tv [untitled] June 23, 2012 5:30pm-6:00pm EDT
something that you all could see and make it real. there are a number of side factors who helped to build that family tree. it's not something you do by yourself. it's something that takes a family to really see where you've come. the goal is to provide a legacy for those that are going to follow us. hopefully, the eighth and ninth generations will have something to tie back to where they came. to tie back to. people in d.c. are familiar with this name, but the most well known is the offspring of charles and maria over at arlington. you're probably familiar with that. my current research has to deal with nancy syphax. she is the sister of charles. i'm interested in documenting the lives, movement, and the relationships between nancy, her daughter margaret, which is in the picture behind me, and her son peter joseph. i'm exploring nancy's life in the slate of john gadsby's tavern and house. nancy was born in the early 1790s. probably in virginia, but possible in d.c. we're not sure when her daughter
margaret was born. we think it was the mid-18 teens. the story indicates that he and his wife's confidence brought their slaves with them when they moved to the cater house. that's consistent with nancy living in alexandria and showing in the decatur house. she's thought to live there from 1836 to at least 1870. part of my research revolves around understanding why margaret would have been sold. i'm just driven by trying to understand the trade and why somebody would be sold. perhaps her birth was the result of an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy. we know that gadsby was a slave trader. perhaps he arranged the sale of margaret. it was not uncommon for young
female slaves to be purchased by slave traders to be used as concubines and later result to either become servants, cooks, or even work in a brothel. margaret could have been sold in virginia at an early age or until just before she gave birth to her first child in new orleans in 1840. we're now beginning to research the gadsby records on slave transactions to see what we can find on when that may have occurred. as you're probably aware, the domestic slave trade increased after the united states banned the importation of slaves in 1808. the ports of d.c. and alexandria were among the largest in the number of slaves shipped to the south. new orleans, louisiana, was often the destinations where slaves ended up being sold. we don't know how margaret was
moved to new orleans. she could have gone by ship or she could have had to walk to new orleans. based on a birth certificate, we know margaret gave birth to a can son in april 1842 and he was given the name peter joseph. the father was an austrian merchant who was named sparrow joseph who came to search of his fortune. we have not been able to document the relationship between margaret and him, but we know that peter was born free when his mother had him pay prior to his birth. this lead me to the speculation about margaret possibly been forced to work in a brothel. at age 13, peter wrote a letter to his grandmother nancy. somehow he knew that nancy was at the decatur house. i don't know how he knew that. but they probably also remained in contact with one another. at any rate at the 1857 letter provides an interesting clue. that letter is over on the wall if you get a chance to look at
that. finally, we know that peter was a civil war veteran. he's over on the wall at the african-american civil war memorial. in 1869, peter and his wife and their first child moved to washington, d.c. we know that grandmother nancy was still alive in the 1870 census because she shows up in decatur house in 1870. the cooler climate didn't suit, so they remained not much longer than a year and moved back to new orleans. together peter joseph and cora had ten children, seven of which lived to be adults. the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the constitution raised peter's
interest in politics. in 1876 peter was selected to be a presidential elector in the heavily-contested case. he was one of eight louisiana electors whose votes gave the election to president hayes and put him in the white house. and put him in the white house. in 1880 peter wrote to recommend his cousin william syphax. so there's a lot of ties not just here, but as you move away and people want to come back and understand what's going on with the family to help others. i would be happy to answer questions afterwards. [ applause ] >> thank you, steve. we'll have angela next. >> hi. i want to first acknowledge that this was a photograph taken at the white house in front of the portrait of george washington.
and thanks to beth taylor, who is the author of the paul jennings book, we were invited to the white house. the family, the descendents of paul jennings to have a private tour and take this photograph in front of the portrait. for those who have not read the book yet, paul jennings is credited with saving the original portrait during the war. i think it was 1809. we went there in 2009. the anniversary of him helping to save this portrait of george washington in the white house before it burned. so i want to acknowledge all of my cousins, many of whom i have met recently. some who actually lived here in washington, where i have lived all my life and had never met. and some from other cities such as california and pennsylvania, et cetera.
