There she blogs!

All about my passion for discovering who I am and from where I've come!


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I’m back!

I’ve been away from blogging for a while.  Just a few things have kept me busy… My daughter, Chelsea, got married in May to the most wonderful young man.  Eric is exactly the kind of person a mother wants her daughter to marry.  He’s loving and kind, has a gentle spirit, and he’s a hugger!

floating veil

Photo by Shutterbug94549©

Chelsea was a beautiful bride!  I don’t just say that because she’s my daughter, my only child.  I say it because it’s true.  In keeping with family tradition, she wore my mother’s pearls.  She is the 6th of my mother’s nine granddaughters to wear Mama’s pearls on their wedding day.  That alone melts my heart, but this photo of her…

Pearls

Photo by Shutterbug94549©

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…she wore my mother’s pearls.

Eric is also an only child.  You’ve heard the stories about the only child… spoiled, selfish, insufferable.  Those things are so far removed from the truth when it comes to either of these two.  I couldn’t have chosen a better man to be my daughter’s husband.  Eric looks for ways to do things for others.  He has a pure heart.  He has been a good son, brother, nephew and cousin to his family.  They all adore him.  I adore him.

Eric

Photo by Shutterbug94549©

I couldn’t have chosen a better man to be my daughter’s husband.

pure joy

Photo by Shutterbug94549©

Peekabo

Photo by Shutterbug94549©

It was a day full of many joyous moments, and captured by the discerning eye and lens of Shutterbug94549 aka our cousin, Shelly Hamalian.

So now my little family of two, “me and Mommy”, as Chelsea used to chant when she was a toddler, now consists of three.  I think it’s picture perfect!

the three of us_1

And they lived happily ever after!

©2014


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At Peace

I took this photo of Daddy on August 31, 2001, just three days before he died. He woke up very early that morning and said he wanted to go outside. So all of us, in our pjs, get him ready to go outside in his wheelchair. He wanted to see, just one last time, where he’d spent so many of his days as a strong virile man, as the best husband and father he knew how to be. He asked my brother to turn his chair in a complete circle so he could see everything. We stood there in silence while he drank it in one last time. I love this photo. I don’t see the body full of cancer. I see my Daddy at peace, knowing his was a life well-lived.

Levi Swanegan August 6, 1915 ~ September 3, 2001

Levi Swanegan
August 6, 1915 ~ September 3, 2001

 


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Professor Bruce

I’ve never been a fan of the University of Kansas and the Jayhawks.  However, in my family research I’ve found a connection to it that has softened my view.  Heck, I might even go out and buy a (gulp) KU shirt.  Let me explain…

The first black student to graduate from the University of Kansas was Blanche Ketene Bruce, my 1st cousin 3x removed.  He wasn’t the first black student enrolled there.  He was, however the first to graduate, coming out in 1885 with a degree in his hand.  That’s 129 years ago!

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After graduating from the University of Kansas, Professor Bruce (he later earned a Master’s degree in education) began working as principal at the Sumner School in Leavenworth, Kansas.  Sumner School was a segregated school for elementary grades.  He served there as principal for 54 years, until his retirement in 1939.  During his tenure, he spent at least 40 years as a tutor and mentor for young men wishing to become cadets at West Point and Annapolis.  Many officers from nearby Fort Leavenworth enlisted the aid of Professor Bruce to prepare their sons for the rigorous testing they would encounter on their entrance exams.  Nearly 1800 young men were tutored by Bruce, and of those 1800 only three failed their exams.

The contributions of Blanche Ketene Bruce to the education of African American children in the early 19th century and his connection (nephew) to the first African American to serve a full term in the United States Senate (Blanche Kelso Bruce) were key factors in placing Sumner School on the National Register of Historic Places.

(The information in this post and more can be found by visiting the Kansas Historical Society.)


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Why Black History Month?

I’ve often wondered why there is a black history “month”. It began as “Negro History Week” in 1926, the creation of Carter G. Woodson.  Woodson was a historian, an authority on black history.  He chose the second week of February for Negro History Week, because both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Dougass had birthdays in that week.  It took decades for Woodson’s Negro History Week to gain popularity. It went from Negro History Week to what we now know as “Black History Month”.  It wasn’t until 50 years later, in 1976, that the United States government officially recognized it, and I suspect that was an effort to bring black Americans onboard with the Bicentennial celebration.

It’s a bit bothersome to me that a celebration of the accomplishments of black Americans was something that took so long to recognize.  After all, much of this country was built, quite literally, upon the backs of slaves.  Daddy always taught me that “you take what’s given to you and do the best you can to make it bigger and better”.  And so I will.  I will use the search for my ancestors as a tool to educate myself and others about my heritage.  I will share the accomplishments of my family, whether they be large ones or small ones, with anyone who will listen.  I am the great-granddaughter of slaves and the daughter of free people.  All of their stories are amazing, and I intend to tell as many as I can.


