Sunday, July 16, 2017

Greater St. James A.M.E. Church Architect A.C. Evans

Great St. James A.M.E. Church, Hammond, LA
Greater St. James A.M.E. Church was first established in 1867 by newly freed slave Charles Daggs. Daggs fought for the Union Navy during the Civil War, he was shot in the back, falling into the Mississippi River, and picked up by the Union sailors. After he was discharged from the nave, he worshiped at the New Orleans St. James A.M.E. church for three years before moving to Hammond. Daggs became the first pastor of the Hammond church.

Charles Daggs was a powerful voice in the African American community after the Civil War. He advocated strongly for the voting rights of freed slaves, and once protested and testified at the courthouse in Greenburg, that potential black voter was  being threatened by whites and the loss of their jobs and worse if they didn't  vote 'the right way." In 1923 the present site of the church, 311 East Michigan Street, was bought by two of the church members, Israel Carter and Albert Gibson, achieved by mortgaging their homes. The architect, Alexander Cornelius Evans, and the builder, John Noble, were also church members. The church construction was completed in 1925. The cornerstone of the church, include the names of Carter, Gibson, Evans, Nobles and Charles Daggs' son, Lewis.
Alexander Cornelius Evans
Greater St. James A.M.E. Architect

An obituary for A.C. Evans, the architect, on July 31st, 1936 issue of the Vindicator newspaper read as follows:

"Death claims a Good Colored citizen here. Death last Friday morning at one o'clock claimed A.C. Evans, one of the best know colored citizens, who has resided here for thirty years. Evans took much interest in church work. A.C. Evans was laid to rest in Brookhaven, Mississippi.

Evans was an advocate for education, three of his children were educators. I interviewed Evans granddaughter Debra Castille and great grandson Juan Rigo Castille. Debra's mother is the daughter of A. C. Evans. Her mother told her that the building in the Heat of the Night was built by her father A.C. Evans. 

Evans was born in 1875 to Charles and Eliza Jackson Evans in Brookhaven, Mississippi. He was married to Mattie Holloway. On his United States World War I Draft Registration Card 1917-1918 he was employed as a brick layer. According to the 1930 United States Census, Evans and his wife were the parents of nine children; Annette, Charles, Alvin, Mattie, Timothy, Roy, Ruth, Louise, and Edmund Evans. The family was living in Hammond, Louisiana.

Bibliographical Resouces

National Register of Historic Places Registration Form

Photo Courtesy: Juan Rigo Castille

1930 United States Census: Family Search

Monday, July 3, 2017

Remembering Carrie

All across United States today, millions of people are celebrating the Independence of the United States of America from Great Britain and its kings. July Fourth is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence day 241 years ago on July 4, 1776.

The Continental Congress declared that thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire.

Family and friends come together for outdoor cookouts with displays of fireworks to celebrate freedom every 4th of July.  My 5th maternal grandmother  Carrie and her son Thomas had their freedom taken away from them to help build a quality of life for others in the United States. Carrie was born circa 1833,  she was a forced slave on the plantation of Benjamin and Celia Bankston Richardson in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana. In the 1830s, the Liberty bell was adopted as a symbol by abolitionist societies.

The Liberty bell didn't ring for Carrie and her child on July 8, 1776.  Carrie, age 20 and her child Thomas, age 2 were appraised for $1,100 dollars in 1853 in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana. Thomas was around the age of 8 years old when slavery was emancipated in the United States on Jan 1, 1863. I thought about Carrie and Thomas today and asked myself what can I do to in memory of them?

On July 5, 1852, Fredrick Douglas gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at the Rochester's Corinthian Hall;

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Inventory of Benjamin and Celia Bankston

Fourth of July means to me what Thanksgiving means to the Native Americans. It's a day of pain, sorrow, and mourning. This day meant that three generations removed,  my ancestors were forced to be slaves in the Americas. On the east coast  of the shores of the Atlantic oceans. Thousands of ships with human cargo from West, Africa was docking with my ancestors on it packed; like sardines in a can. They endured the rough sea waters, dark spaces in the bottom of the ships infested with human waste, dead bodies, and screams of fear of the unknown.  Thick chains around their hands and feet. Children, women and men from the continent of Africa  where kidnapped and sold into slavery in the United States and other countries. 

At Jamestown, Virginia, 20 African captives were sold into slavery in the British North American colonies in 1612. The question is; "why does so many people of African descent celebrate their enslavement with cookouts, fireworks, new attire to celebrate their enslavement?? 

I know nothing of Carrie's mother or father. Nevertheless, I do know that Carrie was working on the plantation of Benjamin and Celia B. Richardson in the brutal heat picking cotton and doing other back breaking work in St. Helena Parish, La. 

Lack of knowledge of our own history plays a major role for family members who choose too celebrated their enslavement. They teach their children to celebrate it for generations to come. Often times when you try to enlighten them, they will give some reason or reasons they celebrate July 4th and the reasons they'll continue to celebrate it. 

If I may suggest arranged a educational black history documentaries screening on the subject can help the family to become acknowledgeable.  Followed by family lectures  and discussions about their own family history will help them to understand it clearly.  I hope that the descendants of Carrie reflect upon what life was life for her and her child Thomas.  And chose not to celebrate their enslavement but to uplift themselves through knowledge. I'll spend this day educating and sharing historic research and other information with the descendants of Carrie. 

Thomas grew up and married a woman named Amanda Breland Richardson in St. Helena. They gave birth to five children; Annie, Thomas, Golene, John and Sophia Richardson. My direct lineage comes directly through Thomas. 

Thomas married Emma Vining Richardson and they gave birth to four children;  Rosabelle, Josephine, Alma and Alexander Richardson.  I'm the granddaughter of Josephine Richardson Harrell.

If you are a descendant of Carrie and her son Thomas. Posting this blog on the memory of Carrie and Thomas is what I can do today. Share the family history with their descendants in memory of them.