The Alabama Black McGruders, on page and screen

13 Feb 2021: I’m excited to announce that a greatly expanded book by and about the Alabama Black McGruders is nearing completion. J.R. Rothstein, a family member and the principal author, has worked with a team of family historians and genealogists, other researchers, and editors, to craft and document this narrative of the family through multiple generations. I am honored to have worked on the manuscript, in a role that evolved into “lead editor” and sometimes “chief nag.” We expect publication, via Amazon, by the end of this month.

AND, if you want to be even more excited…a short segment on The Alabama Black McGruders will be featured in the first or second episode of a new ABC documentary series, The Soul of a Nation, airing Tuesdays throughout March. I haven’t received confirmation, but it seems the McGruder segment will air in the first or second episode, March 2 or March 9. Watch the preview! Lucille B. Osborne–one of those two beautiful McGruder women on the sofa–is a 95 year-old family historian, the soul of the book and of the McGruder story on camera. When Lucille was a child, she knew her great-grandmother, Rachel McGruder, who was born enslaved but went on to become one of the founding mothers of the family. Through her family stories, her research, and her inquisitive spirit, Lucille brings our shared history startlingly close.

Stay tuned for more info on both book & film.

And, BTW…if, like me, you have streaming but no t.v., you can ask a friend to set up a laptop in front of their t.v. and live-stream it to you. When a friend shares with me this way, she uses Facebook Messenger Video and can stream it to one person or a group.

A call-out to descendants

I’ve been trying to think of ways this site can do more to help people find each other–those who share ancestors, those who can share stories. I get a lot of interesting comments, but comments at the foot of a web page are often a dead-end, no follow-up. So let’s generate conversation in a different way.

If you are descended from people enslaved by white Magruders/McGruders & would be willing to share what you’ve learned, please get in touch by using the Contact page (which sends me an email). I would like to run some small features on your families & your research journey. You can write it, I can write it, or we can write it together.

I am particularly interested in Maryland and Washington DC stories, because that’s my area & I might be able to connect some dots; but I’m open to all. It was common for ties between families linked by slavery to endure after Emancipation, sometimes for generations. So even if your genealogical search hasn’t broken through the barrier into slavery times, please share what you know.

If you are descended from white Magruders/McGruders & have information about those your ancestors enslaved–from family sources or your own research–please join in. I can feature your work, as well, or perhaps you can connect some info from your family to someone else’s search.

I probably won’t be featuring families from the Sawyerville, Alabama, line, since those descendants are doing such outstanding work of their own, but as the new book takes shape I’ll try to post some teasers, so you know what to look forward to.

Once again, if you want to take part please use the Contact function (also linked at the top of every page). I can’t wait to hear from you!

Alabama Black McGruders of Sawyerville-anthology

The Alabama Black McGruders of Sawyerville, Alabama–i.e. the descendants of Ned (1795-1853) and Moriah (1800-1880)–are putting together an anthology of the family history. The book will be published in 2021 & marketed on Amazon & elsewhere. All descendants of this family are welcome to submit obituaries, family biographies, or other information. This book builds on the work done by JR Rothstein & other family members in The Alabama Black McGruders, which was published as a downloadable PDF on this site. Also see the African-American Magruder/McGruders Facebook page, which is for ALL black Magruders/McGruders (& related surnames), not just this lineage. If you want to contribute to the book, please contact JR at jrr483(at)gmail.com, or Message him through the FB group.

Edited 13 Feb 2021. Because this book is nearing completion, I removed the early draft outline from this post, and the complete text of the earlier version of the book. Watch for new posts.

Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865, a ship reached Galveston Bay, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and all slaves were free. If you’re thinking, Wait a minute, didn’t the Emancipation Proclamation take effect in January 1863? And didn’t the war end in April of 1865? you are correct. After the Proclamation some enslavers had fled to the remote Southern stronghold of Texas, where they held out with thousands of captive slaves until the arrival of 2,000 Union soldiers put an end to their fantasy of some frontier survival of the Confederacy. That’s why we celebrate the final end of slavery on this day, and why it has also become a celebration of blackness, of culture, and of the true complexity of African American history.

In observance of this Juneteenth, I want to call out the names of the last people I know to have been enslaved by my direct Magruder ancestors in Maryland.

John, a man. Rachel, a woman. Kitty, a woman, & Kitty’s infant child. Christy, a woman. Henry, William, George, Elias, & Lemuel, boys. Louisa, Dorothy, Martha, & Caroline, girls.

These people are named in the inventory of the estate of my third great-grandfather, Edward Magruder, who died in Prince George’s County in 1842. I have not been able to trace them further. With the exception of Kitty’s unnamed infant they are not grouped by family, and no ages are given.

It is possible John was the husband of Rachel, Kitty, or Christy. In the 1840 census, the household also included a free man or boy of color, aged 10-23. If a man, he could have been the husband of one of the women and father of some of the children. If a boy, he could have been the son of Edward Magruder.

Caroline’s assessed value was but $20, so she was either an infant or unwell. She appears last on the list, so it’s possible to theorize that the children are listed in descending order of age, as was often done. However, their assessed values do not correspondingly decrease; they appear in clusters. So it is possible to use assessed value of each child to theorize three family groups. Henry, Louisa, & William are listed first, with decreasing values from $350 to $150. George, Dorothy, Elias, & Lemuel come next, valued at $175 down to $100. Martha at $150 and Caroline at $20 come last. Dollar values on human beings are repulsive, but useful in the search for patterns and information. If they stoke your anger, good. Let’s stay angry.

John, the only man listed, was valued at $400, Rachel and Christy at $300, and Kitty with her infant together at $350. It is worth noting that Henry, listed as a boy, is valued more highly than the women, which strongly suggests he was near adulthood and/or an apprenticed tradesman.

That’s all I know, and all I can guess at. I have not yet found them in estate records of Edward’s children, but am relatively certain they did not pass to my direct ancestor, who was the youngest child of Edward’s second marriage.

John, Rachel, Kitty, Christy, Henry, Louisa, William, George, Dorothy, Elias, Lemuel, Martha, & Caroline: I am still looking for you. It’s not much, but it’s all I can do for you. To your descendants I owe much greater responsibilities, and like to think some of them are out in the streets right now, 155 years after the original Juneteenth, celebrating you and themselves, and fighting for a meaningful freedom.

The Dodson Family

From Magruder wills, census records, Registrations of Free Negroes, and other sources, I have been trying to construct relationships among various free, enslaved, and newly emancipated Dodsons in Prince George’s County and Washington DC. from the late 18th c to Emancipation. If you are an Af-Am Dodson or descendant and have information, questions, or theories, please get in touch. Even if you just want to say “Hey, I’m a descendant!” I’d like to hear from you. Please use the CONTACT tab or click here to contact me directly. This works much better for me that trying to follow up on comments.