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In the Telling

In the Telling

By Nomadic Archivists Project

If we are fortunate, we learn our past from those who lived it. Oftentimes, it is by our own efforts and labor to uncover pieces of truth about our family history. This is what we will explore in this bi-monthly podcast, people sharing stories about their families and how they came to learn to them.
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Episode 1: Elaine's Boy

In the TellingJan 05, 2020

Episode 28: Bernice Bennett: Black Homesteaders

Episode 28: Bernice Bennett: Black Homesteaders

In this episode, genealogist Bernice Alexander Bennett shares information about the Homestead Act of 1862, and why it's critical that African Americans know about the Homestead Act when researching their ancestry. If your family was listed as a farmer, Bennett says, it's important to check the Homestead Act records to see if your ancestors participated in this program. Bennett advises that, "you have to understand [that] while we identify the land, and we tell the story, there is also more to the story and that’s what happened to the land." 

Bernice Alexander Bennett is an award-winning author, genealogist, nationally recognized guest speaker, storyteller, and producer-host of the popular Research at the National Archives and Beyond BlogTalkRadio program. She is also the first recipient of the Ida B. Wells Service Award given by the Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage for her dedication to broadcast stories about enslaved and indentured ancestors of African descent. She also received the Elizabeth Clark-Lewis Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS) Genealogy Award in 2019 for original research in support of African American Genealogy. Bennett is on the Board of Directors for the National Genealogical Society and one of the founder’s of the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute,

Bennett--a New Orleans native and current resident in Maryland--enjoyed a 35-year career in domestic and international public health. She received an undergraduate degree from Grambling State University and a graduate degree in Public Health from the University of Michigan.

Her genealogical research centers on Southeast Louisiana, and Edgefield and Greenwood Counties, South Carolina. Her South Carolina journey is chronicled in Our Ancestors, Our Stories, which won the 2018 International AAHGS Book award for Non-Fiction Short Stories. Her second book Tracing Their Steps - A Memoir received the Phillis Wheatley Literary Award from the Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage in 2019; the International AAHGS Book Award in 2020 for Non-Fiction Short Story and, the Next Generations Indie Award in 2021 for African American Non-Fiction book category.


Land Entry Case Files and Related Records at the National Archives

African American Homesteaders in the Great Plains

U.S. Department of the Interior - Bureau of Land Management

Music by Sean Bempong

Sep 26, 202239:02
Episode 27: Guy Weston: Claiming Ancestry Land
Aug 09, 202229:41
Episode 26: Melvin Collier: It Was Always In Me

Episode 26: Melvin Collier: It Was Always In Me

In this episode, genealogist Melvin Collier talks about how he became involved in researching his family's history. From the age of 4, Melvin enjoyed listening to stories about his family. By 1993, he was actively searching archives for family records. Learn about how a DNA test and a trip to Ghana resulted in a surprise transcontinental family reunion. 

Melvin has been conducting historical and genealogical research for over 25 years. He’s a former civil engineer, who later earned a Master of Arts degree in African American Studies at Clark Atlanta University, in 2008, with additional graduate coursework in Archival Studies from Clayton State University. For seven years, Melvin worked as a Library Associate/Archivist at the Robert W. Woodruff Library – Atlanta University Center. He now works for the Department of Defense in the Washington, D.C. area. Melvin has appeared on the NBC show, Who Do You Think You Are, as one of the expert genealogists on the Spike Lee episode in 2010. He has given numerous presentations on genealogy, slave ancestral research, and genetic genealogy at numerous events and conferences. Melvin is the author of three books: Mississippi to Africa: A Journey of Discovery (2008), 150 Years Later: Broken Ties Mended (2011) and Early Family Heritage: Documenting Our Legacy (2016).

Music by Sean Bempong 

May 16, 202242:12
Episode 25: LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson: When Your Ancestors Guide You
Mar 09, 202236:32
Episode 24: Lynne Huggins Smith: In Search of Caesar Springfield

Episode 24: Lynne Huggins Smith: In Search of Caesar Springfield

In this episode, Lynne Huggins Smith shares a story about her 4th great grandfather, Caesar Springfield. Although Lynne knew she was a seventh generation New Yorker, she discovered that Caesar and his wife Mary, in fact were from New Jersey. And although she knew of her great grandmother Edith, and Edith’s mother Sarah, Lynne was inspired to dig deeper into her family research.

