Left - Sallie Walton, my gr. grandmother 1863-1961
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Left - Sallie Walton, my gr. grandmother 1863-1961
Posted by Angela Y. Walton-Raji at 10:44 AM
Sunday, March 31, 2013
Image of Mrs. Beatrice Robertson from Chicago Defender, March 1936
My recent blog post about the 17 babies saved by the "Colored" Maternity Club has generated much interest. One of the reasons is that so little is known about it, and now seven decades later, it's history is not known, and it has been basically forgotten. But thanks to the efforts of fellow genealogist Dr. Shelley Murphy, a small piece of the history of the Maternity Club or Maternity Ward has surfaced.
It is known that the founding director of the Maternity Ward was Mrs. Beatrice Robertson, who operated the ward from her home someplace on North Division Street. Fellow genealogist and researcher, Shelly Murphy of Fluvanna County, Virginia, read the piece closely, and she noticed that I made a reference to Twin City Hospital, and she decided to see if that would lead to some additional clues.
Well she found one.
The clues for Dr. Murphy came from the fact that in the previous article, I made a passing remark about Twin City Hospital. And readers may also recall the listing that I located from the city directory of Ft. Smith in 1936 that mentioned that Mrs. Robertson was active in the YWCA. These were the clues.
She decided to conduct a Google search, and she pulled up an interesting book that provided an interesting reference to the works of the Jewish community in Civil Rights and in race relations. There was a reference to the city of Ft. Smith in that book as well. And one interesting reference referred to a woman who was a leader in the city, a leader in the Jewish community, and one who advocated for a number of changes also in the Black community. Today, many remember in Ft. Smith for her volunteerism. Well it appears that she may have also had an impact on the maternity ward. Mrs. Rose Wienberger assisted in the establishment of a nursery for black children, and later she was a supporter of the establishment of Twin City Hospital and also served on its board. And understanding the little known history of the Maternity Ward, the nursery grew out of the efforts of the maternity ward itself.
Mrs. Weinberger was also a leader with the YWCA of Ft. Smith. Now most people who grew up in Ft. Smith recall that there were two YWCA facilities in the city. There was one on Lexington Avenue for whites and there was the one for many years on North "H" street for the black community. Well Mrs. Beatrice Robertson was quite active in the YWCA, which is quite possibly how she met Mrs. Weinberg.
So on her Google search, Shelley Murphy found an interesting passage that might lead to more information, and she sent me the following message:
".....there was a Jewish connection to Twin City, (The Quiet Voices: Southern Rabbis and Black Civil Rights, 1880-1990) maybe something in there."
Well I decided to look at the book that she referenced.
I read the small but significant reference to Ft. Smith and to Mrs. Rose Weinberger of the city of Ft. Smith and realized that she is another one of the people whose actions are not fully known. Although Mrs. Weinberger was honored by the city for her outstanding volunteer work, I am not sure if the city was aware of how greatly she also worked for the betterment of lives in the Black Community during the Depression. However, the book Quiet Voices did reveal something significant and it became clear to me, that Rose Weinberger and Beatrice Robertson had to have interacted with each other, and they were somehow fascinating allies.
Note this excerpt from the book:
It is quite clear that for Mrs. Robertson's maternity ward to operate, some assistance from the white community would have been needed, and it appears that the voice of support and influence would have been Mrs. Weinberger. And there was a great need for the maternity home, because none of the hospitals in the city served black patients, so if a woman was in dire need of medical care, this birthing facility would have been an essential place, and it is not hard to conceive that truly lives would have been saved when a clean place was provided for women to give birth and mostly likely the newborns' lives were indeed saved.
Looking at the history of the YWCA in Ft. Smith, there is no question that these two ladies worked together. Rose Weinberger and Beatrice Roberston were truly fascinating allies in the effort to bring quality medical care and infant care to the community, during the demanding years of the Depression.
So, my interest in the Maternity Ward continues. And now, even more questions have arisen:
-Where exactly was the Maternity Ward? Was it really on the part of Division Street that Google pulled up, or was it possibly on the other side of Division, near St. John's?
-Could there be any photos or records of the facility? Could there be records or photos among the papers of Mrs. Robertson? Does anyone in Ft. Smith remember her, and know who her descendants might be? And could there be photos or documents among the private papers of Mrs. Rose Weinberger that could be located? (Does anyone have contact with the descendants of Mrs. Weinberger?)
-And just who were those babies saved? If someone knows people who were born in either 1935 or 36, then they just might be candidates for one of those babies. Can they be found? And is there anyone living today who might recognize the faces of any of the 8 babies in the photograph?
Posted by Angela Y. Walton-Raji at 9:45 AM
Saturday, March 30, 2013
While exploring some old newspapers a fascinating article caught my attention from the Chicago Defender, as it pertained to my hometown of Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Apparently the 1930s were years of many health issues facing children nationwide and newborns were clearly the most vulnerable. This was the heart of the Depression and it was also an era when there were no antibiotics and many vaccines simply did not exist. As times were difficult, many would die from disease and lack of good nutrition and most likely many babies died as well.
There was apparently an effort made by an industrious woman in Ft. Smith Arkansas, who was interested in seeing that the most vulnerable children would survive during those critical years of the Depression, when health care was sparce and particular for those who were poor and Black. The headline from the The Defender was clear, as the lives of 17 infants were saved by the acts of the Maternity Club.
But exactly what was this "maternity club"?
Is there anyone still living in Ft. Smith who might recall hearing of this maternity home?
And who were the babies?
If they were born in 1936, the year the article was written---they would now be about 77 years old.
Well upon careful examination, of this article in the Chicago Defender it appears that this was a birthing facility, a birthing home for women established in 1935. The founding director of the home referred to as the Maternity Ward, was Mrs. Beatrice Broy Robertson.
