsy grew up not far from New Orleans in Kentwood. She was surrounded by music, her parents believed in the cultural of music. Her father Norwood was a music teacher and her mother Roxie believed that the combination of chores, study and music was necessary for proper child development.  She is an admired singer around the world. She is joined by her two daughters, Yolanda "Peb" Windsay and Jolynda "Kike" Phillips.

In 2002, Chapman was nominated for Best Female Jazz Vocalist in the prestigious Best of New Orleans Awards given by Gambit magazine. She is one of sixteen children born to Norwood and Roxie. Norwood was first married to Myrtis.

She had toured all of Europe, Asia, and Australia and travelled the Americas performing gospel, traditional and Dixieland Jazz. Topsy's film credits include: No Cross, No Crown (2009); Tradition Is a Temple: The Modern Masters of New Orleans (2013): and 12 Years a Slave (2013). Her father Norwood was born April 4, 1898 to Henry and Laura Chapman in Liberty, Mississippi. Henry and Laura were the parents of William, Mamie, Lewis and Norwood Chapman. Henry was born in 1871 in Amite, Mississippi.

Henry parents were Joseph and Laura Chapman. They were the parents of Harris, Amelia, Celia, William, Henry, Susan, Jacob, John, Maria, Frank and Baby Chapman. According to 1880 U.S. Census Laura Chapman was born around 1835 in Maryland. The family was listed as mulatto. In 1870 the family was living in Ward 8, East Feliciana, Louisiana.

Chapman Brothers Gospel Singers of Kentwood, Louisiana

The Chapman Brother
Photo Courtesy of Lemmie Chapman III
This article is a reprint and was brought by Lucille Watson of Kentwood, Louisiana. It appeared in the November 26 issue of the Dixie, the Sunday magazine of the Times-Picayune. The Chapman Brothers are natives of Kentwood, Louisiana and were in Mrs. Watson's choir at Brown's Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, of which Rev. H.W. Andrews is pastor. By Gil T. Webre

"We sing like the Chapman Brothers. We don't have nobody' else's style." That's the way Lemmie, a one time policeman in New Orleans, and now a truck driver describes the music he and his brothers create. And that's gospel. "Gospel music tied in the traditional style, but somewhat modernized," is the way Floyd puts it. He's was a social studies teacher in Jefferson Parish school system. The blending of a traditional gospel music modern showmanship can be seen in the variety  of booking which the Chapman brothers had. Church-related appearances head the list. Occasionally, they perform at services, but usually they present special programs, independent of any services. During the fall and winter, they'll be a church Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama almost every Sunday afternoon.

Their songs are religious, with some patriotic ones (such as their Gospel version of God Bless American) thrown in for good measure. The Chapman Brothers singing group consist of vocalists Lemmie, Floyd, James (who's very animated in his leads) and occasionally Willie who handles much of the business of the group. Music is furnished by guitarists Henry and LeRoy, and drummer Norwood. 

Photo by: Jerry Lodriguss
All brothers, there are 16 Chapman children total have regularly put food on the table. So often they have problems getting together for rehearsal and to work out their gospel routines. Then to complicate matters, some other brothers either work or go to school at night. They find time to rehearse mainly on Saturday's and some weeknights, while generally limiting their booking to Saturday evening and Sundays. Between jobs and music, the Chapman's have little time to be alone with their families, but the brother look at it philsophically. If others have time for fishing and golf, they have time for singing. The Chapman's have been around Gospel music and songs ever since they were knee-high to dairy calves at their parents farm in Kentwood.

Norwood Chapman Sr., 80 was a farmer, barber, music teacher and strict disciplinarian. He and his wife Roxie 74, a teacher who quit the classroom when her family start growing. She believed that a combination of chores, study, and music was necessary for proper child development. Whenever a church or civic event around Kentwood required song, the Chapman's were always available to furnish it. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Vernon Family Reunion "The Legacy Will Never End"

 Photo Credit: Jo'elle Lacoste
The Vernon family held their 2016 family reunion in Tangipahoa Parish this past weekend. This year's theme "The Legacy Will Never End." They're the descendant of a former slave named Robert "Free Bob" Vernon, whom purchased his own freedom and the freedom of two of his children.  Free Bob was the father of seventeen children. He was married four times: Nellie Thompson, Martha Ann Morris, Catherine and Mamie last names are not known. His mother was named Hariett Booker and they called her "Grandma Booker."