Lynne grew up in Nanuet, New York where her family moved from the Bronx. She has been  doing family research since the sixties and is a former officer and current membership chair of  the New York City chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc. Her family lived in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Neevis and Suriname. Lynne is currently researching the ancestors of all four grandparents from those places and beyond. She has a Master’s degree in  anthropology from the University of Michigan and completed coursework for the PhD in  American history from Emory University. Lynne spent her career as a financial planning and investment professional, retiring in 2015. She lives in New York state with her husband of over forty years. She has three children and four grandchildren. 

Original Music by Sean Bempong.

Dec 31, 202132:34
Episode 22: Deborah Robinson: Finding Land in South Carolina

Episode 22: Deborah Robinson: Finding Land in South Carolina

In this episode, Deborah Robinson talks about Bob Robinson, her great-great-grandfather, who was born on Edisto Island, Charleston County, SC, and the land she inherited from him.

Deborah Robinson has been a genealogist for more than 25 years. Born in Harlem and raised in the Bronx, Deborah's specialty is African American research in the southeastern United States, particularly the Gullah/Geechee culture of the South Carolina Lowcountry. Deborah holds certificates from the Boston University Center for Professional Education in Genealogical Research and the Professional Genealogy (ProGen) Study Program. 

She also holds a bachelor’s degree in speech communications from Syracuse University. Deborah has worked as a Research Manager at's ProGenealogists division and is currently the 2nd Vice President and Webmaster for the Jean Sampson Scott Greater New York Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. 

Music by Sean Bempong.


Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Jean Sampson Scott Greater NY Chapter:

Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission:

Lowcountry Africana:

Donna Cox Baker and Frazine K. Taylor, The Beyond Kin Project: Descendants of Slaveholders, Do We Still Hold a Key?:

Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade:

Stacy Ashmore Cole, They Had Names: African Americans in Early Records of Liberty County, Georgia:

Newberry Library, Atlas of Historical County Boundaries:

Discover Freedmen:

Toni Carrier and Angela Walton Raji, Mapping the Freedmen's Bureau:, U.S. Freedmen's Bureau Records: A Breakthrough for Black Family History:

International African American Museum: Center for Family History [Charleston, SC]: Research Wiki: African American Genealogy:


  • Nick Lindsay, And I'm Glad: An Oral History of Edisto Island (Charleston, SC: Tempus Publishing, Inc., 2000).
  • Charles Spencer, Edisto Island, 1663 to 1860: Wild Eden to Cotton Aristocracy (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2008).
  • Charles Spencer, Edisto Island, 1861 to 2006: Ruin, Recovery and Rebirth, (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2008).
  • Lorenzo Dow Turner, Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect (Columbia, SC: University of Chicago Press, 1949).
  • De Nyew Testament: The New Testament in Gullah, Sea Island Creole with Marginal Text of the King James Version, (NY, NY: American Bible Society, 2005).
Nov 15, 202141:34
Episode 23: Kelly Navies: That One 19th Century Photograph

Episode 23: Kelly Navies: That One 19th Century Photograph

In this episode, Kelly Navies shares a great story of how one 19th Century family photograph launched a genealogical journey of discovery that involves the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

Kelly Navies is an oral historian, writer, and poet. She coordinates the Oral History Initiative at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Navies has degrees in African American Studies and Library and Information Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and the Catholic University of America, respectively. She has also studied at the Southern Oral History Program at UNC Chapel Hill. Navies’ oral history projects and interviews are located at the Southern Oral History Program, The Reginald F. Lewis Maryland Museum of African American History and Culture, the Washington DC Public Library, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Her writing can be found in several publications including, June Jordan’s Poetry for The People: A Revolutionary Blueprint, edited by Lauren Muller, and Bum Rush the Page: A def poetry jam, edited by Tony Medina and Louis Reyes Rivera. 


  • Here’s a great website for anyone interested in Black politicians during Reconstruction: It is run by a librarian at Mississippi State University.


  • Krewasky Salter. The Story of Black Military Officers, 1861-1948. London: Taylor and Francis, 2015.
  • Pamela Peters. The Underground Railroad in Floyd County, Indiana. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2001.

