Al Surya Peterson, who is known by his moniker “A Westchester County Resource of African American History“, relays his long and eventful family history to award winning filmmaker, Thomas Allen Harris, director of the Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Roadshow.
As he unpacks his stash of photographs, documents, and artifacts, Mr. Peterson explains how the Bible was often times the only record of family births, deaths, marriages, and children’s names in the past, since many towns and counties in the United States did not keep records of African Americans.
With great deliberateness, Mr. Peterson details the story of his paternal grandfather’s interesting connection to Harriet Tubman. In 1902, his grandfather bought a property in Westchester County that once belonged to an escaped slave named, Robert Purdy. Purdy had been a passenger on the Underground Railroad conducted by Harriet Tubman and helped by the Quakers.
Peterson also shows a picture of his mother (image on left), Josephine Baker from Mississippi, who died in childbirth when he was five. He says that everyone should know their family history and pass the stories down to their children, “. . . grandfathers and grandmothers, and what they did and how they relate to them and how they are images of them . . . I think that everyone should be talking more about their families!”
Learn more about the PBS documentary on African American photography “Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People”