Sunday, February 12, 2023

Black History Month

February is Black history month. In our family tree we have a number of Black ancestors including Lulu B. Lee (1871-1941), a 2nd cousin (4X removed) who was originally from Virginia. She was one of the more fascinating people in our family history. She was black but not a slave, having been born just a few years after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. 

Dr. Harry Warren Mickey

Lulu was a Great Granddaughter of our notable ancestor Matthew Gower (1762-1853). Lulu was a domestic worker for most of her life. During one particular job in New Jersey, she ran into legal problems and had to appear before a judge. She was accused of "visiting a disorderly house."  We don't know what her crime actually was, but whatever it was earned her 30 days of hard labor in prison. If nothing else, it appears that Lulu was caught up a judicial system that treated people of color unfairly. Sound familiar?

Lulu's sister Amanda Lee (1875-1950) had a son named Harry Warren Mickey (1904-1973) who was the first black Medical Doctor in the city of Washington, D.C. In the June 7, 1930 edition of the Washington D.C. newspaper The Evening Star, the graduates of the Medical College of Howard University were listed. Among them was our ancestor Harry Warren Mickey. One family tradition has it that he was the physician for our 25th President William McKinley and that Dr. Mickey accompanied the President to Ohio when McKinley was assassinated.

Another notable black relative in our family tree was Bishop Henry Beard Delany (1895-1991). He was an outstanding Episcopal minister who, in the early 20th century, was one of only two black bishops in the Episcopal Church in the entire United States. He is related to us through our Gower ancestor Charity Gower Clayton (1804-1847).

Ruby Dee and Diahann Caroll
portraying the Delany Sisters
In addition to the foregoing, two of the most accomplished black ancestors in our family tree were Sarah and Annie Elizabeth Delany (1891-1995), two of the children of the aforementioned Henry Beard Delany. Annie's biography on reads as follows: 

Annie Elizabeth Delany was one of ten children born to Bishop Henry Beard Delany and Nanny Logan, having been born in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1891. She, along with her sister, were thrust into the national limelight in the last decade of their lives. With her sister Sadie (Sarah Delany) and journalist Amy Hill Hearth, a book was published, "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First One Hundred Years" (1993) which found itself on The New York best-sellers list. The book recounted the sisters' experiences growing up in the segregated South and later in New York. Their story was later made into a play that toured the country. In 1994, the sisters published another book, "The Delany Sisters' Book of Everyday Wisdom." Bessie Delany died in Mount Vernon, New York at age 104. In April of 1999, the Delany sisters' story was made into a movie which starred Ruby Dee and Diahann Caroll.

On Black History Month it is gratifying to know that we have a number of Black members whose lives give credit to our larger family.
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Steve Shepard

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