People that know me, know that I LOVE history. For me, history helps me to identify with who I am, and helps me to learn from mistakes or experiences that my predecessors made. It is important to know our roots, and where we come from. I am especially passionate about family history and my fraternity history (Kappa Alpha Psi). Recently, I have been studying my family history and I decided to read a book that was written by my Aunt, Dr. Janice Ellen Hale, who is a tenured professor at Wayne State University. In her book Unbank the Fire, she traced the lineage of my maternal family history back to two blood brothers from the Upper Volta region of West Africa. They were captured and placed on a slave ship in the early 1800s. They were intelligent men and were not chained–instead, they worked as “mess boys.” One of the brothers became ill, died, and was buried at sea. The lone survivor reached Virginia or the Carolinas and married (by jumping over a broom), eventually having 1 son. This son had at least 2 sons and 2 daughters. One of the sons was Silas George Hale, the grandfather to my grandfather Phale D. Hale, Sr.
My granddad was born on a farm to sharecroppers and was the 6th of 12 children. Besides him, only the youngest two finished high school and he was the only one to earn a college degree. In those days, large families were encouraged (for farm work) and it was common to allow one child to be “wasted” and allowed to obtain an education. The Hales were well respected in Greenwood, MS and extremely active in the Church. My great-grandfather Church Hale purchased a model-T Ford in 1925 for $444.10. When my granddad was a child, he was stricken with typhoid fever and the town doctor declared that he would die, and no hospitals would admit a black child. My great-grandmother Lee Ellen prayed over his body for an entire night and miraculously my granddad survived and recovered. Here’s to feeling blessed and fortunate! (In case you missed the connection, I created a tribute to my grandfather here)
A female slave named Millie from Richmond, VA was sold to Benjamin Ingram, a white slaveholder in Georgia. Her father was Black and her mother was Native American. Benjamin fathered her first child, Henry Ingram. Henry’s granddaughter is Cleo Ingram–my grandmother. Due to this caucasian lineage, this side of my family had extremely fair complexions. Cleo’s father John Ingram had blue eyes and could easily pass as a white man during the Jim Crow era. When my grandmother was a child growing up in Atlanta, the African American newspaper was the Atlanta Daily World. The paperboy who delivered this newspaper in their neighborhood was named Nathaniel Bronner, who became a millionaire as one of the Bronners brothers who opened the beauty supply company still in existence today in Atlanta. John Ingram held a stable job for 17 years as a chauffer during the great depression years. They owned nice homes, cars, and put their children through good schools. My grandmother finished Spelman College in 1944 (Delta Sigma Theta) and her sister finished Clark Atlanta University. John Ingram’s sister Corinne Ingram married Luther Moreland; together they opened a large funeral home that remained in the family for generations. My great-grandfather John Ingram eventually worked in this business as well, for the rest of his life. They became wealthy and enjoyed the elite social circles of African American society.