The movie Selma was awarded an Oscar for best original song, the miniseries The Book of Negroes has aired on BET amid heartfelt acclaim and yes we even have an African American President in these United States. However, African Americans are still far from home when it comes to knowledge of their ancestry. To the rescue? Metro Atlanta researcher turned genealogist Dorothy Turner Tuck is helping to bridge the gaps of both distance and color. This is a follow-up interview of the article “A local woman breaks color barrier while tracing her ancestry” (Examiner April/2010) with Tuck. We take a look at where she is now and where she is taking others; a little closer to home.
Q. You have now completed three books tracing your ancestry. How has your family members responded to this wealth of information?
A. My family is ecstatic about the research I’ve completed. A younger family member talked me into establishing a Facebook page for the Embry-Woods family. There are now 284 family members on it. We are meeting relatives (black and white) from all over the country and overseas. The interest is remarkable.
Q. How did you feel when you found so many of the missing links in your family tree?
A. When I find a missing link, it feels like they were lost, and I found them. Similar to finding my ancestors listed in their slaveowner’s will, the feeling is incredible. It’s like putting the pieces of a puzzle together, only better because they are a part of me.
Q. You are now a Board Member of the Genealogical Society of Henry & Clayton Counties, Inc. What motivated you to go beyond your own family tree?
A. Many people visit the Genealogical Society after older members have passed. There’s no one left to tell them about the family. I try to get people to talk to their grand and great grandparents before it’s too late to trace their history. This is particularly true for African Americans because so few records were kept on us.
Q. This brings up your most recent book. You just completed The History of the Henry County Training School. Being that you are a Georgia transplant, how did this come about?
A. This school caught my attention because practically all Henry County African Americans attended this school from 1920-1970, and yet I could find hardly any information about the school. It took me 4 months of intensive research to complete the book.
Q. I gather it was difficult to compile information for The History of the Henry County Training School. Is that a fair assertion?
A. Yes, all records and other memorabilia were discarded when the original school was demolished in 1954. There were only 5 yearbooks in the history of the school. I donated copies of this book to the Georgia State Archives, the Board of Education, the McDonough Public Library, and our library at The Brown House to help with future research projects.
Q. There is a training school in my hometown in Alabama. Is there a possible connection with the Henry County Training School?
A. Henry County Training School was a Rosenwald School. Rosenwald Schools were a partnership between Booker T. Washington, an ex-slave and founder of Tuskegee Institute, and Julius Rosenwald, a former CEO of Sears Roebuck. Over 5,000 of these African American schools were funded in the rural south in the early 1900s. I suspect yours in Alabama was also a Rosenwald School.