A little side story for humor. My last name turns out be be a fairly common name among Southern black people, particularly from South Caroline, Georgia, and Alabama. Of course, the name travelled north with Emancipation. And of course, with emancipation, many ex-slaves used that last names of their former owners. That helped the emancipated reconnect with others who had shared the same "families" and locations.

So, when I hear the name used by a person with black skin, I am reminded that it is quite likely that somewhere in our lineage, my family was related to their family as ex-owners to ex-slaves. And of course, to the extent there may have been children born of NeSmith slave masters and their female slaves, there could even be a blood relation.

Of course I'm not proud of any of the slave owning side of my family, but at the same time I welcome any blood relations no matter how they came to be.

You know. America. The Great Melting Pot.

I lived for 20 years in Rochester, NY--a city with a high proportion of black population, where I came across quite a few other NeSmiths/Nesmiths, some white, but mostly black.

One night I received a call from a woman in Alabama with a very strong Southern black accent. She was looking for a relative with my last name. We got into an interesting conversation about the name. Toward the end of our conversation, she got curious about my voice.

She said, "You don't sound black."

I said, "You're right. I am very definitely white. But that doesn't mean we can't be related." She heard the pride in my voice. She was blown away by it.

I'm guessing that at least a quarter to half of the white population is related to people in the black population. Maybe even more.

Wouldn't that be cool? Of course, y'all might be ashamed of us.. . ;-)

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Georgia NeSmith

Georgia NeSmith

Retired professor, feminist, writer, photographer, activist, grandmother of 5, overall Wise Woman. Phd UIA School of Journalism & Mass Communication, 1994.