African-American history goes far beyond famous faces

Published: Monday, March 5 2012 2:00 p.m. MST

“I realized that my family were heroes just like Martin Luther King, just like Ida B. Wells, just like the other people we talked about, because they were sacrificing, they were fighting in their own way,” Taylor said. “They were surviving … slavery and sharecropping and the denial of their civil rights, and the most precious right of all, the right to vote. But they never accepted the idea that this would be permanent. And they decided to do what they could, when they could to make sure that their children would experience different things. They did this, and because they did this, I can stand here proudly today before you to share their heretofore-untold story. They are our history, because we’re all part of history.”

Phyllis Caruth, chairwoman of Utah’s chapter of Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, thought the presentation was excellent. “Most impressive was the fact he could take ancestors and put them in the time that they lived. … It really helped bring the presentation alive. You gain a much greater appreciation of your ancestors and what they lived in.”

Taylor’s presentation gave Ruth Johnson, a resident of Salt Lake City, some pointers for comparing oral histories with actual records, as Taylor demonstrated with his grandmother Mamie's story.

“I think you have to dig a little deeper about cover-ups,” Johnson said.

Don Harwell of Cottonwood Heights said presentations like Taylor’s “(give) us all inspiration to go start digging up that information.” Harwell has completed his genealogy for four generations on each side of his family, but says he still has a lot more work to do. “I keep coming to these things because they inspire me,” he said.

Taylor’s presentation was the first of five research series that will be sponsored by the AAHGS Utah Chapter this year.

Email: rbrutsch@desnews.com

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