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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what it must have been like for slaves when freedom landed upon their doorsteps.  I think it’s best to let someone who lived it speak about it.  The following excerpts are taken from a book written by my 2x great grand uncle, Henry Clay Bruce.  The title of the book is “The New Man. Twenty-Nine Years a Slave. Twenty-Nine Years a Free Man.”  It was published in 1895.

“For the first few weeks I was well pleased with the pay I received, and thought I would soon have plenty of money, but now I had a new problem to solve, which was to support and clothe myself and a wife and pay doctors’ bills, which was something new to me. I had never been trained in the school of economy, where I could learn the art of self-support, as my master had always attended to that little matter from my earliest recollections. Now I had expenses to meet of every kind. The necessaries of life were all very high, including house rent, and by the time I paid up my bills on Saturday night, I found my week’s earnings well nigh gone; this was the case right along. I also found that I had to make my own bargains for whatever necessaries we needed, and to provide for a rainy day, all of which experiences were new to me, yes, very new, and were a source of annoyance for a long time, because it taxed my mind each day to provide the necessaries for the next week and from week to week. I had lived to be twenty-eight years old, and had never been placed in a position where I had occasion to give this matter a single thought, for the reason that my master had it to attend to, as before stated.

Henry Clay Bruce    March 3, 1836 ~ September 1, 1902
(Image:  Library of Congress)

I found myself almost as helpless as a child, so far as managing and providing for personal welfare and the future was concerned, and although I had been trained to work from a child and had acquired almost a perfect knowledge of it, together with a will and ability to perform hard manual labor, yet I had not learned the art of spending my earnings to the best advantage. I had a very limited knowledge of the value of any article, and often paid the price demanded without question, and ofttimes bought articles which were useless to me. My wife and I had good health and worked steadily every day, and by so doing managed to save up money enough in a short time to rent and fit up a small two-room house.”

Great-Grand Aunts & Great-Grand Uncle

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Five BrucesThis photo is of my great-grand aunts and my great-grand uncle. They are siblings to my mother’s grandfather. Left to right they are: Martha (Mattie) Bruce (born 1863), Elizabeth Bruce (born 1854), James Arthur Bruce (born 1865), Sallie Catherine Bruce (born 1870) and Emma Bruce (born 1867). Their father, Sandy Bruce, was the oldest child (born 1823) of Polly Bruce (born 1804).
Prior to the Civil War, a child inherited the status of his/her mother. If a woman was free, her children were born free. If she was enslaved, her children were born as slaves. Mattie and Elizabeth were born into slavery. James was conceived during slavery, but because he was born in August and the Civil War ended in April–he was born “free”. Sallie and Emma were born as free people.


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Grandpa Nit

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I never got to meet my paternal grandfather.  He was born 130 years ago today on january 8, 1884.  A quick Google search tells me Missouri was experiencing record low temperatures in January of 1884.  It was a subzero day when Odie Lee Swanegan came into the world.  His parents were Killis and Martha (Warden) Swanegan.  With my mind’s eyes I see his father tending a fire to keep mother and baby warm.   I see his mother swaddling him tightly, holding him closely and memorizing his sweet little face.  I see his two sisters and three brothers taking turns peeking into the room to see the new baby.  He would be their last child.

Grandpa died on July 16, 1955, a year and a half before I was born.  I’ve heard so many stories about him that I feel as if I knew him.

Daddy said, “Papa was a hard worker.  There weren’t too many things he couldn’t do.  He was good with his hands.  He could make anything out of lumber and nails.”

Aunt Carrie (my grandmother’s sister) said, “Mama didn’t want Sister (my grandmother, Ethel) to marry Nit (Grandpa’s nickname) because he was so good-looking.  She thought being married to a handsome man would bring nothing but trouble to Sister.  But they were determined to marry, so they eloped.  They got married in Kansas City, on the Kansas side.  Mama wasn’t happy about that, but she finally came around because Nit was good to Ethel.”

Aunt Lyda (Daddy’s oldest sister) said, “Papa wasn’t a very tall man when compared to Mama’s brothers.  The Millers were tall men, but Papa and his brothers weren’t very tall.  Papa was less than 6 feet tall.  Mama was as tall as he was.”

Grandpa was said to be a quiet man, a man of few words.  He was a man who whistled while he worked, and if he happened to have had a “little smile” (a drink or two) he might be heard singing. I’m told one of his favorite tunes to sing was “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes” by Gene Autry.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYoqwnDUH_g

I wish I could hear him singing.  One day I will.