My keynote address was "Maintaining the Legacy" of Free Bob. Maintaining the legacy of  wealth, educations, economics, employment our history and our future is what every family should be discussing. Every family reunion needs to educate their family members about the legacy left to them by their ancestors. What are the family heirs of, how do we maintain our inheritance is the big question that every family sure have the answers too.

He donated land to build the first African American School and church in Arcola, Louisiana. There is a community named Vernon Town. Bob purchased twenty-three acres of land, each time one of his children got married, he would give them a hundred acres as a gift to get them started.

If the Vernon family would've incorporated their town, they would have been the Rosewood and Tulsa of Tangipahoa Parish. They would've had their own infrastructure with their own elected officials, police department, banks, stores and schools. Free Bob laid down the foundation for this kind of freedom. He knew what the shackles of slavery sound like and he knew the sound of the freedom bell. 

I took a census of all the educators in the room last night because Free Bob couldn't read or write, but he kept a lot of books around him and he donated land to build a school for African American children in the community. About fifteen Vernon educators raised their hands. Enough educators to start their own school again. 

When Fairy Hannaibal starting sharing the Vernon history with the children they all gathered around
Photo Credit: Antoinette Harrell
her as she set in her rocking chair. Their little eyes was locked directly on her and their little minds were going back in time. Fairy is the 4th oldest grandchildren to Rev. Robert Vernon III. "What a great way to past down the family history to the youth!"

After the tasty dinner of smoke chicken, potatoes Au-gratin, seasoned green beans, toss salad and rolls and delicious homemade peach cobbler and warmed bread pudding with vanilla sauce, everyone turned their attention to the photograph slideshow presented by Madelyn Walker Collins. I enjoyed looking at the old photographs of the Vernon family. Someone really preserved the family photographs. Everyone was so happy to see their loved ones. For those that has passed on, seeing the pictures really brought back fond memories.

The host for the evening was none other than Glyniss Vernon Gordon, the daughter of the late Dr. Willard Vernon and Mrs. Alma Harrison Vernon. Many door prizes was given away to the family. Gwendolyn Vernon recognized the family member who traveled the fastest, family members with the most children. The oldest and youngest family member was recognized.

The Vernon Family History Book
Photo Credit: Antoinette Harrell

Friday, August 5, 2016

She Remembered Like It Was Yesterday

Several weeks ago genealogist and television talk show Antoinette Harrell met with Mrs. Brumfield was a graduate of O.W. Dillon High School. She came with her kept 1950-1951 yearbook wrapped so neatly in a bag and ready to display it. 

"No matter when and where you see Mrs. Brumfield, she is neatly dress and her hair so neatly groomed!" She is just one of the women in her mid 80s who look so well and still has a very good memory in Kentwood.

She is such a graceful lady in every way. Soft spoken and she never raise her voice to speak above her soft tone. After looking her yearbook for 1950-1951, Harrell saw a beautiful young lady was the assistant editor for the school's yearbook. Several of Harrell's own family members photographs were in the yearbook. Her cousins Walter Richardson, Sr., and  Willie K. Gordon, Jr. , and her uncle Ernest Boykins.

One of the stories she shared with Harrell was her prom night story. She told her that she had purchased a new yellow dress and was all ready to go to the prom and Mr. Dillon wouldn't allow her class to attend because they put photograph of him in the yearbook.

She spoke about how firm Mr. Dillon was; and wasn't afraid to use his paddle to get the students in line. She recalled the morning lectures about life he would give to them before they were allowed to go to class each morning. Although she didn't integrate Kentwood High School, after graduating from college with a degree in education, she integrated Spring Creek School.