Thursday, February 22, 2007

Black History Tribute

You ask who is that? This is my maternal grandpa (GP) and the story as to how he became my GP is even more fascinating!

My GP was born in Hazelhurst, Mississippi and his mother died when he was just a small boy. His father married a woman shortly afterwards and she brought her own children into the marriage. She would mistreat GP and his siblings terribly bad, especially the boys. Close to a Cinderella story in the reverse role.

We never discussed exactly where his mother and father were from but he spoke often about his Geechee heritage, some now refer to Geechee as Gullah. Geechee's were the first residents brought to the United States and enslaved from many African nations. Another good reason for my bunching hair mixture. Read more here on Geechee.

GP and his childhood friend decided that they could have a better life elsewhere. The two young men took off walking and hitch-hiking their way through the most racist rural areas in Mississippi during the early 1930's. GP often told us that the KKK was not the worst of their fears, they we trying to survive.

Finally, after days of walking and hitching rides they made it safely from MS to New Orleans, LA. When they arrived they were hungry, tired and needed a place bathe. They decided to do a random knock at a house which turned out to be a white man and his wife. Mr. H opened his home to the two young black men, he and his wife fed them, allowed them to clean up and gave them rest for the night. Is that amazing for the 1930's????

After resting, Mr. H and his wife offered GP to stay with him and help them care for their home. (not sure whatever happened to GP's friend) Mr. H was a lieutenant in the Civilian Conservation Corps and soon after my GP moved in with Mr H and his wife, GP joined the CCC. GP esteemed Mr. H for being a good man and the reason for his surviving his journey from MS. to LA.

GP moved to a small town in LA with the CCC where my maternal grandmother (GM) grew up. He would go to her job to buy fresh milk every morning, boy have times changed. I guess they had some kind of connection, they were both twins. (lol)

GM was 18 and GP was 22 when they were married in 1938. From that union, 10 children were born, five girls and five boys, my mother was the first girl and number four.

After leaving the CCC, GP began working at a paper mill which provided him the resources to take care of my GM and all 10 children. He bought land (which many of the family members live on today) and built their home . He eventually retired from the mill and enjoyed life traveling to visit relatives all over the US because he was also a favorite uncle to many nieces & nephews. In fact, the pic of him above is from a niece who paid for his entire trip to Los Angeles to visit family there.

My GP was one of the funniest people I've ever known, if you were in his presence you were guaranteed a "good ole knee slapping time!" He often had a bad understanding about phones though, it disturbed him when I used the phone for a long period of time because he thought local calls were like long distant calls and would tell me I was "running up" his phone bill. Oh, how I miss him!

One story I like to tell is of GP and his neighbor Mr. Buddy, Mr Buddy always had pigs that got out and found their way on GP's property. Regardless of the many pleas to Mr. Buddy to keep his pigs on his own property the pigs still found their way back to GP's house. Well, one day GP had had enough, he always kept his pistol on him when he was driving or gardening. The poor pig came over on the wrong day, Mr. Buddy saw the pig and started running over to get the pig but it just was not fast enough. All we could hear Mr. Buddy yelling was nooooooooooooooo!!
GP took out his pint of whisky, took a swallow, grabbed his pistol and shot the pig right between his eyes. GP then looked up and told Mr. Buddy...."I told you to keep your pigs on your own property." From that day on, Mr. Buddy never let another pig get out and GP & Mr. Buddy remained friends even after that episode.

GP did not have one mean grop of blood in his body...but he was a man of words! He was a tall & bold man and I was always proud of him! As a teenage, if there was any possibility of trouble I just had to let people know who my GP was and it was over.

GM is still alive and well today but GP succumbed to cancer in 1997 and is now resting in his grave waiting for that great getting up morning when the "dead in Christ shall rise first" I Thessalonians 4:16.

And that's my little known Black History tribute!


brunsli said...

I love these posts about your heritage!!

I am so ignorant about this American history. I saw Daughters of the Dust and that's about it. Interestingly, some of the stories they told are also stories told in the Caribbean. Way back, we're all from the same place.negril

Creyole said...

Ok, my GP's pic has disappeared and I'll have to add it back later. Not sure what is up with Picasa.

Brenda said...

It's great that you're so connected to your past. I keep telling myself I've got to talk more about the past with my Nana, especially since she's my only grandparent left and just turned 95.

Vee said...

History is one of my favorite topics and you always give me my fill. I knew a girl in highschool named Gulla, she was from the south. I always asked her what her name meant but she didn't know. What a shame it has such rich meaning..
I'm loving the history lessons keep them coming.

brunsli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
brunsli said...

Creyole, I'm having weirdness with blogger too. My IM conversations keep ending up in the comments. (Can you guess where I'm going for Spring Break?) I didn't mean to say we're all from Negril! That would be, ah, West Africa.

Chosen Vessel said...


What a great post!! I am truly enjoying learning about your history. What a great way to celebrate Black History Month. Your post about your family has really stirred something up in me, I have been asking my mother more questions and plan on talking to others in my family about my background/history.

Thank you for sharing your history with us.

CloudNine said...

My favorite topic is African American history...reading yours is always a pleasure! Your grandfather sounds like an outstanding individual. What really amazes me about that generation is how much they did with so little! I so respect the sacrifices made by our ancestors! Happy Black History Month!

ayankha said...

Hazelhurst to New Orleans!!! That is amazing! I have driven there on the highways and even then, that's a while to drive. I am humbled by the strength and courage of your GP and friend! Great Black History tribute. Reading your post comes in good timing. Yessterday, I had lunch with one of my paternal cousins (the only 1st cuz I've met on that side). And for years she (and my big sis) have been trying to put together pieces of our past together. It is always great to read your rich history. Kinda gives me hope that one day it'll come together.

Mahogany_Butterfly said...

I'm so jealous that you know so much about your history. The little I know about mine reads to much like a soap opera to actually share it publicly lol.

Tra said...

You tell a great story and indeed are very connected to your roots. Cherish that and please continue to share.


Mel said...

What a wonderful story. I really enjoy reading about your family history...

muslimahlocs said...

thanks for sharing. your her-story is our-story in so many ways.