On a plantation of Captain Cephus K. Andrews that was located in Texas, my great grandparents met as slaves. After Juneteenth, they relocated to Terre Haute, Indiana. They never spoke about their experience as slaves. They left their family. They lost connection to the other Sweatt family members.
My grandfather was a very serious, hardworking man, who was consistently quiet and spoke very few words. The visible scars on his person carried the history, but when his grandchildren inquired about his past, silence was his response. His grandchildren called him Mister, as they never called him grandpa. His wife was more vocal, and somehow, remained loving despite her past.
My great grandparents had a son who graduated from high school and decided to take extra classes and gain certifications in order to become a contractor for Sears for the homes that you could buy from Sears. His full-time job was working at the plant that he lived right across the street. At the age of 18 years old, he married a young woman, who was 16-years-old. This young woman did not graduate from high school since she married fairly early in her life. Yet, she worked hard to fulfill the needs of her husband and take care of her 8 children along with everyone else’s children from the neighborhood.
My mother was the only daughter, in which she loved her grandparents. She was turning of age as a man, Lyndon Johnson, raised in political power. Her grandparents watched a man whose family they knew well – Captain Cephus K. Andrews plantation – was the Lyndon Johnson and his wife Lady Johnson’s family.
Their family owned my family.
Within three generations, their grandchildren – out of eight of them – one died in Vietnam. He was inducted to the hall of fame for Track and Field, and all thought he had a bright future in sports, but he was drafted before he could finish college or try out for the Indiana Pacers. Their oldest son attended University of Michigan on a football scholarship with the hopes of becoming a veterinarian. He didn’t become a veterinarian; he obtained a bachelor degree and earned a master degree at CSU Long Beach to teach Biology to middle school students in Compton. Another son attended Indiana State University in order to earn a Bachelor degree and later teach Political Science. The youngest son had a scholarship to play basketball, and he eventually earned a degree at a college in California. As I could engage in the many accomplishments of my uncles, I find one person who appears to be overlooked – my mother – the only girl.
My mother felt very lonely, as being the only girl, she was mandated to help her brothers. She felt her gender was a punishment. Sports for women were not valued in her home and in the country, but she wanted to play tennis – but how and who would support her? She graduated from high school at 16, under much of her own guidance and direction, and her dad gave her the only choice of attending Indiana State University, but she selected her majors: Latin and Political Science. She completed her degree and left Indiana before graduation. She came to California and attended Pepperdine to receive her credentials to teach. With visions of becoming a lawyer, she became pregnant, and she left her dream to pursue teaching full time, in which she earned her master degree from Pepperdine. Over the years, she has earned additional certifications and degrees.
She had one daughter, me. I also graduated from high school at 16 years old to attend Pepperdine University. I graduated to attend Seton Hall University. I completed two additional master degrees and completing a doctorate from Claremont Graduate University.
Two people left slavery on a journey for a better life for each other and for a future. They could not see the future, but they knew it was not on a plantation. They left their family that birthed Civil Rights advocates and leaders, such as Heman Sweatt who was involved in the infamous case Sweatt v. Painter (1950) that integrated University of Texas law school.
These former slaves witnessed their children being birthed in freedom – a segregated freedom – but freedom. They witnessed their children and all eight grandchildren at least graduate from high school. They did not live to see some of them attend college, but their children witnessed their children and grandchildren graduate from college.
Black History Month may be a reminder of other people’s history, but it is the history that Blacks live every day. I am a walking dream of my someone four generations before me.