Original music by Sean Bempong

Nov 15, 202148:36
Episode 21: Sean Bempong Reminds Us to Remember and Share Our Ancestor's Stories

Episode 21: Sean Bempong Reminds Us to Remember and Share Our Ancestor's Stories

Sean Bempong has spent many years working on his family history. He is from the Deep Creek area of Chesapeake, Virginia, and was raised between Chesapeake and Norfolk. His maternal family has resided in various parts of the state since the 1600s. He is half Ghanaian. He holds a BA in Psychology from Norfolk State University graduating Magna Cum Laude, and has a Masters in Anthropology from the American University in Cairo. As a small child, Sean's grandma Lillie would often ask him "who is that person and how are they related to us" which sparked his interest in genealogy. At the age of 18, he began researching census reports at the Kirn Memorial Library in downtown Norfolk to discover more information about  the ancestors his family remembered in tales and photographs. His maternal family actively preserved their records and wanted this knowledge to be passed on to future generations.

Sean also provided music for In the Telling.

Sep 13, 202138:52
Episode 20: Cheryl Boyce-Taylor on Loss, Love, and Courage
May 05, 202133:31
Episode 19: My Granny...

Episode 19: My Granny...

On today’s episode, Maurini Strub shares introspective and warm memories of her grandmother, Honora Georgina John, who was born in Trinidad in 1926 and had profound effect on her life. Born and raised in the twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Maurini emigrated to the US in the early 1990s to pursue her higher education. She spent over 20 years in Detroit and just shy of 5 years in Louisville, KY before moving to Rochester, NY. She has been a swim instructor, lifeguard, and even an insurance cold caller (yes, she's been that person) and hopes to one day bike her first century.  

Music by Sean Bempong.

Mar 27, 202136:40
Episode 18: Being From a Typical Black Surinamese Family

Episode 18: Being From a Typical Black Surinamese Family

On today’s episode, Vernon Textel, who was born in Paramaribo, Suriname, shares a bit of his own family history, starting with himself, his parents and then maternal grandparents. He also talks about what African-ness means in Suriname--as in how African peoples came to Suriname and how people of African descent identify themselves today. Textel is a journalist at the De Ware Tijd newspaper and public communications officer at Staatsolie Petroleum Company in Paramaribo, Suriname. Born in 1975, Vernon was raised by his mother, Muriel Texel and says that he was born into a typical Black Surinamese family.

Music by Sean Bempong.

Mar 03, 202130:33
Episode 17: That 1926 Photograph

Episode 17: That 1926 Photograph

Andwele means “God brought & delivered me” in Swahili. He was born November 20, 1977 in the capital of Suriname, Paramaribo. Suriname is a small country on the northern coast of South America where the official language is Dutch. He currently lives on the island of Saint Maarten in the West Indies where he works as a clinical pharmacist. His journey into unearthing his family history started as a child...being fascinated by stories told at family gatherings. Stories that connected him to people long dead before he was born...but whose stories helped to shape his identity...and fed his hunger to fill in the blanks. In this episode, Andwele's story begins with a 1926 photograph featuring his great grandmother on the occasion of her 60th birthday. It was his curiosity about the people in that picture that made him always listen to stories from his mother’s siblings and cousins about those memories from their childhood, and bits and pieces of information that they remembered about stories that were told to them. Music by Sean Bempong.
Jan 20, 202132:28
Episode 16: Intricate Cross Sections of the Volta Region
Jan 04, 202127:18
Episode 15: My Family, My Politics: Ajamu
Dec 03, 202031:10
Episode 14: How They Came By Their Name
Nov 10, 202044:01
Episode 13: Language of Intimacy

Episode 13: Language of Intimacy

In this episode, Dr. Maboula Soumahoro talks about her Côte d'Ivoire heritage and the complexities of being born in France.

Dr. Soumahoro is an associate professor in the English department of the University of Tours, France, where she also received her PhD. A specialist in the field of Africana Studies (Atlantic), Dr. Soumahoro has conducted research and taught in several universities and prisons in the United States and France: Bennington College, Columbia University (New York and Paris), Barnard College, Bard Prison Initiative (Bayview Correctional Facility), Stanford University (Paris), Sciences Po (Paris and Reims), the prisons in Bois-d’Arcy, Villepinte (juvenile detention), and Fresnes. From 2013 to 2016, Dr. Soumahoro served as a member of the National Committee for the Memory and History of Slavery. Since 2013, she is also the president of the Black History Month (BHM), an organization dedicated to the celebration of Black history and cultures throughout the world. Dr. Soumahoro is the author of Le Triangle et l’Hexagone, réflexions sur une identité noire (Black is the Journey, Africana the Name, La Découverte).

