Friday, October 25, 2013

Crossing Rivers in Indian Territory

As I anticipate the airing of the six part series “African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” I do so with the anticipation of someone looking to have his history included in the patchwork quilt that is African American history. Like so many people of “African descent” we have a need to be included in this story of America so we can understand just how we fit in.

Our patchwork includes so many influences that the title of the series leaves a lot for interpretation and I hope to put my insights into the history of the thousands of people who lived among the Five Slave Holding Tribes also known as Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole.

I suspect the story of Priscilla resonated with so many viewers who also perform genealogical research; especially people of “African descent.” The idea of locating and identifying the ancestor that stepped off that slave ship is a monumental task but I would respectfully ask my readers to take a look at the blog by my friend and colleague Nicka Smith, “Finding Your Priscillas.”

As I viewed this poignant story of a young girl put on a slave ship, brought to America and toiled on the Ball Plantation I was reminded of a story of a young girl forced to walk the so called “Trail of Tears” with her Creek Indian enslaver.

Mollie was said to be about 12 years old when she was separated from her mother Betsy and father Lewis; when she separated from her parents and arrived in America under hostile circumstances.

Mollie appears to have been living with her parents circa 1826-27 with their white slave holder in Alabama when she learned that she was going to be sold. After hearing the news Mollie ran away into the woods only to be found and brought back. When her owner decided she was too young to breed he sold Mollie to a Creek Indian who brought her to Indian Territory.

Mollie was later bought by Jim Perryman another Creek; he married her off “to one of his boys and when she didn't have a baby he sold her to another Creek Indian by the name of Mose Perryman.  What makes this story so remarkable it was told by Mollie’s daughter, Mary Grayson in 1937, as part of the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA.)

The confluences of these two stories are both another patch in the quilt of African American history because these women lived long enough to tell their story and have it recorded for all time. We have a responsibility as Dr. Gates has stated; to tell the larger story of African Americans and their struggles from enslavement to present day.

Mollie Perryman and Mary Grayson literally and figuratively crossed many rivers to survive and tell their story. Priscilla, Mollie and Mary were strong women who defied all the odds to live and tell their stories; it is our responsibility to see Indian Territory Freedmen included as part of the story of all African Americans.

Talk about crossing rivers, Mollie was sold on more than one occasion because she did not bear children for her enslavers, when she did, that child lived to tell the story of this remarkable survivor... 

For more observations on the television series African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross the following is a list of members contributing members of the African American Genealogy and History Blogging Circle:

*Melvin J. Collier, Blogger and Author of two books on his family history. His blog is: Roots Revealed.
*Vicki Daviss Mitchell, Genealogist and Blogger. Her blog is: Mariah's Zephyr.
*George Geder, Activist and award winning blogger. His writings will appear on Medium.
*Terry Ligon, Genealogist and videographer Chickasaw Freedman researcher. His blog is Black And Red Journal.
*Drusilla Pair - Genealogist, University administrator and blogger. Her blog is Find Your Folks.
*Nicka Smith - Genealogist, Photographer, and Blogger. Her site is Who Is Nicka Smith?
*Angela Walton-Raji, Author, Genealogist, Blogger and Podcaster. The blog is My Ancestor's Name.

Join us as we embark upon the same genealogical journey together.

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