Sunday, March 6, 2011

Musings on the Lionel Richie episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?"

  • Any African-American whose family has been here since before the Civil War has a good chance of finding an ancestor who was a slave. As a white American, I can't imagine how that must feel. You can think about these things in the abstract but to be actually confronted with the word "owner" like Lionel was when tracking down J. L. Brown, has to kind of people like a suckerpunch to the gut.
  • I definitely felt for him when he was visiting J.L.'s grave site and there was no headstone in the pauper's section of the cemetery. There are certain family members I visit, particularly my poor Irish ancestors, who couldn't afford a marker. It makes you realize how important those things are to not only remembering people gone but to actually have a tangible object and place to go and reflect and grieve and remember.
  • Slaves getting pregnant by their owners is an unfortunate part of American history in the South, but how refreshing to see an owner, Morgan Brown, who, though obviously not so enlightened and progressive as to not own another human being in the first place, was compassionate and progressive enough to ask that the slave woman and her child be freed, that she be given property, and that her child receive an education...whether or not that was actually honored after his death, it definitely spoke to Morgan's character.
  • Loved all the documents outside of the normal range that Lionel was able to find, including Morgan Brown's diary - how cool??? :)
  • I'm glad that Lionel was able to find out so much about his great-grandfather and that what he found out made him proud of his ancestor, even though his grandmother obviously never talked of him and even though his great-grandfather pretty much abandoned his wife and child. That must have been very hard on his grandmother. But it shows that there are two sides to every story, and I also agree with Lionel, that his grandmother probably didn't keep that info from her family - she probably never knew it in the first place.
  • This episode's major crying moment - when he was visiting the cemetery where his great-grandfather was buried. Emotional moments like that for them lead to my own emotional moments, every single time!

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