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Chika Oduah/MEDILL

Finding treasures, black Chicagoans honor ancestors

by Chika S. Oduah
Nov 18, 2009


Chika Oduah/MEDILL

Priscilla Giles' book shares the history of her mother's family.


 Chika Oduah/MEDILL

Giles begins her book with the story of her great-great-grandmother, who was a slave in North Carolina.

For many African-American genealogists, historical artifacts are valuable treasures. Some of these treasured finds were passed down through generations.

The Hotel Florence Museum in the Pullman Historic District is presenting an exhibit of photographs, documents and memorabilia brought to Chicago by black migrants. The items in "The Great Migration and What They Brought with Them" exhibit were presented by families in Chicago.

African-American genealogists preserve these artifacts to remember what life may have been like for their ancestors.

Priscilla Giles of Evanston has an antique iron door stopper shaped like a dog that she use in the door between her living room and kitchen.

“I’m using the same thing my mom used and my grandparents used and my great-grandparents used,” she said.

For Patricia Bearden, president of the International Society of Sons and Daughters of Slave Ancestry, keeping these treasures are a way to honor the memories and the lives of ancestors.

“Without them, we wouldn’t be here today,” Bearden said. “We stand on their shoulders.”

The free exhibit runs through Dec. 20 at the Hotel Florence Museum, 11111 S. Forestville Ave.