Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Event Featuring First Lady Michelle Obama's Ancestors


June 5, 2012

National Archives at Atlanta Welcomes Author of Book Tracing Story of First Lady Michelle Obama's Ancestors

The National Archives at Atlanta, in partnership with Clayton County, is proud to welcome Rachel L. Swarns for a program on her new book American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama, on June 26, 2012, at 6:30 p.m.

Beginning in the 1800s, the book tells the captivating story of Michelle Obama's ancestors and their five-generation journey from slavery to the most prominent position in our nation.  First Lady Obama's great-great-great grandmother was a slave on a farm in what is now Clayton County, Georgia.  Her name was Melvinia Shields, who in her early years lived as a slave with a white family.  As a teenage girl, she ultimately give birth to mixed race children, the first born of which was to become Mrs. Obama's great, great grandfather, Dolphus Shields.

The program begins at 6:30 with an author discussion followed by a book signing.  Please see the attached flyer for more details.  Please note that there is no cost to attend the event; however each attendee must register at:


Those who register will receive a ticket from Clayton County.  The ticket must be presented at the door for admittance to the program.

Posted by Melvin J. Collier

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Welcome to our blog!

This picture was taken at our Developing Research Strategies Workshop that was held at the National Archives (Southeast Branch) in Morrow, GA on Saturday, March 17, 2012.  See blog article entitled "Genealogy Workshop Tackles Family Murder."

      WELCOME to the blog of the AAHGS-Metro Atlanta Chapter. We are a chartered member of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc. The purpose of this blog is to highlight the accomplishments of our organization and its members, disseminate information about our activities and events, and to share some genealogical jewels that will benefit all who are interested in genealogy research.

     This growing group was established in February 2000 as a vehicle of exchange and support for genealogical research by co-founders, Monica J. Hackney and Doris Posey, and a group of eight other local genealogists, family historians, and novice researchers.  Presently, we boast a growing membership of over 100 members!

     The major objectives of AAHGS-Metro Atlanta Chapter are as follows:
·         To provide a forum in the Metro Atlanta area for the sharing of historical and genealogical information and research sources about African Americans.
·         To organize workshops and a speakers' forum to meet the needs and interests of chapter members.
·         To compile research that will preserve African American history in the United States.

     Thank you for visiting, and we hope that you will follow our blog and be informed about our exciting activities, as well as many genealogical happenings!

AAHGS-ATL Visits Smith Plantation

      On Saturday, June 2, 2012, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society – Metro Atlanta Chapter visited the Archibald Smith Plantation in Roswell, GA.  See http://www.archibaldsmithplantation.org/.  This visit allowed members to visualize what life was like for our enslaved ancestors, many of whom were enslaved on plantations like the Smith Plantation throughout the South.

Brief Background

     In 1838, Archibald Smith and his family left their low-country Georgia plantation along the coast near St. Mary’s (Camden County), Georgia and settled just north of Roswell.  They brought nearly 30 slaves with them to their new 300-acre plantation.  Three generations of the Archibald Smith family would live at the plantation home where they saved everything.  Through the city of Roswell, tours of the home began in 1992, and it is considered one of the best examples of architectural, cultural, and historical interpretation in the region.

     Archibald and his wife Anne raised four children in the home – Elizabeth, William, Helen, and Archibald Jr.  Both of their sons fought in the Confederate Army, and Willie enlisted with the Signal Corps at the outbreak of the war. The daughters never married. Archibald Jr. married and had three children; his son, Arthur William Smith, and wife Mary Norvell Smith re-opened the Smith Plantation in 1940, after it had been unoccupied for 25 years. 

Archibald and Anne Smith

The warming kitchen

The desk of Archibald Smith
(I can't help but wonder that the fate of his slaves was determined at this desk.)

The African-American History of the Smith Plantation

     In 1863, nine enslaved African Americans labored on the Smith Plantation near Roswell.  Others labored on his other plantation he owned in north Georgia.  Those nine slaves were valued at $10,000, according to Archibald Smith’s income tax returns.  That’s equivalent to $174,993.77 in 2010.  During the Civil War, Smith transported all of his slaves to south Georgia near Valdosta during Sherman's occupation of north Georgia.  When they gained their freedom, they did not return to Roswell.  

     To our dismay, there were no original slave cabins on the property.  They were torn down many years ago.  However, this is a picture of one of the slave cabins that was on the Smith Plantation during slavery.  According to the notation on the picture, it was found among Archibald’s papers with a slave story entitled, “Why the Crawfish Crawls Backwards.” 

 The replica slave cabin on the Smith Plantation

The inside of the replica slave cabin (left view)
The ladder on the left is for the wooden bed at the top. As many as 10 slaves were placed in a cabin this size.  

The inside of the replica slave cabin (right view)

     This is a picture of the cookhouse, which was rebuilt in 1863.  On many plantations throughout the South, the cookhouse was a separate small cottage away from the “big house”.  Enslaved women prepared the meals in the cookhouse and took it up to the “big house” to the warming kitchen (pictured above) once done.

Mamie Cotton and her great-great-granddaughter
     In the 1940s, the Smiths hired a cook, Mamie Cotton, who spent 54 years of her life working for the Smith family. After Arthur Smith died in 1960, Mamie Cotton moved into the Smith’s home to take care of his ailing widow Mary up until her death in 1981.  Mamie was allowed to continue living in the home for many more years afterwards.  

     This picture of Mamie Cotton’s mother’s family was on display.  Although their history was not directly related to the Smith Plantation, it was interesting to see this great picture and the story behind the Brown Family. Mamie’s mother, Rosalee Brown (second from the left), was born in 1885 in Forsyth County, Georgia.  The others in the picture are Rosalee’s siblings, Harrison, Fred, Gladys, Naomi, and Minor.  In 1912, all African Americans were forced to leave Forsyth County and the Brown Family settled near Roswell.  To read more about the 1912 Expulsion of African Americans in Forsyth County, see http://www.thecentralgeorgian.com/history004.html


This video below is Emma Davis’ rendition of a radical house servant on the Smith Plantation.

Posted by Melvin J. Collier