basically, i'm just going to mention a little bit about growing up here and being exposed to my family and paul jennings. i did not really grow up knowing about paul jennings. i knew that i had relatives or a relative that had worked in the white house probably for a president that was about the extent of it. but what i did have was a wealth of information about that side of my family. i grew up knowing paul jennings grandson. his grandson was my great uncle hugh. >> and paul jennings, uncle hugh's parents were franklin and mary jennings. they lived at 2121 k street northwest. beth showed you a picture actually of franklin standing in front of their home. that home was there until about
the late -- and i visited that home many times because my great great grandmother mary lived to be almost 100. she was 99. she kept the house wonderful with all kinds of artifacts including that portrait of paul jennings that you saw that hung in her house with many antiques, with swords from the spanish-american war, et cetera. so i did grow up actually seeing that and knowing about some of my history. and ironically, this area has been involved with my family for a long time because my mother actually taught at stevens elementary school, which was at 21st and l, and my brother and sister attended stevens in the elementary years.
i wound up at 24th and k at emaculate conception high school. and i would get to walk past my great great grandparent's house, you know, a couple times a week. so i continued to be in this area and foggy bottom was, you know, home for me. also during the '80s, i worked down the street here at the va hospital and ate lunch many days in lafayette square not knowing that paul jennings had actually worked across the street, you know. had actually walked the same area that i was sitting out there eating in. and then even more ironic, i don't work down here anymore, when borders was getting ready
to close on l street, you know, i was in borders. i said, i didn't realize it was so old down here in the basement. well, according to beth's research, this was paul jenning's home. this had been part of his home, part of his foundation. so it's amazing how, you know, i'm still crossing paths with my ancestor. he's always been in my life, even though i didn't really know him. he's been there at some point or another. and even more ironic is my brother, who is now deceased, did his career at the department of interior for 30 years where paul worked at the department of interior. so those are just, you know, a couple tidbits to just kind of let you know how history has not left families sometimes. that even though we're not here at the same time, some of it continues. and even now part of the family
mary franklin are actually buried in the old mount zion cemetery, as somebody mentioned earlier this hair presentation over in georgetown. they are buried in the black section, which is not kept up, but it does have the headstones that you can see the family names on. so thank you. and i want to thank beth especially for being interested and curious about paul jennings and who he was and everything to actually document all this history. i can't tell you how thankful i am personally for having that. i mean i couldn't have done it. i don't have those kind of resources. it's just phenomenal to be able to hear about what one of your ancestors did so many years ago. and thank you for the white
house historical association for having this presentation, including paul jennings as part of it. [ applause ] >> thank you all for sharing those stories. and as i was listening to you all, one of the things that i found really interesting and also exciting is that, you know, probably the four families that you represent are ones that you think of kind of prominent black families that you, you know, that represent families that we know much about. but yet, through all of the work you are doing, there's still so much more to know and so much more to research, which is interesting and exciting. with that, i want to open it up to the audience to see if anyone has any questions for our panelists. and there's someone who has a microphone and they will come to you.
>> i'm directed towards mr. hammond. have you searched through the slave manifest records in new orleans or attempted to do that looking for your syphax ancestor? >> thank you for the question. i'm actually beginning to do that right now. looking at the national archives and don and i are planning a trip right now to new orleans. so as we gather our list, we're going to go down there and see what we can find. i was told a lot of the manifests would potentially have names there. so we are hopeful. >> just as a suggestion, it's something that i have actually initiated. my folks come from norfolk, virginia. what i discovered was, and this is something that's been reemphasized throughout many of the presentations, is that a lot of the traders had private sales. and so where you would normally look in the deed records for evidence of these transactions, they are not there. one thing about new orleans is that they have these inward slave manifests.