The Nomadic Archivists Project (NAP) is seeking submissions for The Evidence: Black Archivists Holding Memory, an anthology exploring the archival experience across Africa and the African Diaspora. We understand that the global Black archival experience is a complex one and converging over time, space, and memory. We acknowledge and affirm archiving our stories is a cultural and political act. Learn more about the project here

Music by Sean Bempong.

Oct 19, 202046:33
Episode 12: Black Love is the Cure
Oct 01, 202025:38
Episode 11: From Tennessee to Arkansas
Sep 15, 202032:08
Episode 10: Always from New York

Episode 10: Always from New York

Where are you from? Where are your families from? Dr. Stanton Biddle began his family research in response to these questions from classmates while in grade school in rural western New York State, which was largely white. His initial questions: when did his African American ancestors come to New York; where did they come from and why did they come? These questions gave way to other questions. Fortunately, his family had amassed significant documentation of their presence in New York going back many generations. In this episode, Dr. Biddle talks about applying his library research skills to his quest to document his family’s unique history. 

Dr. Biddle is a retired librarian whose career spanned nearly fifty years. He held positions at the Library of Congress, The New York Public Library, Howard University, SUNY at Buffalo, and finally Baruch College at the City University of New York. His time at New York Public included seven years at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture where he served as reference librarian, archivist, and research project director. Dr. Biddle was born and raised in a rural and predominantly white area of western New York State. He has cultivated a lifelong interest in African American history and culture. His focus in retirement has been on genealogy, primarily involving his own African American family that has been based in western New York for over two hundred years.

Original music by Sean Bempong.

Jul 01, 202030:55
Episode 9: Through the Fire
Jul 01, 202026:30
Episode 8: The Chosen Ones
May 18, 202029:46
Episode 7: Self-Awareness and the Dysfunctional Family

Episode 7: Self-Awareness and the Dysfunctional Family

Building a healthy life can be difficult. Doing it while engaging dysfunctional family members can be insufferable. Carla Whyte, an educator from Brooklyn, NY, knows this struggle intimately. As the only person in her immediate family to participate extensively in therapy, Carla considers what it means to strive to be well in a toxic family environment. The Brooklynite has been teaching for about a decade (ESL and history to middle and high schoolers), first in South Korea, then Liberia, Guinea, France, and now she is back in New York. Carla studied sociology as an undergraduate where she became fascinated with race relations in professional and collegiate spaces, as well as disparities in educational access, particularly for black people. While she enjoys teaching, Carla also has an interest in tapping into her creative side through blogging and podcasting.

Original music by Sean Bempong.

May 09, 202027:40
Episode 6 - In Ordinary Acts of Magic
Apr 17, 202025:46
Episode 5 : Grief as a Family Story
Mar 28, 202029:36
Episode 4: Speaking Through Edith

Episode 4: Speaking Through Edith

This weeks episode features Alexis Pauline Gumbs, a community-cherished writer, a queer Black feminist scholar and an aspirational cousin to you and everyone you know. Alexis is the author of Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity (Duke Press, 2016), M Archive: After the End of the World (Duke Press 2018) and Dub: Finding Ceremony (Duke Press, 2020).  She is also the co-editor of Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines (PM Press, 2016).   The Anguilla Literary Festival called Alexis "The Pride of Anguilla." A Publisher's Weekly starred review of her most recent book called her work "groundbreaking." Bitch Magazine calls Alexis "a literary treasure."  North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green says "Like Audre Lorde, Gumbs writes for the complexity of her vision." A proud Barnard graduate, Alexis was the first person to research in the archival papers of Audre Lorde at Spelman College, June Jordan at Harvard University and Lucille Clifton at Emory University during her research for her dissertation "We Can Learn to Mother Ourselves," towards the completion of her doctorate in English, African and African American Studies and Women and Gender Studies at Duke University.  Alexis is now the provost of the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind in Durham, NC, and co-founder of the Black Feminist Bookmobile, Black Feminist Film School and the Mobile Homecoming Trust Living Library and Archive of Queer Black Brilliance.  Alexis is also Creative Writing Editor of Feminist Studies and celebrant in residence at NorthStar Church of the Arts in Durham, NC.

To listen to more podcasts, visit Nomadic Archivists Project.

Original music by Sean Bempong.

Mar 12, 202031:13
Episode 3: Being Raised by Ethel and Thelma
Feb 28, 202027:43
Episode 2: Searching for John Mims
Feb 03, 202025:35
Episode 1: Elaine's Boy
Jan 05, 202023:07