In 1940, he accepted an assignment to become principal of a new school, and Gramps moved, with his wife and three young children, from one small Texas town to another. Before leaving his old home, he wrapped the Bible in newspaper, tied it with string, and placed it on a bookshelf that was to be sent to his new home. The bookcase arrived at the new house. The Bible did not. Gramps was distraught. He assumed that his most cherished possession had been mistaken for trash, and he never forgave himself for not being more careful. He had lost part of who he was and felt he had failed as a griot. Gramps never forgot the family saying and continued to tell the stories. He purchased another Bible and planned to seek out keepsakes to save in it, but day-to-day responsibilities usurped his time, and time ran out too soon.
Seeing how devastating the loss was to her father, Ruby began gathering family mementos in a cardboard box. Gramps died in 1960. My mother, then forty-two, felt she should have done more. Gramps’s stories, his messages, his love for his ancestors, and the legacy he had sought to preserve had to be kept alive.
Sixteen years after Gramps’s death, the box was less than half full. That was 1976, the year Mom read Alex Haley’s novel Roots, the inspiration for the historic television miniseries that aired in 1977. Haley’s work helped many African Americans realize that their family histories were not only important but accessible. Mom decided to do something about recovering hers.
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