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My Colored Contradictions, Pt 1 - Stephanie ReneeMar 9, 2014
Knowing the truth of your family history can be a complex, wondrous journey
WURD Family, I am starting a new series here in my weekly blog that will bring you all along with me, as I continue to parse out the fascinating facts behind how I have come to be. I'd like to think that the stories I can share with you will be impartial, mostly uncolored by any biases that might be inserted if one of my elders were telling the tales. Now that they've all passed on, all I have to go by are the documents and bloodlines that are traceable through endless hours of online research with some of the cousins I have discovered along the way. Hopefully, sharing some of this information will inspire more of you to take the leap of DNA testing or asking the hard questions of your relatives that can get you closer to your own truth.
So, here we go...
Chapter 1 of Stef's Amazing DNA Discoveries, formally referred to as My Colored Contradictions. I'll call this one "Confederate Confessions."
Kosciusko, Mississippi. The county seat for Attala County, located smack dab in the middle of Mississippi, 1/50th of this unsteady Union that still has a small homage to the Confederate flag embedded in its own state flag. Sore losers. And yet, the actual stats of Attala County may surprise you. As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 19,564 people residing there. 56.2% were White, 42.0% Black or African American, 0.3% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 0.7% of some other race and 0.6% of two or more races. 1.7% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race). Yes, you read that correctly. The balance of Black and White folks in this decidedly Southern town is relatively even, and this isn't a recent development. There doesn't appear to be a lot to do or much racial tadoo here. No grandiose plantations, now designated historic landmarks. None of that pre-Civil War pageantry. Attala County, by all accounts and reports, has always been very modest farm country. And the intermixing of her residents is both legendary and a foregone conclusion in most families.
I had no idea how deep my family history was in Attala County until after I started my research in earnest. A year ago, I couldn't even have told you my paternal great-grandfather's name. But now I know that Charles Robert McNeal, Jr. came from these humble beginnings, along with at least the prior 3 generations of his family. And he was hardly the only country white guy on his family tree who decided to start a family with one of the darker-hued women in his tiny town. Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out just how white ole great-granddad really was, because the stats of my own DNA would indicate that he wasn't quite a pure Mayflower descendant either. But that is fodder for a future blog. The real story is that I can trace family roots in Attala County back to the late 1700s. Meaning that for some unknown reason, since the very beginnings of America, my daddy's people have had a consistent multiracial presence deep in the heart of Dixie: living with, marrying and making babies that better represent the proverbial melting pot than even many of our progressive communities here in the Northeast.
And, if good ole Kosciusko sounds familiar to you, perhaps it's because both civil rights leader James Meredith and media maven Oprah Winfrey were born there. Now, I have uncovered no evidence that I'm related to either of these Black heroes. Yet. But as I continue digging and sharing my findings here in this blog, I'll be sure to shout it from the rooftops if I can confirm any bloodline intersections. And I will continue to debunk any persistent narratives that we have running rampant in our community about racial purity and how it pre-determines anyone's personal philosophies or politics. I may be an original Dixie Chick by heritage, but my blood pumps to the rhythm of a much deeper soul.
Here is last week's playlist:
- Salsa con Coco rmx - El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico
- Neg Anwo - The Creole Choir of Cuba
- Song for Chico - Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra
- A Lo Loco - Jarabe De Palo & Celia Cruz
- Whenever You're Around - Jill Scott
- Over In The Glory Land - Preservation Hall Jazz Band
- Cissy Strut - The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
- Big Easy - Raphael Saadiq with The Infamous Young Spodie & Rebirth Brass Band
- Fantazias de Samba - Los Hombres Calientes
- New Second Line - Los Hombres Calientes ft Kermit Ruffins & Rebirth Brass Band
- People Giving Love - The Brand New Heavies
- What's Going On [live] - Anthony Hamilton
- Just Like My Papa - Tony! Toni! Toné!
- Summer Madness - Kool & The Gang
- Happy - Pharrell Williams
- To My Brother - The JBs w/ James Brown, Fred Wesley, The Brecker Brothers & others
- On The Red Clay - Mark Murphy
- Green and Gold - Takuya Kuroda
- Skylark - Gregory Porter
- No Sittin' By The Phone - Vivian Green