In honor of Black History month, I would be remiss if I didn’t share this hilarious story that is a “staple” in our family.
I was in the 3rd grade, right here in Huntsville at Jones Valley Elementary. I even remember my teacher’s name: Mrs. Smith. She was doing such a phenomenal job with explaining Black History month to us during the month of February. She showed compelling videos about slavery and about phenomenal African American men and women who paved the way for so many African Americans today.
Mrs. Smith would go on and on, not just about the bravery and triumph of people such as Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass, but about other African Americans who did some pretty awesome things! Sidney Poitier was the first African American to win an Oscar, Marian Anderson was the first African American to become a part of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and George Washington Carver invented the peanut!
I was in utter amazement. Being the only African American student in the class, my eyes lit up with all kinds of stamps of self-identification and self-esteem boosters. Mrs. Smith ended the discussion one day by saying, “Kristen, if you have anything that you would like to share, or any history that would be valuable to the classroom, please feel free to share it or even bring it in.” I thought to myself for a moment. And then, I had the best idea ever (or so I thought). I raised my hand, waving it back in forth in the air until I caught the eye of Mrs. Smith. “Yes, Kristen”, Mrs. Smith said. “My grandmother was a slave! I will ask her if she will come in and talk to the class!” I yelled, with confidence. Mrs. Smith replied, “Well, Kristen, that is outstanding. We would love to have her!”
My mom came to pick me up from school that day. I got in the car, excitement bubbling over, to the point where she can see it. She said (as she always did), “Hey baby, how was your day?” “Awesome!” I said, “I’m going to ask grandmommy to come and speak to our class for Black History. With her being a slave, and all ... I mean I’m the only one in the whole entire class with a grandmother who was a slave!”
My mother exploded into uncontrollable laughter. She was laughing so hard that she had to pull over the car. I didn’t understand. I’m trying to get her attention: “Mommy … mommy … mommy, why are you laughing?” She doesn’t stop for one breath. Tears are streaming down her face as we are parked on the side of the road.
I guess it didn’t dawn on me that since my grandmother was born in 1922 and slavery ended in 1860, that there would be no possible way for my grandmother to be a slave. My mother would later inform me, (after she stopped laughing) that my grandmother’s mother was half Portugese, one quarter Indian, and one quarter African. Her husband was half Indian and half black. Because back in those days if you had what they considered a “drop” of black blood in you, you would be considered black, even if you were primarily another race. So while some of our history experienced slavery, some didn’t. Who would’ve thought?
Huge shout out to all of the “melting pot” Americans whose heritage is rich in many different cultures. And a huge shout out to all of the African Americans that continue to make history each and every day!
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