Reclaiming Our Ancestors

Dred Scott, William Grimes, Solomon Northup, and Jeffrey Brace are well-known African Americans who suffered under and fought against slavery. To explore the lives, struggles, and legacies of these extraordinary men who were also courageous antislavery activists, we gathered a unique panel, not of scholars, but of descendants who shared the inspiring journeys of their families.

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Rhonda Brace. Photo William Farrington.

Rhonda Brace. Photo William Farrington.

Rhonda Brace, descendant of Jeffrey Brace (c.1742-1827) and Susan Dublin Brace

Since discovering that she is a descendant of Jeffrey Brace – born in West Africa, he became a Revolutionary War veteran- whose memoir The Blind African Slave was published in northern Vermont in 1810, Rhonda has continued her quest to learn more about her family as an independent researcher. The life of Jeffrey Brace is one of her greatest treasures.

 

lynnjacksonLynne M. Jackson, descendant of Dred Scott (ca. 1799-1858) and Harriet Robinson Scott

Scott sued for his freedom when he was taken to a free state. The infamous 1857 decision by the United States Supreme Court, Dred Scott v. Sandford, stated that black people possessed “no rights” that white men were bound to respect. Jackson, a great-great granddaughter of Scott, is the founder and president of The Dred Scott Heritage Foundation. She shares the history, its impact, and  newly discovered family history around the country.

Regina Mason. Photo William Farrington.

Regina Mason. Photo William Farrington.

Regina E. Mason, descendant of William L. Grimes (1784-1865) and Clarissa Caesar Grimes
William L. Grimes – the son of a wealthy Virginia planter – was sold eight times before escaping to New England in 1814. He was the author of

the first fugitive slave narrative published in the United States in 1825. Regina Mason coedited, with William L. Andrews, the Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave. Regina currently serves as Executive Producer of the documentary film Gina’s Journey: The Search for William Grimes.

 

Vera Williams. Photo William Farrington.

Vera Williams. Photo William Farrington.

Vera J. Williams, descendant of Solomon Northup (1808-1863) and Anne Hampton

Solomon Northup, a free man from New York, kidnapped in Washington D.C. and sold in Louisiana, was the author of the famous 1853 memoir Twelve Years a Slave. Vera Williams, his great-great-great-granddaughter, is the Founder and President of the Solomon Northup Foundation.

 

 

kariKari J. Winter, moderator

Professor of American Studies and Director of the Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender at SUNY Buffalo, Winter is the author of Subjects of Slavery, Agents of Change: Women and Power in Gothic Novels and Slave Narratives, 1790-1865 and The American Dreams of John B. Prentis, Slave-Trader . Her 2005 edition of The Blind African Slave: or, Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nick-named Jeffrey Brace, was the book’s first appearance since 1810.

 

An attentive audience. Photo William Farrington.

Photo William Farrington.

 

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