so you may not find them leaving, but you may find them arriving there. i've been to the notarial archives in louisiana. they are phenomenal. the staff is top notch. they will go out of their way to help you. so i will suggest that you spend about a week or so going through those records. it's just volume after volume after volume. i just wanted to mention that simply because some of the records at the national archives, there's only one side to it. and there's a wealth in new orleans. there's just a whole different culture understanding the french government. one other thing i wanted to say to all of the descendants, i came here because i was hoping to hear something more about your lineage. i have been fascinated by your families since i was a kid. i've read about your families. for quite a long time and have
been fascinated by the individual accomplishments and the continuity of those accomplishments, the effect, the influence that your ancestors had on our society. one question i wanted to ask each of you, or if you could answer this, when you found out at that juncture what your ancestor did, what kind of influence did it have on your life? >> steve? >> i guess the real big impact for me is when we found nancy syphax at the cater house. this occurred here in d.c. happened to be at an event and they saw her name on the placard in the building that said nancy syphax lived here. and we were just floored because we have been looking to place nancy as opposed to her brother
in arlington. it was exhilaration and it also opened about a thousand more questions. >> does anyone else want to answer a question about what it meant when you first found out about how famous and historical your ancestors were? >> i did. i looked up and said, not that again. because i was a little child. it wasn't until i became a more mature person that i appreciated the significance. but i can remember my great aunt, who is the little infant in the picture there, sitting me and trying to describe the scene and the frosted doors and the elegance she had, little horse and carriage can. but she didn't spend so much time on that. she spent her time talking about honor and dignity and the way you carried yourself as being most important. on florida avenue, she lived
over one house on 8th and s. i went out with her just a little 6-year-old. 7-year-old. we were going to the corner. and some person who looked like he might not have had a meal in a long time walked by and said hello. and she hid with her umbrella. she said you take your hat off when a lady walks by. never forget that. i always take off my hat. >> i was in 7th grade and my brother brought home a book called "great negros in american history." he said your great grandfather is in there. i looked at the book and saw his picture in there. it was the first exposure i had to oscar de priest. and that summer we went to church camp up in northern michigan.
and we were playing volleyball and the ball went into the neighbor's yard. and there were three elderly black men sitting in the front yard on folding chairs. the ball bounced past one guy and i went and picked it up. and he said, boy, what's your name? and i said my name is phillip de priest. and he said, i used to work with your great grandfather back in the '20s and '30s. and of course, i was like, 11 years old, and i didn't appreciate the connection. and i went back to the volleyball game. that was it. it wasn't until much later in my and my brother's appreciation for the de priests grew as we
went to high school and then on to college. i reestablished a relationship with my grandfather in chicago, oscar jr. and that's when the story started to come out. he had remarried back in the '40s. my step grandmother franky was a tremendous source of information. especially considering jesse de priest. we had a lot of trouble finding out information about her. she was very, very quiet and reserved woman who didn't have a whole lot to say. she carried herself with great poise and dignity and class and was always very concerned about being courteous to other people, no matter who they were.
so that's the beginning of finding out more and more. being a political science and being a political science and history major, i kind of took on a passion of finding out as much as i could about the both of them as years went by. >> do you want to talk about the impact? >> mainly i would say it's really been real interesting for me to find out about all the things that he did and overcame all the obstacles of getting out of slavery. but then also realizing that from him, he really did leave a legacy in our family. he left property in our family
that still kind of goes on till today all the way down to our generation. that is very significant, you know, for african-american families. for any family to last this long. >> are there any other questions? >> in doing your search, what we found looking up our family, property records was the best start we had definitely with slavery. then after slaves became free, the census records got a little shaky when it came to people of color. did you find that in your research? to finding out your family if your family was in the slavery? was a slave?
