News / USA

Black History Illuminated by Tracing Lives of Former Slaves

Black History Illuminated by Tracing Lives of Former Slavesi
X
February 09, 2013 4:59 AM
February is Black History Month in the United States, a time for paying tribute to people and events that shaped the story of African Americans. One of those events was the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago. It began the process of freeing an estimated four million slaves. Afterwards, the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery across the United States. As a result, many freed slaves came to Washington, D.C., looking for a better life. VOA's Chris Simkins has more on the people who are working to make sure that the story of former African American slaves live on.

Black History Illuminated by Tracing Lives of Former Slaves

Chris Simkins
February is Black History Month in the United States, a time for paying tribute to people and events that shaped the story of African Americans. One of those events was the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago. It began the process of freeing an estimated four million slaves. Afterwards, the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery across the United States. As a result, many freed slaves came to  Washington, D.C., looking for a better life.

Arlington National Cemetery is just outside Washington, D.C. Before it became America's most prestigious military cemetery, it was a thriving community of slaves and then former slaves.

"Here as we look is my great-great-great grandfather Charles Syphax, with my grandfather sitting on his lap," said Craig Syphax. For him, these restored slave homes in Arlington House have special meaning. He's been working on his family history.  

"The Syphax story is one that will empower. It will also show you that, no matter how far down you think you are, you can still get up and get to the top of your potential," said Syphax.

Rich history

Craig has spent 15 years unearthing his ancestry. He discovered the Syphaxes were an influential slave family in Arlington and that Charles was owned by the nation's first president, George Washington. He lived at the Washington's home in Mount Vernon and was one of 57 slaves moved to Arlington House with Washington's adopted grandson.

"Every time I research certain aspects of the Syphax family, I find more exciting things that spark my interest to want to keep going and delve into that," he said.

In 1863, thousands of newly freed slaves converged on Washington. So the government set aside land in Arlington, Virginia, called Freedman's Village as a camp for former slaves.

Matthew Penrod is a Park Service Ranger. He said tens of thousands of former slaves lived in Freedman's Village for nearly 40 years in some 100 wooden houses. The community had schools, churches, hospitals and an orphanage.  

"It was a place where people could find work. In fact, many of the men and women too would find pretty well-paying jobs working for the Army. It was meant to be a transitional place for people - a sort of way station towards living as free people as well," said Penrod.

Thriving village

Syphax said Charles, his ancestor, became a leader in Freedman's Village.  

 "The Syphax's became people that could read and write. So they freely taught people how to read and write without charge or anything because we knew that was how you would succeed here in America," he said.

Syphax is working on a documentary about his family and on a new history museum next to Arlington Cemetery. Talmadge Williams is a leader of that effort.

"History not taught could be history repeating itself, and we don't want history to be repeated. We don't need slavery again," said said Talmadge Williams of the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington.

Some former slaves were buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Many say they should be as much a part of history as the fallen soldiers buried here.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid