By Vernalee
Last year, a photograph of my Great-Grandmother was passed down to me for safekeeping. I was immensely thrilled and it showed as tears rolled down my cheeks! I love photography. Therefore, it is a privilege for me to be the responsible holder of this valuable piece. Tucked in an oval shaped wooded frame, I stared at the photograph for a considerable period of time. Having heard courageous and interesting stories about Great Granny, I visualized the aura of her personality; her spirit. This photo once hung in my Mother’s living room in Mississippi before it found its home at my Uncle’s residence in Warren, Ohio. It is the oldest known photo of a family member. In talking to my Mother, this photo was most likely taken in the late 1800’s. Saddened, my Mother stated that she has no photographs of her Mother. The photos of her Mother were tucked in a family Bible which was later lost. Interestingly, we indiscriminately take photos everyday with our camera phones, but photography was a rare luxury years ago for Black folks. Thus, this particular photo of my Great Granny has great ancestral significance. It traces our family’s history; it tells our story. As I named my daughter Phoebe after my Mother, so too was our youngest aunt, Minnie named after her Mother’s mother – our great granny. How’s that for tradition; a fact that the photograph tells to the younger generation. Yes, I am the caretaker of the oldest treasured remnant of our family’s history; the holder and preserver of generational memories which connect my maternal ancestry to its descendants. Photographs tell stories. They link our past to our present. What a responsibility I have as I am honored to be the caretaker of this heirloom!
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