Franklin County, North Carolina: Reclaiming self, the case of Alfred Collins Harris

Alfred Collins Harris, Raleigh, North Carolina. Date unknown. Photo courtesy: rejoice06

© Nadia Orton and Sacred Ground, Sacred History, 2014-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may not be used without prior written permission from Nadia Orton and Sacred Ground, Sacred History. If granted, full and clear credit shall be given to Nadia Orton and Sacred Ground, Sacred History, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. See: https://info.legalzoom.com/happens-break-copyright-laws-20309.html

Alfred Collins Harris was born enslaved on February 22, 1849, near Louisburg, Franklin County, North Carolina. He was the son of William D. Harris (1815-1862), white, and Chloe Cope, African American, who was born enslaved, date unknown. On October 29, 1891, Alfred filed a petition in Franklin County Court, North Carolina, to legally change his surname to that of his biological father, William D. Harris.

Warren County, North Carolina: The Henry Williams Family Cemetery

The Henry Williams Family Cemetery from the road. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, April 2, 2016. All rights reserved.

© Nadia Orton and Sacred Ground, Sacred History, 2014-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may not be used without prior written permission from Nadia Orton and Sacred Ground, Sacred History. If granted, full and clear credit shall be given to Nadia Orton and Sacred Ground, Sacred History, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. See: https://info.legalzoom.com/happens-break-copyright-laws-20309.html

The Henry Williams Family Cemetery is located in Sandy Creek Township, Warren County, North Carolina. I first noticed it a few years ago, as we traveled along the winding state routes of Warren on a routine family research trip. From the road, I’d spied the tip of what appeared to be a lone headstone amidst the felled trees, limbs, and other debris, and decided it warranted further inspection. In rural areas, it’s quite common to see small, family cemeteries along the roadside, situated in front yards, or in the middle of fields. I’d considered our extensive family roots in Warren and surrounding counties, and couldn’t help but wonder, was it a possible family member?

She Promised to Honor Her Ancestors. First She Had to Find Them. The State of Things, WUNC 91.5, North Carolina Public Radio

Nadia Orton stands with the replacement gravestone she secured for African American Civil War veteran Sgt. Ashley H. Lewis (1842-1890), 1st U.S. Colored Cavalry. She has replaced 20 gravestones for African American Civil War veterans, most from various counties in North Carolina. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, December, 2018. All rights reserved
Warren County NC Rosenwald Orton
Mayflower Rosenwald School (ca. 1924), Inez, Warren County, North Carolina. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, 2015. All rights reserved.
The gravestone of Cherry Williams Sutton (1860-1911), Nadia Orton’s maternal great-great-grandmother, located in a slave cemetery. Inez, Warren County, North Carolina. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, 2015. All rights reserved.

When Nadia Orton’s kidneys were failing, she sent letters to friends and relatives in the hopes that someone could be a donor or help defray the cost. Orton’s great-aunt Philgrador responded with money from her church. So a few years later, when Aunt Phil asked on her deathbed that her family not be forgotten, Orton knew she had to find a way to honor her ancestors. The problem was that she didn’t know who they were, or where to find them.
 
As she started tracing her lineage and locating her ancestors’ final resting places in North Carolina and Virginia, Orton began to notice the state of black cemeteries. Many were overgrown, unprotected and unmapped. Seeing the condition of these sacred spaces sparked a passion for protecting them.
 
Orton has since visited hundreds of cemeteries, and helps other families identify their ancestors’ plots. Host Frank Stasio talks with Nadia Orton, a public historian and professional genealogist, about how she uncovers the past and how it feels to find who came before you

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