The articles that I have submitted to Port of Harlem have been usually snapshots of some little-known aspect of African American history. For this issue, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to readers to know how I develop these snapshots.
It all starts with the Nanny Jack archives - a large and disparate collection that I have amassed over the years. The archives contain all sorts of artifacts from the African American past - photos, letters, diplomas and other ephemera that tell stories about the lives of many people, most of whom have been long since forgotten. It is my mission to make sure we remember them.
I usually start by focusing on artifacts that I have not yet researched. For instance, over a decade ago I acquired a collection of about 75 letters, 56 photos and other items pertaining to a single family and dating back to the World War I era. Since I acquired this collection, it has languished in my archives. Time now to start getting to know this family, I thought.
From the letters I learned that the family hailed from Nathalie, Virginia, a small town in Halifax County about 115 miles southwest of Richmond. My curiosity was piqued by an ancestor the letter identified - Sydnor Jennings.