Not having much information about Mrs. Robertson, I took a look at the Ft. Smith City Director of 1938 and noticed that the address was actually the residence of Mrs. Robertson. it is noticed that she was quite active in the early days of the YWCA in Ft. Smith as well.
I don't live in Ft Smith, but this story deserves to be told---as there are possibly some elders still in the city of Ft. Smith, who were the very infants who were saved! And their descendants are here today--because of the actions of the Maternity Club and Mrs. Robertson.
Location of The Maternity Ward
According to the article, the Maternity Ward was located at 828 Division Street in Ft. Smith which is now occupied by part of the Nelson Hall Homes. However, in the 1930s the Maternity Ward was located there, and was operated under the direction of Mrs. Beatrice Broy Robinson.
It is not known how long the Maternity Ward existed. It is most likely that once Twin City Hospital was opened, the maternity ward was moved there.
However for those residents with a strong sense of history and preservation, this can be one of those wonderful historical challenges.
Are there people still living in Ft. Smith, who remember Mrs. Robertson and her legacy?
Are there any images of the Maternity Ward or of the old homes along Division Street?
And who were the 17 babies born at the home in 1935 and 1936?
When the article in the Chicago Defender appeared in 1936, there were plans to expand the tasks of the Maternity Club, and to engage in outreach to serve the community.
History is sometimes more than the stories of the famous leaders, but it is often the story and the preservation of the memories of the small communities from which we come. I was delighted to see the article and hope that the work of Mrs. Beatrice Robertson will be strongly remembered and cherished in Ft. Smith where 17 babies lived because of her. They are now elders and but Mrs. Robertson's work to save the babies should not be forgotten.
Posted by Angela Y. Walton-Raji at 3:12 PM
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Those interested in history of Ft. Smith Arkansas, especially of the African American population might be intrigued by a record that could be considered the first freedom document reflecting the Black citizens of the community.
It was exciting to see these records of my hometown while working on another project and scanning the names of these newly freed slaves it became obvious that this document should be shared with the community that it represents.
Ft. Smith had it's own Freedman's Bureau Field Office, and the Old Commissary Bldg is believed to be the site where the Bureau operated. This would be the very same office where former slaves as well as those left destitute by the war, would turn seeking provisions in terms of food, rations and work.
Among the thousands of records that reflect former slaves many are hard to find among the Freedman's Bureau records, because although they are microfilmed, most pages are not indexed and they often appear in no discernible order. However if one takes the time to explore the microfilm roll by roll, then some true gems emerge.
With this particular record it is one rich with names, of former slaves who lived in or near Ft. Smith Arkansas in 1865. The document was created in June of that year, so this is possibly the earliest record to date reflecting the former slaves of western Arkansas. Most likely it was a report that was sent to Little Rock from the Ft. Smith Field office by superintendent, Francis Springer who also served as champlain.
Seeing the names of the former slaves who lived in Ft. Smith, who were freed, and what their status was immediately after the war is exciting and endearing. This is significant for so many reasons. A mere five years before, the enslaved appeared in the Federal Census on the Slave Schedules with only their age, and gender, and with no names.
And here, only five years later, immediately after Freedom, at last their full names appear. At last they were recorded in the community where they lived, toiled, were born and died, as full citizens.
Posted by Angela Y. Walton-Raji at 4:32 PM
Monday, December 31, 2012
"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom."
"And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons."
"And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God."
One of the oldest dated documents that I have reflecting my ancestors is an estate inventory with the names of all of the slaves of Major John Bass. The document was created in 1860. These men, women and children ranged in age from 65 years of age to 2 months. In 1860 they were there together, enslaved, but thankfully, with time they were all freed.
Like my ancestors on other lines, freedom came to them in many ways. My uncles Sephus and Braxton joined the Union Army as well as Uncle Sephus' two sons. Mitchell was sent to Arkansas, and a daughter was eventually sent away from the family as well from the family unit before freedom finally came. Some freed themselves and others had to wait.
Posted by Angela Y. Walton-Raji at 9:00 PM
Those for whom the Emancipation Proclamation were the enslaved in many states and for my ancestors, whose enslaved in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi, would be included.
Some of their stories of Freedom, I know---some escaped when Union soldiers came through.Many of them joined to fight!
Others seized their own freedom and followed the men. and they later were declared contrabands of war, and were quickly put to work to support the army with their labor.
Their freedom stories are not known, but there are a few, whose names I do know. I honor them for their resilience and their desire to survive/
Posted by Angela Y. Walton-Raji at 8:00 PM
This video was created in honor of my ancestors enslaved in Indian Territory. They lived in the Choctaw Nation most of the time and briefly in the Chickasaw Nation.
I knew one of them Sallie, my gr. grandmother. I have told her story already. But there were others about whom so little is known. I found some of these storied embedded in other documents, and other related files. Sallie was born during the Civil War, but her mother Amanda, lived a good portion of her life enslaved. And quite accidentally I also learned the name of Amanda's mother- Kitty Perry, a slave of the Perry clan from Mississippi, a large Choctaw family.
Though they are names without faces they belong to me, nevertheless. Amanda, Sallie's mother did live to see freedom as she died in 1898. But little is known about her mother Kitty. Amanda also had a brother Jackson Crow. He too was born enslaved, and he died in 1888. But as much or as little is known, I am still compelled to say their names, so that they shall not be forgotten:
On this day, I honor these ancestors, who were not freed by the Emancipation, for the lived outside of the boundaries of the United States---they lived in Indian Territory. Freedom would come three years later with the Treaty of 1866. But because the lived under the same institution of enslavement--they are honored here as well. Their story is part of my story, and I call their names:
Posted by Angela Y. Walton-Raji at 7:00 PM