>> you have to become a student of census records and you have to take everything with a grain of salt. you cross reference and cross reference and cross reference. it's remarkable what you'd read the first time, when you go back and read it the second or third tenth time, you always find something new. you go back and look at whatever records you think you'll know, you'll find something that you missed the first time around. or you'll find some linkage to a piece of information that you can use elsewhere. just last week, i found this story about robert old and being in the confederacy and so forth. and the emancipation document that he had filed, had to be supported by a justice of the peace. it was from the same town that robert old was from. their fathers would have known
each other back in the 1818 and 1820. i've had that in my files for years. just never know. >> this is for mr. de priest. as a congressman, do we know what committee work congressman de priest was influential on or involved in? >> i'm sorry? >> what committee work oscar de priest did as a congress member. >> as far as legislation is concerned, his record is somewhat limited. he was working against a constant headwind whenever he did introduce that kind of legislation. he was successful in getting an
amendment to a bill that established the civilian conservation corps in 1933, which made any kind of -- you couldn't discriminate for race or religion when people were looking to get a job with the conservation board, which opened up thousands and thousands of jobs for african-americans. so he was very successful in that regard. he did introduce an anti-lynching bill into the house, twice, that was defeated. it really kind of blows your mind when you think about the kind of environment that he had to function in when an anti-lynching bill -- it didn't even make lynching a crime. it held accountable the authorities in whatever town or county who were holding a poor
soul in their jail. if a mob came and dragged out this poor soul and lynched him, the authorities, that county sheriff would be held accountable for what happened. what that said is it's okay to lynch black people in america and you won't be held accountable and go to jail for it. it's really a black mark on congress's history when you think about that. >> i think that's a good -- i'm sure you have many questions and we can continue the conversation. but i think that's a good point for us to end, and i think it's poignant and pulls out from everything we've heard today is to think about these descendants
that they represent and what they went through throughout their lives and that we can use that as inspiration for us. and when we're challenged, that we are capable of being up to the task of pursuing what we need to do to bring justice and equity as their descendants did and as they continue to do. so thank you very much. each week "american history tv's" american artifacts takes viewers behind the scenes at archives, museums and historic sites. the 2600 acre estate of montpeliar was one home to the nation's fourth president, james madison and his wife dolly. it lies about 70 miles north of the nation's capital in orange county, virginia. the national trust for historic preservation owns the property that is managed by the montpeliar foundation. "american history tv" visited
the site for a tour with the foundation's president, michael quinn. -- and he create add very spacious place to hold his books and provide the area he wanted to work. as this room was being built, we have a letter from his builder, james dinsmore. he said, if i put a window next to the fireplace, it will give you a view of the temple you plan to build as well. dinsmore went on to assure him, there will still be plenty of space for the bookshelves for all of your books. we know madison okay thad idea because the window is there. madison really used this area in the years after his presidency because he set for himself an amazing project which is to
create an archive of the united states constitutional convention. as you look around, you see some of the work, some of the thought he put into that. he had taken very careful notes at the constitutional convention and he went back over those notes. he expanded them and wrote them out carefully, added annotation. in other cases he wrote to other delegates or their families asking if they still had a copy of the speech that was given at the convention. by the end of his life, madison had put together a thorough record of the constitutional convention. it filled almost a thousand pages. for him this was an important part of the legacy of the founding of america, because when he had been preparing for that convention he had carried out a great deal of research to find out how other attempts at self government, at
confederations had been created and what was the intentions of those creators and had come up blank. there were no records. madison read a little introduction to this and described his goal as providing a record for those who in other plays or who at a later time might be striving for liberty, could learn from the example, the decisions an debates of the american founders. he had a real sense of history and a sense of legacy. it also tells you that he still wasn't entirely certain about the outcome of the constitution. even at the end of his life, although it had been in effect for 40-some years, he did not know it would survive. >> if you want to learn about james madison, the father of the constitution and his wife dolly who inspired the title first lady, there's no place to come by monia