Bringing Black History Home

Bringing Black History Home

CUNY Newswire
The City University of New York

Antoinette Martignoni, left, and her granddaughter Greta Blau hold a family Bible that contains the name of their ancestor, Dr. James McCune Smith, the nation’s first African American physician at Martignoni’s home in Fairfield, Conn., Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

The name James McCune Smith meant little to Greta Blau in 1996, when she briefly mentioned him in a research paper she wrote for a History of Blacks in New York City course designed and taught by Joanne Edey-Rhodes.

Blau’s paper for the Hunter College class focused on the Colored Orphan Asylum, founded on Fifth Avenue to assist homeless and destitute African-American children. She noted that Smith, the asylum’s doctor, was the nation’s first professionally trained African-American physician — as well as an eminent 19th century abolitionist and author whose friends included antislavery movement leader Frederick Douglass.

Little did Blau know that the assignment would years later lead her on an engrossing journey into her own family’s roots.

It began one day in 2003, at her grandmother’s house in Connecticut, when she was looking through the family Bible that an Irish relative had. “The name was in there as the father of my great-grandmother’s second husband,” she said. “I knew I had heard that name before. I went home and Googled the name, and he came up. I said, ‘That can’t be the right person, because I’m white.’”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,