A complicated family history places black Md. woman in DAR’s ranks

A complicated family history places black Md. woman in DAR’s ranks

The Washington Post

Darryl Fears

Reisha Raney’s role in Friday night’s Daughters of the American Revolution ceremony for the military was minor. She carried Virginia’s flag in a procession that walked a few steps down a carpeted aisle at Constitution Hall and then stood perfectly still.

But for Raney, an African American raised in Prince George’s County, it was one of the most pivotal moments in her life. Her place in the DAR, a predominantly white organization whose annual convention at Constitution Hall in the District ends Sunday, was proof of her extraordinary family history.

The group certified research that traced Raney’s roots to William Turpin, a patriot who fought against the British in the Revolutionary War. Turpin’s mother was Mary Jefferson, the aunt of the nation’s third president, Thomas Jefferson.

Raney respects her ties to Jefferson, but he’s not the reason the 39-year-old Fort Washington resident went to a beauty salon, slipped on a flowing white gown and smiled like a beauty-pageant contestant as she walked the halls of a group that at one time barred black people.

She was honoring William Turpin’s son, Edwin, Jefferson’s second cousin, who purchased a slave, Mary, and married her in Canada. The two lived in neighboring houses on a plantation in Goochland County, Va. The houses were burned when word got out, and then were rebuilt, according to a family memoir. Before his death in 1868, Edwin wrote in a will that the children he had with “my woman Mary” were to be free…

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