Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hot Times, Summer in the City: Their Child moves to New York and takes on 2 genealogy internships

I am now half way through my second week in New York... Oh, wait! I didn't tell you?

Marine archaeologists at work on the
slave ship Troubador's wreck site.
So, as a MA student in Brown University's Public Humanities program, I am required to take on a summer internship. Before coming to Brown my master plan had originally been to quit my job at the Smithsonian, quickly fly through my MA at Brown, and immediately return to the Smithsonian where I would jump into a job that would eventually funnel me into a curator position. So, I originally planned to do my summer internship back at my old museum job. I had grown interested in slave ship wrecks and fantasized about spending the summer months hunting through the archives of Capetown, South Africa, occasionally taking day trips to an actual shipwreck site to, if I was lucky, throw on a wet suit and dive.

But then... this past semester a series of unfortunate, but later turned out to be fortunate, events occurred that sent me spiraling headlong into some sort of pre-mid-life crises. Once I pulled myself together and reevaluated my goals, strengths, skills and passions I realized that I had a lot of incredible options I had been ignoring out of sheer faithfulness to my original goal. So instead of taking the safe route of returning to my old job and jumping into what would have been a perfectly interesting research internship in the curatorial department (which I had already done previously), I decided to stretch myself. found an ad on Craigslist for an unpaid internship at a documentary film company. They wanted someone interested in working on Henry Louis Gates' upcoming black history mini series called Many Rivers to Cross. I jumped at the chance and immediately sent in my resume and cover letter even though the ad was 20 days old. When no one responded I started brainstorming new ways to get the internship anyway. Backup plan: Stalk Henry Louis Gates. I found an old friend from high school on facebook who was working in Brooklyn as a film editor and asked if he had any contacts at the company. Coincidentally he did and he sent my resume over right away.

When a week went by without response, I went back to "da internets" and started looking for an internship related to genealogy. This would take me even further away from my old plans of becoming a curator, but I figured, why not see what happens? Besides I had told myself that I would be a certified genealogist by the time I finished my MA. I quickly found another NY internship. This time it was at the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society in Manhattan. The internship looked pretty amazing. Four days a week I would work on the society's genealogy related projects (tbd) then the fifth day I would work on a genealogy project based on my own family history. Pay-$100 a week :( but better than nothing.

I applied to the NYG&B then quickly emailed my friend in Brooklyn to ask if he had heard anything from his friend at Ark Media. Turns out there had been a little delay in turning in my resume. My friend sent his friend a reminder and by that afternoon they they had emailed me to do a phone interview! The interview went amazingly well. Even though they had already hired all the interns they needed on the original project they had a new project they thought may be a better fit. I was offered an internship to work on another Henry Louis Gates series for PBS, Finding Your Roots. I of course said yes! It was like a dream. I would be working on a genealogy television show! Then surprisingly the next day I had a very lovely phone call with a woman at the NYG&B and she asked me to intern with them too, even if only for one day a week. I was shocked. They wanted me to intern with them so badly even a few hours dedicated to their organization would be great. So of course I said yes! I could figure out the scheduling later.

So fast forward one month.....

I am half way through my second week in NY and I'm in love. Not with a handsome young man but with a city, and a life and two amazing opportunities. It has been a balancing act but I
am gonna make it.

More details to come!

Happy Loving Day!

As the descendent of at least two interracial couplings I have decided to celebrate Loving Day with a brief post. 

Loving Day is an unofficial holiday that has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. It celebrates the 1967 Supreme Court case Loving vs. Virginia in which Richard and Mildred Loving and their attorneys battled to end anti-miscegenation laws across the country. Richard and Mildred grew up as neighbors in a tiny rural town in Virginia. It was a mixed race community which appeared to generally accept the couple. Unfortunately, a few days after they were married the police came to their home in the middle of the night and arrested them for violating a state statute called the Racial Integrity Act of 1924

The law not only seperated all people into classes, white and colored (meaning all non-whites), it also made it illegal for any non-"white" person to marry a "white" person. I use quotes in this case because the racial category was defined by the one drop rule but could also be contradicted by the person's appearance. If you couldn't prove someone was not white, by locating colored relatives or documentation stating otherwise and they looked white, then they were white. 

The Lovings refused to annul their marriage so the plead guilty. In order to avoid spending at least a year in jail each, they moved briefly to Washington, DC to legalize their marriage. For years, the only way they could return to their hometown was after dark. 

For more info on the case please see the below links.

For more information on Loving Day celebrations:

The Loving's story and the court case are important to my family because we are descended on my mothers side from William Fortson a white son of a planter and slave owner and his former slave and common law wife Mertis Thomas. William and Mertis began their relationship before Emancipation and it continued into the early 1900's. Their relationship was frowned upon before Emancipation but a white man having children by his black slave was not uncommon. What made their relationship illegal was that he only lived with her, never marrying a white woman, and they appeared to have carried on their relationship in the open. They never officially married which was probably a good idea. In the late 1800's the consequences for attempting to marry a person of another race ranged from jail time, to high fines to physical violence from members in the community.

In 1967 Loving v. Virginia changed all of that, though there have been modern cases where pastors or judges have refused to marry interracial couples. These cases are generally looked down upon by the vast majority of Americans, especially younger generations.

So thank you Richard and Mildred for struggling against an unfair racist law and allowing more Americans to marry the person they love. Next stop marriage equality!


Their Child :)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Preparing for the Family Reunion

The Magby Family Reunion Committee and I are in the final stages of preparing for the reunion. There is so much to do, and decide, and pay for. This is going to be an epic reunion.  I hear the elders in the family are counting down the days. Well I think most of us are.

I ran across the below PBS documentary and thought it was worth sharing. It premiers June 24th. It is called Homegoings. It is about an African American funeral director in Harlem, NY. Watching the trailer got me thinking about this reunion and the themes of both burial and resurrection. We expect a little over 100 people to join us Fourth of July weekend in Chambers County, Alabama, to put an end to a long standing familial separation. We will bury our collective strangeness and isolation. Together we will resurrect our one family, become a new clan, united by the blood flowing through our veins and hundreds of years of history in America. July 4th-7th will not just be a reunion it will be a Homecoming!

Watch Homegoings - Trailer on PBS. See more from POV.