Pictured above is the family of free-born Daniel Brooks (1837 - 1933) and Lucy Clements Brooks (1861 - 1901). Shown are daughters Lola Brooks Curtright (1886 - 1972) and Sara Brooks Davis (1888 - 1974). Not shown are four brothers that came later, John Clinton (1890 - 1943), Milford Daniel (1892 - 1926), Luther Wilbur (1895 - 1943) and Charles Wesley (1895 - 1943). To avoid conscription as the son of a land-owner, Daniel volunteered in 1861 for the Confederate Army. He served as a cook and wagondriver in 15th and 49th NC Infantries from 1861 - 1865, but rooted for the North the entire time.

Pictured above is the family of free-born William Isaac Brooks (1856 - 1932) and Katie Irene Brooks (1862 - 1947 ). William Isaac was the grandson of mulatto Sarah Brooks, the little mulatto girl who was the subject of the 1808 court document above. His father was Jerry, the oldest of Sarah’s five children by a slave living nearby in Rutherford County. Three older sons were not included in this 1900 photo. Infant Melrose, sitting in his father’s lap, is shown in the hunting photo on the cover of this scrapbook with older brother, Essie. My grandmother, Lily May, is standing in the front, 2nd from right.

Freemen and White Supremacy: Our formal history has little to say about African-Americans in the south who were not slaves.  Likewise, accounts of white southerners who were sympathetic to the plight of blacks, either slave or free, are extremely rare. In Virginia and North Carolina, where all of my bloodlines were concentrated, local governments, paranoid at the thought of uprisings like those led by freeman Denmark Vesey in Charleston, South Carolina in 1822 and slave Nat Turner in Southhampton, Virginia in 1831 continuously passed laws to restrict the rights of free blacks to assemble, read and write, own arms and preach for fear they would incite slave rebellions. In Rutherford County, NC where my free ancestor, Jerry Brooks and his nephew, Daniel Brook (below), were raised, it was illegal for blacks to store farm tools within fifty yards of their homes, ensuring they could not use them for self-defense should white men invade their “castle”.  It was, incredibly, a law passed to make white terrorism legal and black self-defense illegal (Trayvon Martin ?). The term, “free African-American”, was an oxymoron.  So-called free blacks were bound with invisible chains of laws limiting their freedoms to only those that served the interests of the white power structure. There were southern whites openly hostile to my free-born black ancestors as well as slave-owning and non-slave-owning whites who were openly friendly to those same free-born families. My gg-grandfather, Jerry Brooks, the grandson of an Irish indentured servant and the son of a slave, married a European immigrant. They lived in that climate in western North Carolina as property owners all of their adult lives.

Ann Guerrant, standing 4th from left  (1854 - 1930) and William Armisted Claytor, standing 4th from right (1843 - 1939) in  1923 photo with ten of their thirteen children.  Ann and William were born slaves in southwest Virginia, but their families flourished after gaining their freedom. College degrees  became the norm for every generation born free, The family specialty was medicine.  John Bunyan Claytor, standing immediatelly behind his parents, set up his medical practice in Roanoke around 1911. He was the grandfather of many of my schoolmates  and two playmates, Richard and Lewis Claytor, with shared sandlot softball and summer camp memories.

Camelot - 1857

Pictured above are Lelia and John Lattimore, descendent of “Big John Lattimore” (1803-1877).  Though slaveowners, the Lattimores’ compassionate bonds with their slaves and and free African-American neighbors are well documented. “Big John” sold land believed to be the original Brooks homelands to blacksmith Nathaniel Brooks. Third generation Brooks brothers, Milford  and Daniel, Nathaniel’s nephews, joined the Confederate Army in Shelby, NC in 1861 along with Lattimore brothers, Joseph and Daniel.  John and Lelia, current day owner/occupants of the restored house that Big John built  around 1832 hosted three Brooks descendents, including myself, with a wonderful lunch and tour of the house, grounds and cemetery in 2014. Theirs is the only cemetery I have seen that includes slave markers within the bounds of the family cemetery. Those concrete markers, not fieldstones,  are not engraved but they have been maintained.

John William Dixon, seated, (1868 - 1923) and Alice Wellmon Dixon, standing at center, (1869 - 1963) with their seven children in 1905.  Both of John’s parents were born slaves; Alice’s father was born a slave, but her mother was a free woman.  John William was the youngest  brother of my great-grandfather George William Whitworth, who chose a different surname upon freedom than his parents and siblings. Maude (1897 - 1980), at the far left, who lived in Roanoke after her marriage to Grady Davis, was like a third grandmother to my siblings and me.

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John & Lelia & 1832 Home - Front.JPG $R4 Document 1808 11Hx150DPI.jpg Deed 1854 Brooks,Nathaniel 1.jpg

1854

1927

1808

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