From Whence They Came
I was lost and I was searching for my soul. Although I didn’t know it then, in order to truly find it I had to go back in time, about two hundred years to be exact.
About eighteen years ago, I started searching for my biological father. He had abandoned my family many years earlier. In the process of searching for my father, I ended up uncovering the lives of my ancestors. They arrived in colonial Virginia from the West Indies. I know the history of my people today because of a need to find my biological father. I did not begin with a desire to trace my family lineage. I had no particular concern how far I could trace my family name. I did not intend to go as far back in ancestral time as the West Indies. I just needed to find my father. That’s how it all started for me.
My goal was to find him. I did not set out to learn about my ancestors. It just happened to work out that way. It seems normal to me that one would want to know who, what, and where their father is. However, for me, it became an obsession. As I searched for my father, I imagined him to be living in a rundown studio apartment somewhere. I thought that he would be a hard-core alcoholic on his last legs. I didn’t picture him as a family man, even though I knew he produced many children with several different women. I did not have a storybook image of him at all. In my imagination, there was a picture of my dad as being a booty-chasing wild man.
I just wanted to find him, to look at him, and maybe to get to know him in order to fill the void that I had in my heart. As I continued my search, it turned out to be easier to find people who had lived over two hundred years ago, who were now dead, than it was to find him.
It’s funny how some things turn out. I was able to find the plantation where my— dead—ancestors lived as slaves before I found my—living—father. I guess God wanted me to know exactly where I came from. I guess I needed to thoroughly uncover the roots of my family tree in order to make sense of my life. I needed to gain a full understanding of my ancestry in order to gain an appreciation for the trials that they overcame.
As for my family, and most African Americans in the United States, my ancestors came to this country by way of the slave trade. On my father’s side, my family came to Virginia from the West Indies. According to Susan Westburg, in her article “From Whence They Came,” the earliest and the richest British overseas possessions were the West Indies. Britain became the most efficient and prosperous slave-trading country ever seen in the history of the world.
In 1607, Virginia was neither a haven for religious freedom, nor a penal colony. It was an extension of the British Empire. It was a colony set up to make money for the mother country, England, and Virginia gained its wealth from the full-scale exploitation of slaves.
In the seventeenth century, Europeans began to establish settlements in the Americas. The English settlers divided their land into smaller units and ran them under private ownership. This division of land functioned as a plantation system.
At first, all slaves came directly to colonial Virginia from the West Indies. Later, slaves came to Virginia by way of three possible routes: direct from Africa, direct from the West Indies, or from another established settlement, often times a plantation. Before 1680, historical records indicate that black slaves came to Virginia directly from Barbados. At that time, it was very rare to have a slave ship come to the United States directly from Africa.
Between 1699 and 1703, historical records show that thirty- two slave ships entered Virginia from Barbados, Jamaica, and Nevis. The slave trade route between the West Indies and Virginia was separate and distinct from the African slave-trading route. Overall, the practice of slavery in the Caribbean and the Americas touched the lives of approximately 12.1 million enslaved people and their descendants.
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Genre - Christian / Historical / Inspirational
Rating – G
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